The craniovertebral junction is an anatomically well-defined transitional zone located between the skull and the cervical spine. Multiple malformations can affect this region with the most prominent being basilar invagination (BI) and Chiari malformation (CM). Despite numerous studies, the origin, pathophysiology, and classification of these pathologies remain controversial. The objective of this study was to evaluate the implication of cranial base flexion angle and clivus length in the development of these conditions.
Midline tomography and magnetic resonance imaging of normal subjects and patients diagnosed with BI (types I and II) and Chiari malformation were evaluated. A craniometric study of the skull base was performed. Linear and angular measurements were used for comparisons between groups.
109 images from patients with craniovertebral junction malformation and controls were evaluated. Seventeen had BI-I, 26 had BI-II, 36 had CM, and 30 were normal subjects. Demographic data for the two groups were not significantly different. Craniometric analysis of images revealed a gradation in linear and angular variables from controls to CM, BI-I, and BI-II patients. Clivus length was significantly smaller in BI-II patients compared with other groups, while basal angle was greater. Moderate or strong correlations were noted among all variables analyzed.
Data suggest that clivus length and basal angle may play a role in pathophysiology of BI and CM.