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Rare suffering: A patient thought she had a cold - but it was brain water!


But not nasal secretions, but brain water

Until recently, a 52-year-old patient thought that she was suffering from a runny nose. Kendra Jackson from Nebraska complained of coughing, sneezing, headache and runny nose. The nose ran almost continuously. Again and again the afflicted went to the doctor. The doctors always diagnosed an allergy, until recently doctors of "Nebraska Medicine" discovered the real reason: Brain fluid ran out of her nose through a hole in the top of her skull.

In a previous car accident, Jackson hit his face against the dashboard and sustained an undetected head injury. For years Jackson and her doctors interpreted the constantly runny nose as an allergy. "When it started, I just thought it was an allergy or the onset of a fresh cold," Jackson told CNN. After numerous unsuccessful visits to the doctor, Jackson turned to the Nebraska Medicine hospital. There, a small hole in her sinus was discovered during a CT scan, through which brain water escaped and ran into the nose.

She lost half a liter every day

"It was a lot of fluid," reports Dr. Christie Barnes, rhinologist at Nebraska Medicine and senior surgeon on the case. According to Jackson's statements, about half a liter of fluid a day flowed from her nose. The doctors sent a sample of the liquid to the laboratory for evaluation. It was a so-called cerebrospinal fluid, a clear fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord and is responsible, among other things, for the removal of waste products and the distribution of nutrients. The liquid also absorbs hard impacts.

A tiny leak

Jackson's doctors believe that her car accident could have caused a small crack that widened over time. The liquid came out of a tiny hole in the sieve plate (Lamina cribrosa). This wafer-thin bone separates the paranasal sinus from the organs in the head. According to Barnes, this part of the skull is "thinner than a potato chip" and the most common place for this type of leak.

Rare injury

Leaks from which cerebrospinal fluid leaks are very rare and are referred to as "CSF leak". The CSF Leak Association reports that this injury occurs in approximately five out of 100,000 people worldwide. They often occur as a result of trauma or surgery. Depending on the amount of fluid loss, these leaks can be life threatening. Barnes reports an increased risk of infections such as meningitis.

An operation saved Jackson

To treat Jackson's condition, the doctors performed an operation in which they closed the hole in her skull with tissue from her nose and abdomen. "I used tissue from the inside of her nose to plug the leak," said Barnes. The expert also used some belly fat as a closing agent.

Jackson is already home

Almost a month after the operation, Jackson is back home and reports that the mysterious "runny nose" has disappeared. "I no longer have dripping noses, but I still have a headache." She wants others to know about her story so that such incidents can be resolved more quickly. In particular, people with a constantly runny nose, whose discharge tastes salty and also runs down their throats, advises the doctor to point out a CSF leak. (vb)

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