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Laryngoscope. 2008 Feb;118(2):275-8.

Relationship between obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, and spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea.

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Section of Otolaryngology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.



To investigate the relationship between obesity, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) otorrhea.


Retrospective review of patients presenting with the diagnosis of CSF otorrhea during a 15-year period to a tertiary care medical center.


Patient records were reviewed and the following data were extracted: age, sex, height, weight, past medical/surgical history, laterality of otorrhea, findings at operation, and method of repair. Otorrhea was considered spontaneous in the absence of trauma, otologic surgery, infection, and neoplasm.


Of the 29 adult patients identified, 14 patients presented with CSF otorrhea that was spontaneous in nature. The average body mass index among these patients was 35.2 +/- 8, which was higher than the average in the nonspontaneous group, 28.5 +/- 5 (P = .01). Diagnoses of OSA were also more common in the spontaneous group (n = 4) compared with the nonspontaneous group (n = 0). One case of bilateral spontaneous CSF leaks was recorded. The majority of patients were repaired with hydroxyapatite cement through a transmastoid approach. There were no recurrences.


In this series, patients with spontaneous CSF otorrhea were more likely to be severely and morbidly obese than were patients with nonspontaneous otorrhea. OSA was also more common in these patients. The findings from this study support an association between obesity and spontaneous CSF leaks. Patients presenting with spontaneous CSF otorrhea should therefore be screened for OSA and signs of increased intracranial pressure.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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