Optimum imaging and diagnosis of cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhoea

J Laryngol Otol. 2000 Dec;114(12):988-92. doi: 10.1258/0022215001904572.


Imaging is an important component in the investigation of unilateral watery rhinorrhoea suspicious of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Whilst the demonstration of the presence of beta 2 transferrin confirms that CSF is present it may prove difficult to demonstrate the exact site of origin. Fine detail coronal computed tomography (CT) with sections of 1-2 mm thickness through the anterior skull base may show small dehiscences and fractures. The commonest site for congenital dehiscences is the cribriform niche adjacent to the vertical attachment of the middle turbinate anteriorly and the superior and lateral walls of the sphenoid posteriorly. In the presence of frequent or constant CSF rhinorrhoea a CT cisternogram can be helpful in defining the exact site of the leak. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is reserved for defining the nature of soft tissue i.e. inflammatory tissue, meningoencephalocele or tumour. Finally, per-operative intrathecal fluorescein is helpful when imaging does not prove positive. A management algorithm for CSF rhinorrhoea is presented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods