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Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 1997 Jul 18;41(1):59-63.

Persistent cerebrospinal fluid otorrhea: a case of Munchausen's syndrome by proxy.

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Children's Hospital of Buffalo, Department of Otolaryngology, NY 14222, USA.


A case is presented of a young child who initially presented with recurrent bacterial meningitis 1 year after significant head trauma and was found to have cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage into the middle ear. Surgical procedures were devised to attempt to stop this abnormal flow, but inexplicably clear otorrhea biochemically identical to CSF persisted for weeks. The child's mother was apparently soaking the surgical dressings with CSF obtained through a lumbar drain and confessed to this activity after she was found to have tampered with an intravenous catheter. This activity resulted in a prolonged hospital stay and several presumably unnecessary procedures. Munchausen's syndrome, typified by intentional mimicry of symptoms of serious illness backed by plausible medical history, is well-described. Rarer is the syndrome by proxy, where parents and/or caregivers, by falsifying histories, fabricating laboratory evidence, or deliberately generating bodily lesions, cause unneeded diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to be performed on their young victims. This form of child abuse is hidden by the perpetrator's apparent concern and involvement in the care of the victim. The literature is reviewed, this form of abuse is discussed, and the role of communication of suspicion between the various health care workers is stressed. The medical and social settings in which this disorder is prevalent are covered. Early detection of this entity is essential in rescuing the victim from life-threatening abuse and in obtaining appropriate therapy for the abuser.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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