In a series of 71 patients, pain was the commonest symptom (69% of patients); other symptoms included weakness (56%), numbness (52%), and unsteadiness (40%). The presenting physical signs consisted of a foramen magnum compression syndrome (22%), central cord syndrome (65%), or a cerebellar syndrome (11%). Myelography was performed in 69 patients, and was the most useful investigation. Only 23% of plain radiographs were abnormal. In addition to tonsillar descent, the operative findings included arachnoid adhesions (41%) and syringomyelia (32%). All patients underwent suboccipital craniectomy and C1-3 laminectomy. Respiratory depression was the most frequent postoperative complication (14%), and one patient died from sleep apnea. Early postoperative improvement of both symptoms (82%) and signs (70%) was followed by later relapse in 21% of patients, showing an initial benefit following surgery. None of the patients with a cerebellar syndrome deteriorated, whereas 56% of patients with evidence of foramen magnum compression and 66% of those with a central cord syndrome maintained their initial improvement. The authors conclude that posterior fossa decompression appears to benefit some patients, although a significant proportion might be expected to relapse within 2 to 3 years after operation, depending upon the presenting syndrome 1)
1) Paul KS, Lye RH, Strang FA, Dutton J. Arnold-Chiari malformation. Review of 71 cases. J Neurosurg. 1983 Feb;58(2):183-7. PubMed PMID: 6848674.