Transnasal endoscopic repair of cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea and skull base defects: a review of twenty-nine cases

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1994 Nov;111(5):600-5. doi: 10.1177/019459989411100510.


The management of cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea has historically plagued the neurosurgeon and the otolaryngologist-head and neck surgeon. Intracranial repair is still favored at many institutions, despite its inherent morbidity. Extracranial nonendoscopic techniques have been previously described but have not gained wide acceptance. More recently, several reports have been published describing a variety of endoscopic techniques in limited patient series used to manage cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea. We present our series of 29 patients with cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea, treated with endoscopic techniques between December 1989 and June 1993, with follow-up ranging from 3 to 43 months. This represents the largest reported series to date of patients treated with this technique. Our technique has evolved during this time period but centers around the use of free tissue grafts from various donor sites. The causes of the skull base defects in this series included neurosurgical procedures (9), functional endoscopic sinus surgery (8), and trauma (3). Defects occurred spontaneously in 9 cases. The fovea ethmoidalis and sphenoid sinus were the site in 11 and 12 cases, respectively, and the cribriform plate was involved in 6 cases. Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea was documented by nasal endoscopy with or without intrathecal fluorescein, laboratory studies, computed tomography with or without contrast cisternography, and radioisotope cisternography in various combinations. Resolution of cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea was achieved in 22 of 29 patients (75.9%) with one endoscopic procedure and 25 of 29 patients (86.2%) after a second attempt. Four patients required neurosurgical intervention for recurrent cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea. Complications were minimal and were related primarily to the original pathology or procedure. Cerebrospinal fluid rhinorrhea can be managed safely and effectively with endoscopic techniques in a majority of cases, and the morbidity of open procedures can be avoided.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Rhinorrhea / surgery*
  • Endoscopy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Otolaryngology / methods
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome