What Can Cause A Spinal Fluid Leak?

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Spinal Fluid Leak

Cerebrospinal fluid, also sometimes simply referred to as spinal fluid, helps to protect your brain and your spinal cord from injury. This fluid also helps to deliver key nutrients and aid in the removal of waste products. It flows in and around the hollow spaces of the brain and spinal cord, and between two of the meninges, which are the thin layers of tissue that protect the spinal cord.

If a tear or a hole develops in the layers of membranes that encapsulate the spinal fluid, the fluid can end up leaking out. Your body relies on a specific amount of fluid to perform certain functions, and this fluid loss can lead to a number of uncomfortable symptoms, with the most common being a headache. But what causes a spinal fluid leak to develop in the first place? We explore some of the more common causes of spinal fluid leaks in today’s blog.

Common Causes Of Spinal Fluid Leaks

Oftentimes spinal fluid leaks develop as a result of a significant and evident cause, but not always. The most common reasons why you may develop a spinal fluid leak include:

  • A Surgical Complication – A leak can develop if you undergo a procedure that requires entry into the spinal canal. A lumbar puncture and an epidural for pain relief during childbirth are two procedures that require a needle to enter the epidural space, and if the hole created by this needle does not close on its own, fluid can leak from this location.
  • Injury – Acute trauma or direct injury to the spine can also cause a tear in the membrane that holds the spinal fluid in place.
  • Intense Strain – A moment of intense strain on the back can lead to the creation of a hole in the spinal membrane. We’ve seen patients who have had a leak develop after straining their back when lifting a heavy object, or when coughing or sneezing. This is more common if you also had a previous surgery or trauma to the spine, but not always.
  • Spinal Abnormalities – Sometimes a person may have abnormalities in their spinal dura mater or between the dura mater and nearby veins, and that can lead to fluid leakage.
  • Bone Spurs – Bone spurs can irritate nerves and soft tissues if they develop in the spine, but they can also rub against your spinal membranes and eventually cause an opening to form. This is just another reason why you shouldn’t ignore a spinal bone spur.

Treating Spinal Fluid Leaks

Many spinal fluid leaks end up closing on their own, but you shouldn’t just assume that will be the case for you. If you’re experiencing headaches, nausea or vision issues and you’ve experienced any of the above potential causes of fluid leakage, connect with a spine specialist like Dr. Sinicropi. He’ll begin by talking with you about your symptoms, reviewing your medical history and ordering an imaging exam. Fluid leaks can be identified using specialized MRI or CT scan techniques, and once the location of the leak has been found, your surgeon will talk to you about your treatment options.

There are a number of minimally invasive operations available to address a spinal leak. Your doctor can apply a special sealant to the area, or they can even inject a small amount of your own blood to the area, and your blood will form a clot to seal off the leak. Other surgical procedures involve using stitches or patches to help close off the site.

For more information about spinal fluid leaks, or to talk to a specialist about a different back problem you’re dealing with, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today at (651) 430-3800.

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