Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Leaks

Cranial and Spinal CSF Leaks

Call for an Appointment 855-855-6484

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is a watery fluid that the nervous system produces to nourish and protect the brain and spine. CSF leaks can happen in two main areas: the skull (also called the cranium) and the spine.

For the most part, cranial and spinal CSF leaks have unique causes and treatments. Duke specialists are experts in identifying the type, cause, and location of CSF leaks. They offer a range of treatments to correct the leaks and eliminate the chronic headaches that often result.

Call for an Appointment

Spinal CSF Leaks

Cerebrospinal fluid can leak out from around the spine due to a hole in the dura, the dense tissue that surrounds the spine and brain. The hole can result from:

  • A tear caused by a bone spur
  • A tear of a nerve root sleeve
  • An abnormal connection that forms between the dura and a nearby vein
  • A traumatic injury
  • Placement of an epidural catheter for childbirth or pain management

Learn More About Spinal CSF Leaks 
Our neuroradiologists use advanced imaging tests to diagnose spinal CSF leaks. They can often be alleviated with a blood patch (injection of your own blood to seal the leak) or surgery.

Consistently Ranked Among the Nation’s Best Hospitals

Duke University Hospital is proud of our team and the exceptional care they provide. They are why we are once again recognized as the best hospital in North Carolina, and nationally ranked in 11 adult and 9 pediatric specialties by U.S. News & World Report for 2023–2024.

Cranial CSF Leaks

Someone with a cranial CSF leak may notice watery fluid dripping from their nose or collecting in their ears, usually on one side. Cranial CSF leaks are most often caused by:

  • Intracranial hypertension -- higher-than-normal CSF volume or pressure
  • A traumatic injury
  • Surgery
  • Tumor(s)

Learn More About Cranial CSF Leaks 
Our sinus specialists, otologists/neurotologists, and neurosurgeons collaborate to diagnose and treat cranial CSF leaks. These are most often treated with surgery.

This page was medically reviewed on 01/05/2024 by