Spine, Brain and Congenital Malformations

Congenital central nervous system abnormalities, such as Chiari malformations or arachnoid cysts, can affect your child's health and quality of life. These rare conditions require specialized care. At Cedars-Sinai, our world-renowned pediatric neurosurgeons and team of pediatric specialists will assess your child and develop a personalized treatment plan to help your child live a full life.

Spine, Brain and Congenital Malformations

We treat a broad range of spine, brain and congenital malformations, including:

These fluid-filled sacs develop between the brain and its covering, known as the arachnoid membrane. Arachnoid cysts can be present at birth while other types develop over time. Find out more about brain cysts.

We use cardiac-gated MRI to assess cysts, allowing us to evaluate thin membranes that can be difficult to see during a routine MRI. This test also minimizes the effect of brain pulsations that occur with the cardiac cycle, resulting in crisp images for a more accurate evaluation. We use the images to meticulously plan surgical treatments.

We have experience caring for children with conditions that include: 

  • Colloid cyst, growths of sticky (gelatinous) tissue that can become large enough to block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid
  • Dermoid cyst, pockets of tissue that may contain teeth, skin, glands or hair that are present at birth
  • Epidermoid cyst, slow-growing cysts that occur beneath the surface of the skin
  • Pineal cyst, a common type of cyst that affects the pineal gland, which is responsible for regulating certain hormones like melatonin

Chiari malformation is a structural problem in the back of the head. It occurs when part of the brain called the cerebellar tonsil pushes through an opening at the base of the skull into the spinal canal. This abnormal position may result in blockage of appropriate cerebrospinal fluid outflow, putting pressure on the brain and spinal cord, causing symptoms like headaches, difficulty swallowing, dizziness and problems with speech and movement.

Children may also experience weakness, abnormal curvature of the spine and, in severe cases, paralysis. Chiari malformation can cause complications such as:

  • Hydrocephalus, excessive fluid in the brain 
  • Syringohydromyelia, cyst-like growths that form in the spinal cord

Traditionally, treatment involved surgery to remove the covering of the brain to allow more room to accommodate the malformation. Now, a less invasive procedure reduces the risk of complications and can ease recovery. Our experts have extensive experience in treating patients using newly developed imaging technology to determine which approach best fits your child. Find out more about Chiari malformation.

Moyamoya disease happens when a small tangle of blood vessels develops after a larger blood vessel becomes blocked. Cedars-Sinai is one of the few places in the country with doctors experienced in treating this rare condition. Get more information about moyamoya disease.

At Cedars-Sinai, your child has access to innovative treatments, such as encephaloduroarteriosynangiosis or EDAS. This procedure reroutes blood flow around the blockage, lowering your child's risk of a stroke.

These defects stem from brain, spine and spinal cord problems that occur before a child is born.

Types of neural tube defects include:

  • Myelomeningocele: If a portion of the spine and spinal cord did not form appropriately, your child may need urgent surgery after birth to fix it. Some children may develop complications, such as a tethered spinal cord, which may require additional procedures to repair.   
  • Encephalocele: Gaps in the skull that allow brain tissue to escape, forming a small sac that pushes out from the head. Encephaloceles require surgical correction to prevent further damage.  
  • Spina bifida: The spine and tissue surrounding the spinal cord do not fully develop before birth.

Cedars-Sinai is one of the few programs in the L.A. area capable of assessing and treating some of these conditions before a child is born.

A group of disorders, including fatty filum terminale and dermal sinus tracts, occurs when the spinal cord pulls away from its normal position. The conditions may result in neurological injuries such as an abnormal sideways curve of the spine (scoliosis) and damage to the spinal cord.

At Cedars-Sinai, your child has access to a team of doctors with experience in evaluating tethered spinal cord. We accurately confirm or rule out this condition, so your child receives the care they need.

Have Questions or Need a Second Opinion?

Call us or send a message to our pediatric neurosurgery care team. You can also have us call you back at your convenience.

Pediatric Neurosurgery
Available 24 hours a day

(1-800-233-2771)