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Laryngoscope. 2003 Jan;113(1):50-6.

Management of cerebrospinal fluid leaks involving the temporal bone: report on 92 patients.

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



To investigate the success of different surgical and nonsurgical techniques in the management of cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea or otorhinorrhea.


Retrospective case analysis.


Ninety-two patients with confirmed diagnosis of cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea or otorhinorrhea treated at our institution between 1976 and 1998 were followed up long-term by retrospective chart review and patient interviews.


Conservative treatment was successful in most cases of cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea or otorhinorrhea resulting from head injury (26 of 29 patients). In contrast, surgical intervention was required in all but 1 of 53 patients with cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea or otorhinorrhea caused surgically. The primary operative success rate was 76.9%. When relapse occurred, the interval ranged from 0 days to 24 months (mean interval, 3.9 mo; median, 1.3 mo). All leaks requiring surgery eventually were closed successfully. Surgical results were chronologically dependent. Before 1989, 11 failures occurred in 37 primary procedures. After 1989, only 4 failures occurred in 28 primary procedures. Of seven patients undergoing primary dural closure alone, three (43%) had recurrence of the leak. Closure rates were highest among patients in whom a multilayer technique for leak closure was used: combining a primary graft or sealing material such as bone wax, free muscle, or fascia for closure of the defect with additional autologous free grafts or allogenic materials. This resulted in a 2-year closure rate of 100% compared with a 2-year rate of 75.4% for patients whose primary closure was supported by a single layer of autologous or allogenic material (P =.034). Fibrin glue with primary closure alone did not have additional benefit. Postoperative meningitis occurred in two patients and was treated without sequelae.


Conservative treatment should be reserved for cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea or otorhinorrhea resulting from head injury. Postoperative and nontraumatic cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea or otorhinorrhea should have early operative intervention. A multilayer technique combining allogenic materials with free autologous grafts is recommended.

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