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Massachusetts Eye and Ear
/assets/MEE/images/mgb-default-thumb.png Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) Leak

Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery

CSF Leaks and Skull Base Defects

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Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is the fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord. Usually it is contained in one area within the skull and down the spine, but sometimes a tiny hole can develop between the brain cavity and the sinuses and nasal cavity. This is considered a CSF leak.

If a CSF leak is suspected, you should see a physician as soon as possible. If symptoms of meningitis (high fever, light sensitivity, neck stiffness) are suspected, you should go to the emergency room.

When a CSF leak occurs, the main concern is that the leak allows a direct communication between the nasal cavity and the brain, which gives bacteria and viruses a direct path to the brain. Meningitis, a serious infection to the lining of the brain, can result from this.

3Common Symptoms

  • Headache accompanied by intermittent or constant nasal drainage
  • Clear nasal drainage out of one side of your nose
  • Drainage down the back of your throat, which may taste salty or metallic

Diagnosis and Treatment

CSF leaks are diagnosed by physical and endoscopic exams, and by collection and analysis of the fluid. Sometimes CT scans or MRIs are ordered.

If a CSF leak is identified, it must be surgically repaired. The surgery is commonly performed through the nasal cavity endoscopically, without any external incisions. The leak is patched with either synthetic material or material from within the nasal cavity. This is used to permanently close the leak.

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Our Sinus Center is comprised of surgeons and supportive staff specially trained to care for your sinuses and related nasal disorders.

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