Symptoms of a Spinal CSF Leak

Spontaneous intracranial hypotension is a syndrome that occurs from a spinal cerebrospinal fluid leak, meaning a leak of CSF from a defect in the dura around the spinal cord. Symptoms often include:

  • Headache, especially in the back of the head, that worsens upon standing, or a headache that’s triggered by coughing, sneezing, or exertion
  • Pain in the neck or shoulders
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Pulsatile tinnitus (ringing or whooshing in ear)

  • Hearing loss
  • Nausea
  • Visual disturbances
  •  Changes in memory, thinking, or behavior (brain fog)

Since some of the symptoms of a CSF leak are non-specific and may be caused by other conditions, it’s important to seek medical care to get an accurate diagnosis.

Once the presence and location of a spinal CSF leak have been confirmed, the neuro-imaging specialist may perform an epidural blood patch or fibrin patch procedure and/or refer the patient to a neurosurgeon with expertise in closing these leaks.

Three types of spinal csf leak

Three types of spinal CSF leaks. Type 1: a bone spur creates a tear in the dura. Type 2: a rupture of an outpouching of dura surrounding a nerve root. Type 3: rupture of the dura with leakage of CSF into an adjacent blood vessel (CSF-venous fistula).

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Our Care Team

  • Chief of Neurological Surgery, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens
  • Professor of Clinical Neurological Surgery
  • Co-director, Weill Cornell Medicine CSF Leak Program
Phone: (718) 670-1837
  • Director, Spine Imaging and Interventions
  • Co-director, Weill Cornell Medicine CSF Leak Program
Phone: 646-962-5757
  • Associate Attending Neurologist, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital
  • Associate Professor of Neurology, Weill Cornell Medical College
Phone: (212) 746-7038

Reviewed by: Gayle Salama, MD, and John Park, MD, PhD
Last reviewed/last updated: February 2023
Illustration by Thom Graves, CMI

Weill Cornell Medicine Neurological Surgery 525 East 68 Street, Box 99 New York, NY 10065 Phone: 866-426-7787