Management of Spontaneous Cerebrospinal Fluid Otorrhea


  • Presented at the Triological Society spring meeting, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., May 4, 2008.

    Presented at The Triological Society spring meeting, Orlando, Florida, U.S.A., May 4, 2008.


Objectives/Hypothesis: To describe the surgical approaches and materials used to repair spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) otorrhea of temporal bone origin.

Study Design: Retrospective case review at a tertiary academic medical center.

Methods: All patients presenting with spontaneous CSF otorrhea or rhinorrhea over a consecutive 8-year period were included. Clinic charts and operative reports were reviewed to obtain the clinical presentation, examination findings, diagnostic test results, intraoperative findings, operative technique, and postoperative follow-up. Surgical approach and materials used for repair were determined by the location of the defect(s) and surgeon preference.

Results: Seventeen patients underwent 19 operations for repair of spontaneous CSF otorrhea or rhinorrhea. The mean age was 61 years and the male to female ratio was 5:12. All female patients had a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 mg/kg2. The most common presenting symptom was otorrhea after a myringotomy or placement of a tympanostomy tube. A middle fossa craniotomy was used in 17 approaches. The most common defect sites were located over the tegmen mastoideum and tegmen tympani. Multiple materials were used in most repairs including allogenic bone cement and autologous materials. One patient had persistent otorrhea after a transmastoid approach and required a middle fossa craniotomy to repair a tegmen mastoideum defect.

Conclusions: Spontaneous CSF otorrhea is uncommon and often not diagnosed until a myringotomy or tympanostomy tube is placed. The middle fossa craniotomy provides the best exposure for defects involving the middle fossa floor. Both alloplastic and autologous materials are highly successful in repairing the defect(s) responsible for CSF otorrhea. No infections of the alloplastic bone cement occurred in our series.