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Conditions We Treat: Congenital Malformations of the Brain and Spine

Craniofacial syndromes happen when the soft plates of a baby’s skull close too soon or in an unusual way. There are hundreds of different craniofacial syndromes, and the experts at Johns Hopkins have knowledge of them all, and experience in treating even the most challenging craniofacial abnormalities.

Congenital Brain and Spine Malformations: Why Choose Johns Hopkins?

drawing of child's brain in profile
  • Johns Hopkins pediatric neurosurgeons have diagnosed and treated a range of inborn brain and spine malformations in infants and children, including:
  • Our multidisciplinary team includes top neurosurgeons, pediatric plastic surgeons and experts in genetics, who work together to address both form and function of your child’s brain and spine.
  • If surgery is recommended for your child’s congenital brain or spine malformation you will find a dedicated and compassionate environment for healing at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, which offers comprehensive care and support for the entire family as well as the individual child.
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Congenital Brain and Spine Malformation Treatments

The purpose of surgery is to correct the physical formation and maximize the functionality for the child to prevent development of neurological deficits.

For Chiari Malformations

Surgeons have several different methods for treating these malformations, including:

  • Decompression
  • Decompression with duraplasty (opening the dura, the thick membrane covering the brain)
  • Shrinking the cerebellar tonsils, which may be blocking the flow of spinal fluid

For Encephaloceles

Treatment involves the surgical repair or closure of the encephalocele. Some patients may also develop hydrocephalus as a result and will require treatment for that condition.

For Arachnoid Cysts

Treatment may involve:

  • Observation (watchful waiting)
  • Fenestration: making small openings in the cyst to open the natural fluid pathways in the brain
  • Endoscopic fenestration: using a small scope to make these small openings to allow fluid to better flow throughout the brain
  • Shunting: placing a small tube to allow drainage of fluid into another part of the body

Congenital Brain and Spine Malformation Specialists

With hundreds of children and their families seeking care from our Johns Hopkins Pediatric Neurosurgery experts, our team has decades of experience in diagnosing and treating malformations of the brain and spine.

Dr. Alan CohenDr. Alan Cohen, Director of the Pediatric Neurosurgery Center


Alan R. Cohen, M.D.
Mari Groves, M.D.
Eric M. Jackson, M.D.
Shenandoah Robinson, M.D.

Advanced Practitioners

Stephanie Berry, P.A.-C
Kelly Hartnett, P.A.-C.
Heather Kerber, P.A.-C.


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Maryland Patients

Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


Traveling for Care?

Whether you're crossing the country or the globe, we make it easy to access world-class care at Johns Hopkins.

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