Cranial and spinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks are associated with opposite CSF fluid dynamics. The differing pathophysiology between spontaneous cranial and spinal CSF leaks are, therefore, mutually exclusive in theory.
A 66-year-old female presented with tension pneumocephalus. The patient underwent computed tomography (CT) scanning, which demonstrated left-sided tension pneumocephalus, with an expanding volume of air directly above a bony defect of the tegmen tympani and mastoideum. The patient underwent a left middle fossa craniotomy for repair of the tegmen CSF leak. In the week after discharge, she developed a recurrence of positional headaches and underwent head CT. Further magnetic resonance imaging of the brain and thoracic spine showed bilateral subdural hematomas and multiple meningeal diverticula.
Cranial CSF leaks are caused by intracranial hypertension and are not associated with subdural hematomas. Clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion for intracranial hypotension due to spinal CSF leak whenever “otogenic” pneumocephalus is found. Close postoperative follow-up and clinical monitoring for symptoms of intracranial hypotension in any patients who undergo repair of a tegmen defect for otogenic pneumocephalus is recommended.