Cerebral spinal fluid, also commonly referred to as cerebrospinal fluid, is a type of liquid normally circulated through the brain and spinal cord, providing shock absorption protection. A cerebral spinal fluid leak may occur when a hole or tear occurs in the outermost protective layer of the brain and spinal cord, known as the dura. This tear may be the result of a traumatic injury, or it may occur as a complication of surgery or other medical procedures. In some cases, the cause is not able to be found. Symptoms that may suggest the presence of a cerebral spinal fluid leak include headache, nausea, and ringing in the ears.
Traumatic injuries involving the head or spine are among the most common causes of the development of a cerebral spinal fluid leak. These injuries are often suffered due to automobile accidents or accidental falls. Physical abuse, especially involving children, is a particularly common cause of traumatic injury.
The medical placement of an epidural catheter may lead to a cerebral spinal fluid leak. An epidural catheter is a small tube that is placed into the spine in order to deliver anesthesia or other medications. This method of anesthesia is frequently used during childbirth so that the patient can be awake without feeling pain during the delivery. Some types of surgery may also be performed using epidural anesthesia. Patients suffering from certain medical conditions, particularly those that lead to moderate to severe back pain, may be given medications through an epidural injection.
A medical procedure known as a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap, may sometimes lead to the development of a cerebral spinal fluid leak. A lumbar puncture is a medical procedure in which a needle is inserted into the spine in order to collect a sample of the cerebral spinal fluid. This procedure may be used to test for certain medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or meningitis.
Regardless of the cause, a cerebral spinal fluid leak heals on its own without any particular medical treatment in many cases. Pain medications may be prescribed to help with the severe headaches that often develop due to the cerebral spinal fluid leak. If a fever or other potential signs of an infections are present, antibiotic therapy may be needed. If the symptoms of a cerebral spinal fluid leak do not improve within a week, surgical intervention may become necessary in order to repair the hole and stop the leak.