Recurrent spontaneous spinal cerebrospinal fluid leaks and intracranial hypotension: a prospective study

Wouter I. Schievink M.D.1, M. Marcel Maya M.D.1, and Mary Riedinger R.N., Ph.D.1
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  • 1 Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute and Imaging Medical Group, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California
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Object. Intracranial hypotension due to a spontaneous spinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak is an increasingly recognized cause of postural headaches, but reliable follow-up data are lacking. The authors undertook a study to determine the risk of a recurrent spontaneous spinal CSF leak.

Methods. The patient population consisted of a consecutive group of 18 patients who had been evaluated for consideration of surgical repair of a spontaneous spinal CSF leak. The mean age of the 15 women and three men was 38 years (range 22–55 years). The mean duration of follow up was 36 months (range 6–132 months). The total follow-up time was 654 months. A recurrent spinal CSF leak was defined on the basis of computerized tomography myelography evidence of a CSF leak in a previously visualized but unaffected spinal location. Five patients (28%) developed a recurrent spinal CSF leak; the mean age of these four women and one man was 36 years. A recurrent CSF leak developed in five (38%) of 13 patients who had undergone surgical CSF leak repair, compared with none (0%) of five patients who had been treated non-surgically (p = 0.249). The recurrent leak occurred between 10 and 77 months after the initial CSF leak, but within 2 or 3 months of successful surgical repair of the leak in all patients.

Conclusions. Recurrent spontaneous spinal CSF leaks are not rare, and the recent successful repair of such a leak at another site may be an important risk factor.

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