Spontaneous nasal cerebrospinal fluid leaks and empty sella syndrome: a clinical association

Am J Rhinol. Mar-Apr 2003;17(2):91-6.


Background: Spontaneous, idiopathic nasal meningoencephaloceles are herniations of arachnoid/dura and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through anatomically fragile sites within the skull base. Empty sella syndrome occurs when intracranial contents herniate through the sellar diaphragm filling the sella turcica with CSF and giving the radiographic appearance of an absent pituitary gland. The objective of this study was to examine the association between spontaneous encephaloceles/CSF leaks and empty sella syndrome because of their similar clinical features and potential common pathophysiology.

Methods: Retrospective.

Results: Sixteen patients were treated for spontaneous encephaloceles between 1996 and 2001. All 16 patients had associated CSF leaks. Five patients had multiple simultaneous encephaloceles. Fifteen patients with imaging of the sella turcica had empty (10 patients) or partially empty (5 patients) sellas. One patient did not have complete imaging of the sella. Three patients had lumbar punctures with measurement of CSF pressure during computed tomography cisternograms because of multiple skull base defects. Mean CSF pressure was 28.3 cm of water (range, 19-34 cm; normal, 0-15 cm). Thirteen of 16 patients (81%) were obese women (mean body mass index 35.9 kg/m2; normal, <25 kg/m2). Mean follow-up was 14.2 months with 100% success in closure of the defects after one procedure.

Conclusion: Spontaneous meningoencephaloceles and CSF leaks are strongly associated with radiographic findings of an empty sella and suggest a common pathophysiology. The underlying condition probably represents a form of intracranial hypertension that exerts hydrostatic pressure at anatomically weakened sites within the skull base. Otolaryngologists should be familiar with this disease entity and the implications intracranial hypertension has on patient management.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / etiology*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / surgery
  • Empty Sella Syndrome / etiology*
  • Empty Sella Syndrome / surgery
  • Encephalocele / diagnostic imaging
  • Endoscopy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hypertension / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nose / diagnostic imaging
  • Nose / surgery
  • Pneumoencephalography
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sella Turcica / diagnostic imaging
  • Sella Turcica / pathology
  • Sella Turcica / surgery
  • Skull / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull / surgery
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Treatment Outcome