Correlation of spontaneous and traumatic anterior skull base CSF leak flow rates with fluid pattern on early, delayed, and subtraction volumetric extended echo train T2-weighted MRI

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OBJECTIVE CSF leakage is a potentially fatal condition that may result when a skull base dural defect permits CSF communication between the cranial vault and sinonasal cavities. Flow rate is an important property of CSF leaks that can contribute to surgical decision-making and predispose patients to complications and inferior outcomes. Noninvasive preoperative prediction of the leak rate is challenging with traditional diagnostic tools. The present study compares fluid configurations on early and late volumetric extended echo train T2-weighted MRI by using image tracings and sequence subtraction as a novel method of quantifying CSF flow rate, and it correlates radiological results with intraoperative findings and clinical outcomes. METHODS A total of 45 patients met inclusion criteria for this study and underwent 3-T MRI. Imaging sequences included two identical CUBE T2 (vendor trade name for volumetric extended echo train T2) acquisitions at the beginning and end of the scanning session, approximately 45 minutes apart. Twenty-five patients were confirmed to have definitive spontaneous or traumatic anterior skull base CSF leaks. Semiautomated volumetric segmentation of CSF intensity was performed on both CUBE data sets by using 3D-Slicer software, and volumes were subtracted to obtain accumulated CSF volume. These imaging-derived fluid accumulations were correlated with high- or low-flow states, as well as ultimate treatment outcomes including recurrences. RESULTS Of the 45 patients, 25 (55.6%) had definitive evidence of CSF leakage, and 22 (88%) of these underwent surgical repair. Patients with high-flow CSF leaks had higher early (4.058 cm3 vs 0.982 cm3, p = 0.04), late (4.58 cm3 vs 1.096 cm3, p = 0.04), and accumulated (0.53 cm3 vs 0.11 cm3, p = 0.01) fluid volume measurements than patients with low-flow leaks. The 5 (22.7%) patients who exhibited postoperative CSF leak recurrence had significantly greater early (6.30 cm3 vs 1.23 cm3, p = 0.008) and late (6.87 cm3 vs 1.45 cm3, p = 0.008) volumes. Accumulated volume was not significantly greater in patients with leak recurrence (0.58 cm3 vs 0.22 cm3, p = 0.07). Early, late, and accumulated volumes were significantly correlated with postoperative hospital stay as well as duration of postoperative lumbar drain placement (p < 0.05 for all measures). CONCLUSIONS High-resolution CUBE T2 MRI, coupled with precise volumetric segmentation and subtraction of sinonasal hyperintensity, not only demonstrated predictive value in differentiating low- and high-flow CSF leaks, but also correlated with postoperative complications such as leak recurrence. These findings may be useful in the clinical workup and neurosurgical management of patients with skull base CSF leaks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)286-294
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Anterior skull base defect
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leakage
  • Craniomaxillary trauma
  • Dural repair
  • Endoscopic surgery
  • Flow rate
  • Primary spontaneous CSF leak


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