CSF Leak

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is the fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord. It protects and nourishes those areas making this fluid vital to the proper functioning of the brain and central nervous system. The dura mater is the lining that keeps the CSF in its place. If the dura mater is weakened or punctured a CSF leak may occur.

CSF leaks can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms mimic some of the universal symptoms of allergic rhinitis. Determining the difference between allergic rhinitis and a CSF leak requires expert attention.

Common symptoms of a cerebrospinal fluid leak include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Drainage from the ear (CSF otorrhea)
  • Reduced or lost sense of smell
  • Salty or metallic taste
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sense of imbalance or dizziness

Not all CSF leaks require surgery. Non-surgical treatments include bedrest, pain relief, oral or IV hydration, an epidural blood patch and fibrin sealant, and oral or IV caffeine. If conservative measures fail or there is a more serious CSF leak, surgical intervention may be required.