Facebook Pixel

Treatment Options for a Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak

Rate This

Cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, surrounds the brain and spinal cord, providing protection, buoyancy and hormone transportation. When a tear occurs in the dura mater, a membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord, there is a leak of the cerebrospinal fluid, causing a drop in pressure. This tear to the dura mater may occur because of an injury, such as a head injury, or as a complication of a treatment or diagnostic test, such as a lumbar puncture.

Diagnosis of a cerebrospinal fluid leak includes scans, such as a CT or MRI, hearing testing, and testing of the spinal fluid using a beta-trace protein assay. Another diagnostic tool for a CSF leak is a lumbar puncture. However, Columbia Neurosurgery warned that a lumbar puncture may either worsen the CSF leak or cause a new one.

The physician may use a radioisotope test to track the leak of the cerebrospinal fluid. The Mount Sinai Hospital added that in some cases, surgical exploration is the only option to diagnose the condition.

The treatment of a CSF leak depends on the cause of the leak. For example, MedlinePlus noted that in some cases, the condition goes away without needing intervention. Patients should get plenty of bed rest and drink fluids throughout the day.

Beverages that contain caffeine may help to slow or stop the CSF leak, and may also reduce the pain from headaches, according to MedlinePlus. Patients experiencing headache pain may use pain relievers.

In some cases, patients may require further intervention. If a patient has a headache that lasts longer than one week after a lumbar puncture, she may undergo a procedure called a blood patch. With a blood patch, a blood clot is used to seal the CSF leak, thus reducing the symptoms.

Side effects are possible with a blood patch, including increased CSF pressure. If the blood patch fails, patients may undergo surgical repair, noted Columbia Neurosurgery. In cases of a cerebrospinal fluid leak in which a patient has chills, fever and a change in her mental status, the patient will be treated with antibiotics.

Like the treatment, the prognosis for a cerebrospinal fluid leak depends on its cause. MedlinePlus pointed out that for most patients, the leak heals itself and patients do not experience long-term symptoms.


MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. CSF Leak. Web. 27 December 2011

Columbia Neurosurgery. Cerebrospinal Fluid Leaks. Web. 27 December 2011

The Mount Sinai Hospital. Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak. Web. 27 December 2011

Reviewed December 28, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

Add a Comment2 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

As someone who suffers with this condition its not so simple to live with it! Although it may 'heal' itself, this can take many many months - there can be multiple reasons that the internal scar starts leaking again ranging from poor dietary nutrtition and its effect on the permeability of the dura, to pulling the internal scar by ordinary daily movements (depending on where the breach in the dura is.
There are many of us that are house bound, have lost jobs, live in isolation on low incomes because of this condition. For some, standing upright is a nightmare because of low brain pressure, nauseau, pain etc, for others, they've enjured many many blood patches, dura repairs etc for it to be undone with a slight 'ordinary' movement such a bending down to pick something up or carrying something like a full kettle of water.
Thankfully there are some among us who, having learnt the hard way, are sharing their experiences so that those of us that this is all new to can at least get some emotional support with this condition as we all try to 'heal' ourselves.

August 4, 2014 - 4:18am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hello.... I am inquiring because of my precious daughter that endured a rough epidural prior to her delivery of their baby boy. After delivery, she developed a very bad headache and she was told she needed a blood patch. They waited 24 hours to do the patch. The procedure went horribly as well. She was stuck 10 times and it did not work. Now she is home, on bed rest as they chose to see if it would heal on its own. They offered a second blood patch but she was so traumatized at this point she declined. We are a week out with absolutely no improvement. As a mom, I’m concerned. Was wondering if any had a similar experience and if someone could share how long they had to wait for the hole in the spinal sac to heal?

April 8, 2019 - 5:22am
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak

Get Email Updates

Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!