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Medicine

Doctors blamed her runny nose on allergies. But it was her brain fluid leaking out

US surgeons have now repaired the hole between Kendra Jackson’s skull and nostrils that let about a cup of brain fluid leak out each day

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 May, 2018, 3:12pm

For years, Kendra Jackson battled an incessantly runny nose – sniffling and sneezing, blowing and losing sleep each night.

Jackson said she initially thought she was getting a cold, then, as her symptoms persisted, doctors suggested it was likely seasonal allergies.

But the symptoms never cleared up, and, as the years went by, Jackson started to worry that it might be something worse.

She told ABC affiliate KETV this week her nose ran “like a waterfall, continuously, and then it would run to the back of my throat.”

“Everywhere I went,” she added, “I always had a box of Puffs, always stuffed in my pocket.”

She had frequent headaches. And she could rarely sleep.

Doctors at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha recently diagnosed Jackson with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak, a condition in which the watery liquid surrounding the brain spills out through a hole or tear in the skull and then drains into the ears or the nose, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The doctors told Jackson that she was losing an estimated 235ml of the fluid per day through her nose – almost a full cup – according to KETV.

I don’t have to carry around the tissue any more, and I’m getting some sleep
Kendra Jackson on the repair of her brain fluid leak

Surgeons performed a procedure last month, going through Jackson’s nasal cavity to repair the damage. A spokesman for Nebraska Medicine said that Jackson followed up with doctors Friday and “is doing extremely well.”

Nebraska Medicine said in a Facebook Post last week that “Doctor after doctor told Kendra the fluid coming our 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. Carla Schneider, PA, discovered Kendra had a CSF leak – cerebrospinal fluid FROM HER BRAIN WAS LEAKING OUT OF HER NOSE!”

Medical experts say that CSF leaks can put patients at an increased risk of infection as well as complications such as meningitis.

In some cases, the leaks occur as the result of a head or spinal injury, or a tumour, or after a medical procedure such as an epidural or a lumbar puncture (or spinal tap); other times, they occur with no known cause, according to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Jackson told KETV that in 2013, she was involved in a car accident – she was rear-ended, causing her to slam her head on the dashboard. Her symptoms started a couple of years after the trauma, she said.

Though many CSF leaks correct themselves, sometimes they need to be repaired through various medical or surgical means.

On April 23, rhinologist Christie Barnes and neurosurgeon Dan Surdell at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre performed a CSF leak repair, according to the spokesman for Nebraska Medicine.

“We go through the nostrils, through the nose,” Barnes said, according to KETV. “We use angled cameras, angled instruments to get us up to where we need to go.”

Barnes, who specialises in nose and sinus problems, told the station that the surgical team took fatty tissue from Jackson’s body and used it to plug a tiny hole between her skull and nostrils, where the brain fluid was leaking.

According to the American Rhinologic Society, CSF leaks become noticeable “when there is clear drainage from the nose or into the back of the throat that may occur with straining or position changes and does not improve with medications aimed at other causes of a ‘runny nose.’ If it drains out of the nose, it is usually from one side. If it drains into the throat, it has been described as salty tasting.”

Other symptoms of cranial CSF leaks, according to Cedars-Sinai, may include drainage from the ear, fluid that spills into the sinus tract and drains through the skin, and issues with hearing and smell.

Following her surgery last month, Jackson said that she has her life back.

“I don’t have to carry around the tissue any more,” Jackson told KETV weeks following the operation, “and I’m getting some sleep.”