Chiari Archives - Michigan Head & Spine Institute Blog


Every year, more than 200,000 people are diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, a condition where a portion of the brain pushes into the spinal column, reducing the flow of spinal fluid.

Receiving a Chiari diagnosis is often a relief just to know that the symptoms are acknowledged.

Chiari Malformation can cause severe headaches, dizziness, difficulty swallowing and more. Adults have balance issues, debilitating headaches, muscle weakness, ringing in the ears and neck pain. Infants and children experience developmental delays, gagging, vomiting or reflux, excessive drooling and irritability.

This combination of symptoms can make life miserable. Fortunately, MHSI has one of the nation’s foremost experts in the surgical treatment of Chiari Malformation, Holly Gilmer, M.D., who has the knowledge and experience in offering treatment to both adults and children. Patients have traveled as far as Colorado, Maine, and Arizona to Michigan just so they could have the best chance at a full recovery.

Amy, a kindergarten teacher, is a patient of Dr. Gilmer. Battling extreme exhaustion and migraine headaches, Amy was diagnosed with Chiari Malformation, but the first neurosurgeon she saw told her the treatment is an elective surgery. When her daughter was diagnosed with a tethered spine, Amy found Dr. Gilmer.

“I kept going to doctors and they kept telling me I was stressed out and overworked. They gave me anxiety pills,” recalled Amy.

After meeting with Dr. Gilmer and choosing Chiari decompression surgery, Amy is off her headache medications, no longer has a stiff neck and, in general, feels great.

Patients who are diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and choose neurosurgery at Michigan Head and Spine Institute have comfort in the knowledge that Dr. Gilmer literally wrote the book on Chiari Malformation and decompression surgery. Her work is referenced in medical journals and with Chiari patients all over the world.

In addition to Dr. Gilmer’s expertise, patients at MHSI are in excellent hands throughout their care, no matter what their diagnosis. Throughout the spectrum of your treatment – from making your first appointment, through diagnosis and on to surgery and recovery – every patient deserves the best. Our experience and expertise gives MHSI patients an advantage for an excellent recovery.

Watch Amy’s and Zeke’s stories in their own words