Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhoea: diagnosis and management

Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal. 2007 Sep 1;12(5):E397-400.


A cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhoea occurs when there is a fistula between the dura and the skull base and discharge of CSF from the nose. CSF rhinorrhea or liquorrhoea commonly occurs following head trauma (fronto-basal skull fractures), as a result of intracranial surgery, or destruction lesions. A spinal fluid leak from the intracranial space to the nasal respiratory tract is potentially very serious because of the risk of an ascending infection which could produce fulminant meningitis. This article reviewed the causes, diagnosis and treatment of CSF leakage. A PUBMED search of the National Library of Medicine was conducted. CSF leak most commonly occurs following trauma and the majority of cases presenting within the first three months. CSF rhinorrhoea have significantly greater incidence of periorbital haematoma. This suggests that patients with head injuries and features of periorbital haematoma are at greater risk of unobserved dural tear and delayed CSF leakage. In the presence of a skull base fracture on computed tomography and a clinical CSF leak, there is no need for a further confirmatory test. In cases where a confirmatory test is needed, the beta-2 transferrin assay is the test of choice because of its high sensitivity and specificity. A greater proportion of the CSF leaks in the patients resolved spontaneously. CSF fistulae persisting for > 7 days had a significantly increased risk of developing meningitis. Treatment decisions should be dictated by the severity of neurological decline during the emergency period and the presence/absence of associated intracranial lesions. The timing for surgery and CSF drainage procedures must be decided with great care and with a clear strategy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / epidemiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / therapy*
  • Humans