CSF Otorrhea Treatment

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CSF (spinal fluid) otorrhea can make you feel as if you’re in a barrel, underwater, or in a tunnel. At UVA Health, you'll find surgeons who specialize in treating conditions that impact the ear. 

What Is CSF Otorrhea?

This is a condition in which spinal fluid drains from the ear. Patients with CSF otorrhea often have hearing loss in the affected ear. 

The tegmen bone ("roof") separates the ear from the brain. With CSF otorrhea, the bone can become very thin and wear away. The brain then can sink down into the ear cavity.

If the protective lining of the brain (dura) also wears away, spinal fluid will leak down into the ear.

Often Gets Misdiagnosed

This condition is often misdiagnosed early on. Your doctor may see fluid behind the eardrum. They'll try to treat the middle ear fluid with medication. But medication won't improve your hearing.

Once you’re diagnosed, your doctor will order a CT scan of the temporal bone to identify the site of the leak and plan for surgery.

Treatment for CSF Otorrhea at UVA Health

Most of the time, this condition can be repaired. At UVA Health, you'll find experts with the training to stop the leak and relieve your symptoms. 

Your surgeon will determine the type of surgical approach best for you. The best approach will depend on the size and location of the defect. The operation can be done from below (a "transmastoid" approach) or from above (a "middle fossa" approach).

During the operation, the surgeon:

  • Repairs the hole in the dura (with soft tissue such as abdominal fat)
  • And repairs the hole in the tegmen (with the patient’s own bone)

This is one of many conditions that require our skull base surgery expertise