Spinal cerebrospinal fluid leakage: Clinical features, diagnostic procedures,and treatment

Takanobu Kunihiro, Keiko Soma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


The most prominent symptom of spinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage is an orthostatic, tension-type headache. Other well-known symptoms include nausea, vomiting, photophobia, diplopia, depression, and amnesia. The authors address other commonly encountered symptoms such as dizziness, hearing disturbances, cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea, and gustatory and olfactory disturbances. The dizziness experienced in this disorder is essentially characterized as a kind of "floating sensation" or "walking on the clouds" and is associated with a high degree of unsteadiness. A considerable percentage of patients cannot remain standing even when their eyes are open; to-and-fro perturbations are particularly prominent in these patients. Rotatory vertigo attacks can occur in a small portion of patients, but usually only during the early stages of the disease. As with the headache, dizziness is aggravated by an upright or standing position. The weather also influences the intensity of both the headaches and dizziness: both are exacerbated when the atmospheric pressure is low or is falling rapidly. Water intake and/or the drip infusion of a physiological salt solution may temporarily improve dizziness and other symptoms. The usefulness of MRI for diagnosing spinal cerebrospinal fluid leakage is limited. MRI findings are equivocal in most cases; therefore, the authors perform 111In-DTPA scintigraphy for each patient in whom this disorder is suspected. The first choice of treatment for this disorder is bed rest and water intake and/or drip infusion. When these treatments are ineffective, an epidural autologous blood patch is attempted. However, not all patients are cured by this procedure, and dizziness, hearing, and/or tinnitus may worsen after treatment. In some patients, an exploratory tympanotomy is required to rule out associated or treatment-induced perilymphatic fistula. In conclusion, spinal CSF leakage is not a rare disorder, and because this disorder presents with an extremely wide spectrum of symptoms, all physicians in any field of specialization may encounter a patient with this disorder. All physicians should keep this disorder in mind.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-188
Number of pages13
JournalEquilibrium Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Cerebrospinal fluid leaks
  • Dizziness
  • Epidural autologous blood patch
  • In-DTPA scintigraphy
  • Spinal cerebrospinal fluid leakage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Clinical Neurology


Dive into the research topics of 'Spinal cerebrospinal fluid leakage: Clinical features, diagnostic procedures,and treatment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this