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Stroke

Spinal fluid leaking into the brain

09/27/2004

Question:

I just received a message that my 59 yr old sister will be entering the hospital on monday to have a procedure (using radiation?) to determine where spinal fluid is leaking into her brain. They then intend to plug the hole. I would appreciate learning how serious this is and whether its considered routine surgery or more serious procedure. Thankyou for your consideration, Sincerely

Answer:

I believe that she will be tested for spinal fluid leaking out of the central nervous system, rather than in.  Spinal fluid leaks can lead to headaches, especially when standing or sitting and relieved by lying down.  They can be discovered by injecting a radioactive tracer into the spinal fluid space (the brain and spinal cord are surrounded by spinal fluid, held in by a covering sac called the dura) and then seeing if the tracer is leaking out.  If a leak is identified it can be repaired in most cases, allowing for resolution of the symptoms.

The testing is relatively safe--it does involve an invasive procedure to put the radioactive tracer into the spinal fluid, but has relatively low risk.  It is important that your sister be told the risks and benefits of any procedure that might be done before she agrees to proceed.   

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Response by:

Brett   Kissela, MD Brett Kissela, MD
Assistant Professor of Neurology
Director, Neurology Residency Program
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati