False localizing sign of C1–2 cerebrospinal fluid leak in spontaneous intracranial hypotension

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Object. Spontaneous intracranial hypotension due to a spinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak is an important cause of new daily persistent headaches. Spinal neuroimaging is important in the treatment of these patients, particularly when direct repair of the CSF leak is contemplated. Retrospinal C1–2 fluid collections may be noted on spinal imaging and these are generally believed to correspond to the site of the CSF leak. The authors undertook a study to determine the significance of these C1–2 fluid collections.

Methods. The patient population consisted of a consecutive group of 25 patients (18 female and seven male) who were evaluated for surgical repair of a spontaneous spinal CSF leak. The mean age of the 18 patients was 38 years (range 13–72 years). All patients underwent computerized tomography myelography. Three patients (12%) had extensive retrospinal C1–2 fluid collections; the mean age of this woman and these two men was 41 years (range 39–43 years). The actual site of the CSF leak was located at the lower cervical spine in these patients and did not correspond to the site of the retrospinal C1–2 fluid collection.

Conclusions. A retrospinal fluid collection at the C1–2 level does not necessarily indicate the site of the CSF leak in patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension. This is an important consideration in the treatment of these patients because therapy may be inadvertently directed at this site.

Article Information

Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Wouter I. Schievink, M.D., Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 8631 West Third Street, Suite 800E, Los Angeles, California 90048. email: schievinkw@cshs.org.
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