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J Neurosurg. 2010 Feb;112(2):295-9. doi: 10.3171/2008.10.JNS08428.

Spontaneous spinal cerebrospinal fluid leaks as the cause of subdural hematomas in elderly patients on anticoagulation.

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Department of Neurosurgery, The Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California 90048, USA.


Subdural hematoma is a relatively common complication of long-term anticoagulation, particularly in the elderly. The combination of anticoagulation and cerebral cortical atrophy is believed to be sufficient to explain the subdural bleeding. The authors report a series of elderly patients who were on a regimen of anticoagulation and developed chronic subdural hematomas (SDHs) due to a spontaneous spinal CSF leak. They reviewed the medical records and imaging studies of a consecutive group of patients with spontaneous intracranial hypotension who were evaluated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Among 141 patients with spontaneous spinal CSF leaks and spontaneous intracranial hypotension, 3 (2%) were taking anticoagulants at the time of onset of symptoms. The mean age of the 3 patients (1 woman and 2 men) was 74 years (range 68-86 years). All 3 patients had chronic SDHs measuring between 12 and 23 mm in maximal diameter. The SDHs resolved after treatment of the underlying spontaneous spinal CSF leak, and there was no need for hematoma evacuation. Epidural blood patches were used in 2 patients, and percutaneous placement of a fibrin sealant was used in 1 patient. The presence of an underlying spontaneous spinal CSF leak should be considered in patients with chronic SDHs, even among the elderly taking anticoagulants.

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