Cerebral Spinal Fluid Leak
You have been in an accident and now the doctors are telling you that you have a cerebral spinal fluid leak. You are probably wondering what this is and what it means to you. Let’s start with the basics.
Cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is a clear, colorless fluid that flows throughout your brain and spinal cord. The purpose is to protect your nervous system. CSF is contained in a closed space that is not exposed to the outside world.
A CSF leak occurs when there is an opening in the compartment that contains CSF. The CSF is exposed to the outside world. The impact of the accident caused bones to break in the skull, allowing the CSF to leak out.
Signs and Symptoms: clear or blood-tinged drainage from the nose, the ears, from a scalp wound, and/or a salty taste in the mouth.
Tests You May Need
The fluid draining from your nose, ears, or scalp may be tested to see if it is CSF.
X-rays of your skull.
CT scan of your head.
MRI of your head.
Treatment: Your treatment plan will be created just for you. You will receive careful instructions and medicines that may include:
- Keeping the head of your bed high to help with draining.
- Medicines to decrease the amount of CSF.
- Stool softeners to decrease straining.
- Careful watching by the nursing staff.
- Screening with medical devices.
- You may also need a drainage tube placed into your head to control the leak.
Complications: As with many injuries, there are some risks. By following your treatment plan you can help prevent these complications.
Meningitis is an infection of the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord.
Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain, often caused by meningitis.
- Brain abscess is a pocket of pus in the brain. See HFFY # 6170 (Brain Abscess).
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 02/05/2010
Copyright © 01/12/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6928
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