What is Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia?: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

What is Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia?

Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia is a mimic of Chiari I malformation. It is actually of the type of structural defects that are usually found in the cerebellum. The cerebellum is actually that part of the brain whose main function is to control the balance. Prof. Hans Chiari first described this type of abnormalities of the brain that are found at the juncture of the skull. The severity of the problem is categorized into four types: Chiari I malformation, Chiari II malformation, Chiari III malformation and Chiari IV malformation. The problem with cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is that it has many similarities with Chiari I malformation. Apart from that, it is also found in the research that females are more prone to cerebellar tonsillar ectopia than that of the male. However, it is not a very common disease. It is usually seen in one person in 1000 births.

What is Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia?

Symptoms Associated with Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia

It is mostly seen that people are suffering from cerebellar tonsillar ectopia do not show any types of symptoms. Still, some people feel the following are kind of symptoms when cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is detected in them:

  • A constant feeling of dizziness
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Numbness
  • Problems in vision
  • Headache
  • Problem in the balance as well as in coordination
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Sleep apnea
  • Pain in lower back of the head and neck.

Causes of Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia

There are several causes due to which cerebellar tonsillar ectopia develops. This kind of disease mainly develops at the time of fetal development. The main reason due to which cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is formed during fetal development is the lack of certain nutrient in the maternal diet. It is found that the indented bony space that is found at the base of skull of the patient who has developed cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is abnormally small due to which pressure is placed on their cerebellum and as a result of this the path of the cerebrospinal fluid gets blocked. Cerebrospinal fluid is a kind of fluid that surrounds the brain and protects both the brain and spinal cord. This is the main reason why cerebellar tonsillar ectopia mainly occurs in human. However, it is also seen that sometimes cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is also caused due to severe injury, infection or excessive exposure to the toxic substance.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Cerebellar Tonsillar Ectopia

When a physician suspects cerebellar tonsillar ectopia in people they usually diagnose the condition with X-ray, MRI and CT scan. Sometimes, it is seen that the patient has developed cerebellar tonsillar ectopia but do not have any kind of symptoms and no activities of the patient are interfered by the disorder. In such condition, the physician advises the patient not to take any kind of treatment. However, in case the patient feels any kind of symptoms then it is necessary to take medication as soon as possible to get rid of the symptoms and pain. In severe cases, doctors advice to go for surgery to correct the functional defects and to stop the further damage of the central nervous system.


Thus it is seen that cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is a serious disorder that can take the life of a person. So, if you are observing any kind of symptoms that are mentioned above, it is advisable to go to the doctor immediately for proper diagnosis of the problem. In case, cerebellar tonsillar ectopia is detected, take the appropriate measures to reduce the symptoms. In 50% of the case, it is seen that the symptoms are eliminated after the surgery whereas in 45% of the case the symptoms are reduced substantially and in 5% of the case the symptoms remain the same even after the surgery.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 1, 2019

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