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Cerebrospinal fluid leaks following septoplasty

| Reprints
December 19, 2014
by Naren N. Venkatesan, MD; Douglas E. Mattox, MD; John M. Del Gaudio, MD

We conducted a retrospective review to identify the characteristics of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak in patients who had undergone septoplasty and in selected patients who had experienced a spontaneous CSF leak. CSF leak is a known but infrequently reported complication of septoplasty; to the best of our knowledge, only 4 cases have been previously published in the literature. A review of our institution's database revealed 3 cases of postseptoplasty CSF leak. We reviewed all the available data to look for any commonalities among these 7 cases. In addition, we reviewed 6 cases of spontaneous CSF leak selected from our database for the same purpose. For all patients, we noted the side of the cribriform plate defect, its size and, for the postseptoplasty cases, the interval between the septoplasty and the leak repair. Overall, we found that leaks were much more common on the right side than on the left. The sizes of the leaks in the 2 postseptoplasty groups were comparable (mean: 14.0 x 6.4 mm). The interval between septoplasty and leak repair ranged from 2.5 to 20 years in our cases and from 3 days to 22 weeks in the previously published cases. All 3 of the postseptoplasty patients in our database presented with clear rhinorrhea. Two of the 3 patients had meningitis; 1 of these 2 also had pneumocephalus. Of the 6 cases of spontaneous CSF leaks, 4 occurred on the right and 2 on the left; the average size of the defect was 5.8 mm in the greatest dimension. The finding that cribriform plate defects after septoplasty were typically right-sided likely reflects the prevalence of left-sided surgical approaches. Also, the fact that the defects were larger in the postseptoplasty cases than in the spontaneous cases is likely attributable to the torque effect toward the thin skull base that occurs when the perpendicular plate is twisted during septoplasty.

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