CSF Rhinorrhea

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Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhea is a condition where the fluid that surrounds the brain leaks into the nose and sinuses. Head trauma, surgery, or even birth defects can make a hole in the membranes that hold this fluid. It then leaks into your nose or ear, causing a watery, runny nose. 

CSF rhinorrhea is very rare. Still, you want to know if you have it. This condition can put you at risk for dangerous infections - meningitis and pneumocephalus (air in the cranial cavity). You'll want to get treatment to stop the leak.

Skull Base Specialists at UVA

At UVA, you'll find specialists known around the world for their skill at treating conditions like this. We have the tech and the training to perform delicate procedures in your sinuses and brain with a high level of accuracy. Our innovative procedures pose fewer risks and lead to quicker recoveries.

Learn more about our skull base expertise.

Runny Nose or Brain Fluid Leak?

"Rhinorrhea" means "runny nose." But a runny nose with brain fluid in it is different than allergies or a cold. If you're leaking brain fluid, you'll notice:

  • The fluid from your nose is watery and clear
  • Dripping in your throat
  • Drips increase when you put your head upside down
  • Headaches
  • A salty or metallic taste in your mouth
  • Nasal congestion
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in your ears

Having these symptoms doesn't mean you have CSF rhinorrhea. You'll need a diagnosis from an ENT specialist. They'll test the fluid. Then they can use CT scans to locate the leak. 

CSF Rhinorrhea Treatment

Sometimes, all you need to heal is bed rest. In other cases, you need treatment to stop the leak. 

Medications to Reduce Fluid

Medications can help lessen the production of the fluid that surrounds the brain. This

  • Reduces the pressure
  • Allows the leak to seal on its own

Surgery to Repair the Leak

At UVA, we use advanced surgical methods. Small tools and cameras (endoscopes) allow us to repair issues deep in your skull without a big, difficult operation.

Our specialists will access the leak through your nose. We can use skin or bone from inside your nose or small pieces of fat from your abdomen to help repair the leak.

Surgery usually requires a hospital stay of 2-3 days. 

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.