Omaha, Nebraska , USA: After living with severe headaches and a constantly runny nose for years, an Omaha woman finally discovered that the cause wasn’t allergies but a hole in her skull.
In 2013, Kendra Jackson was involved in a car accident where she slammed her face off the dashboard. She developed a series of symptoms several years later including: a nose that would not stop running, severe headaches and difficulty sleeping.
“[It was] like a waterfall, continuously, and then it would run to the back of my throat,” Jackson reportedly said.
A frustrated Jackson eventually went to an ear, nose and throat specialist who determined that, alarmingly, the liquid that was irritating her throat was cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaking from her brain. The clear fluid cushions the brain and the spine, and helps clear waste material from the cerebral cavity.
The specialist informed Jackson that she was losing approximately 8 ounces (237 milliliters) of the fluid a day. For context, the brain produces roughly 17 ounces [503 mL] of CSF a day.
The fluid, if it leaks down a person’s nose or throat, reportedly has a metallic taste. The condition is known as CSF rhinorrhea and can persist for years before any major problems, such as bacterial meningitis, emerge.
“Doctor after doctor told Kendra the fluid coming out of her nose was because of allergies. But after years of coping with this problem and the headaches associated with it, she turned to the ENT team at Nebraska Medicine,” Omaha-based Nebraska Medicine wrote on Facebook of the case.
The medical team at Nebraska Medicine found a small hole between Jackson’s skull and her nostrils that was the source of the leak. They entered through Jackson’s nose and plugged the leak with some of Jackson’s own fatty tissue. She is expected to make a complete recovery.
While such leaks can repair themselves, surgery is often required to fix cases after severe trauma. About five in 100,000 people live with CSF leaks, according to the UK’s CSF leak association.
In the past, doctors would have to perform brain surgery to repair CSF leaks, but today’s technology yields much less invasive methods.
“We go through the nostrils, through the nose,” Nebraska Medicine Rhinologist Dr. Christie Barnes said. “We use angled cameras, angled instruments to get us up to where we need to go.”
Dr. Barnes explained that she and her team used some of Jackson’s own fatty tissue to plug up the leak source- a very small hole between her skull and nostrils.
Jackson explained that the surgery made a world of difference.
“I don’t have to carry around the tissue anymore,” Jackson said with a laugh, “and I’m getting some sleep.”
Jackson will have a few follow-up appointments to monitor the pressure in her head, but doctors expect her to make a full recovery.