(NEW YORK) — For more than four months, a clear, tasteless liquid leaked out of Aundrea Aragon’s nose whenever she bent over, but doctors reassured her that it was only allergies.
“It wasn’t even dripping, it was pouring out of my nose,” said Aragon, a 35-year-old mother from Tucson, Ariz. “If I looked down or bent over, it would literally pore out of the left side of my nose. I had no control at all.”
Even though doctors “blew off” her concerns, Aragon said that “deep down,” she knew something was seriously wrong.
And there was: Her brain was leaking cerebrospinal fluid through two cracks in the back of her sphenoid sinus, a condition that could have killed her.
“I am still kind of in shock,” said Aragon, who had surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center in October. “I was very fortunate. They said I could get meningitis and go into a coma and die.”
Aragon’s condition — a cerebrospinal fluid leak — is rare, occurring in only 1 in 100,000 or 1 in 200,000 patients, according to her surgeon, Dr. Alexander G. Chiu, chief of the division of otolaryngology.
Most often it is seen in overweight patients who have high cranial pressure, and the sinus “pops open.” Sometimes a car accident or head trauma can cause a tear.
“In her case, it was more of a freak thing,” said Chiu, who has treated only about 100 cases.
The danger isn’t the loss of fluid, according to Chiu, but rather infection.
“You are constantly making brain fluid,” he said. “It can be fatal when there is a connection between the cleanest part of the body, the brain, and the dirtiest part, the nose.”
Chiu and his colleague, neurosurgeon Dr. G. Michael Lemole, used an endoscopic method to access the sinus and patch up the two sinus cracks. They entered the sinus through the nose and grafted skin over the leaky spots.
“Scar tissue grows over the graft and it protects her for the rest of her life,” Chiu said. “It shouldn’t happen again — she’s so young.”
Still, Aragon will have to be monitored several times a year.
“She’s not leaking anymore, but we have to make sure she doesn’t spring a new leak,” her doctor said.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Julie Wootton, Times-News
Jennifer Graham, Deseret News