Patients from the glaciers of Alaska, the sandy beaches of the Florida coast and more than 30 states in between have been traveling to the Rocky Mountains with one destination in mind: Colorado Chiari Institute (CCI). A unique program located at The Medical Center of Aurora, CCI has become world-renowned for diagnosing and treating patients who suffer from rare neurological disorders including Chiari 1 malformation (CM-1), syringomyelia, non-Chiari syringomyelia and tethered spinal cord. These conditions can be overwhelming, difficult to diagnose and debilitating. Few programs are available to accurately assess and care for affected patients. Coloradoans are fortunate to have one such program right in Aurora at the CCI. Because of its high level of specialization, the CCI provides unmatched experience, technology and coordination for patients with Chiari and related conditions.
“We believe in combining the art and science of medicine to care for each patient we see,” James Stephen, MD, CCI neurosurgeon explains. “To that end, we provide delicate, highly advanced surgical techniques while maintaining individualized wellness as an integral part of each care plan. We understand the importance of addressing all aspects of our patients’ lives and working alongside the patient, family and referring physician to reach overall health goals.”
Many patients who come to CCI have waited an average of five years before seeking treatment for CM-1. During this time, brain tissue that has descended through the bottom of the skull places pressure on the upper spinal canal. This herniation typically leads to dizziness, headaches, blurred vision, numbness and fatigue. New patients often find the diagnosis a “missing puzzle piece”— finally understanding the cause of their long-term invisible symptoms.
When a diagnosis is confirmed for CCI patients, Dr. Stephen works directly with them to discuss various treatment options. Surgical treatments include neurosurgical decompression and reconstruction to reshape the opening at the base of the skull. This procedure relieves pressure on the protruding brain tissue. It is a highly successful procedure: CCI research demonstrates that more than 80 percent of surgical patients experience significant improvement in quality of life, as measured one year after surgery.
“While surgery often is part of patients’ treatments, it isn’t the best option for everyone,” Dr. Stephen clarifies. “We suggest conservative management approaches when possible and provide initial dietary and behavioral health recommendations as needed. Our goal is to provide the highest quality multidisciplinary care to help heal body and mind, one patient at a time.”