OBJECT: Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) is a common and often debilitating neurological disease. Efforts to improve treatment of CM-I are impeded by inconsistent and limited methods of evaluating clinical outcomes. To understand current approaches and lay a foundation for future research, the authors conducted a systematic review of the methods used in original published research articles to evaluate clinical outcomes in patients treated for CM-I. METHODS: The authors searched PubMed, Embase, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, ClinicalTrials.gov, and Cochrane databases to identify publications between January 2003 and August 2013 that met the following criteria: 1) reported clinical outcomes in patients treated for CM-I; 2) were original research articles; 3) included at least 10 patients or, if a comparative study, at least 5 patients per group; and 4) were restricted to patients with CM-I. RESULTS: Among the 74 papers meeting inclusion criteria, there was wide variation in the outcome methods used. However, all approaches were broadly grouped into 3 categories: 1) "gestalt" impression of overall symptomatic improvement (n = 45 papers); 2) postoperative change in specific signs or symptoms (n = 20); or 3) results of various standardized assessment scales (n = 22). Among standardized scales, 11 general function measures were used, compared with 6 disease-specific tools. Only 3 papers used scales validated in patients with CM-I. To facilitate a uniform comparison of these heterogeneous approaches, the authors appraised articles in multiple domains defined a priori as integral to reporting clinical outcomes in CM-I. Notably, only 7 articles incorporated patient-response instruments when reporting outcome, and only 22 articles explicitly assessed quality of life. CONCLUSIONS: The methods used to evaluate clinical outcomes in CM-I are inconsistent and frequently not comparable, complicating efforts to analyze results across studies. Development, validation, and incorporation of a small number of disease-specific patient-based instruments will improve the quality of research and care of CM-I patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-272
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


  • Assessment tools
  • Chiari malformation type I
  • Outcome methods
  • Systematic review
  • Treatment outcome


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