Cerebrospinal fluid leak following penetrating trauma to the spine without neurological deficit: A case report

Esteban Ramirez-Ferrer, Juan Felipe Abaunza-Camacho, Andres Felipe Pineda-Martinez, Maria Paula Aguilera-Pena, William Mauricio Riveros-Castillo, Leonardo Laverde-Frade

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BACKGROUND: Posttraumatic spinal cerebrospinal fluid leak (CSFL) without neurological deficit is a rare entity. Historically, the first-line treatment is a nonsurgical approach, which includes Trendelenburg positioning, carbonic anhydrase inhibitor (acetazolamide), and subarachnoid catheter, with a high successful rate of leak correction. However, in some cases, this first-line treatment could fail, being necessary the surgical approach.

CASE DESCRIPTION: A 23-year-old male with a recent stab wound to his lumbar region, complained of positional headache and fluid outflow through his wound. On physical examination, an active CSFL was detected without evidence of neurologic deficit. Imaging studies showed a CSF collection extending from the right L4 lamina to the subcutaneous tissue. CSF studies revealed bacterial meningitis. The treatment with carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, Trendelenburg position, lumbar subarachnoid catheter, and antibiotics was initiated. Failure of conservative measures prompted a surgical treatment to resolve the CSFL. Intraoperatively, a dura mater defect was identified, and an autologous paravertebral muscle flap was used for water-tight closure of the defect. The patient recovered without further complications and with CSFL resolution.

CONCLUSION: Even though the nonsurgical approach is the first-line of treatment of traumatic CSFL cases, failures can occur. The evidence of a CSF trajectory in imaging studies could be a predictor of treatment failure of the nonsurgical treatment. The surgical treatment as second-line treatment has outstanding results regarding CSFL correction and should be considered when the prediction rate to nonsurgical approach failure is high.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327
JournalSurgical Neurology International
StatePublished - 2022


  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Headache
  • Lumbosacral region
  • Trauma
  • Young adult


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