Doc find air pocket where part of man's brain should be


Although it is common for elderly people to occasionally fall down, the 84-year-old reportedly did not display other life-threatening issues such as slurred speech or confusion, according to a report about the case published by the British Medical Journal Case Reports.

Brown also said the condition is found in almost 100 per cent of cases after brain surgery.

The pocket was revealed to be a pneumatocele, a pressurized air-filled cavity, based in the brain's right frontal lobe.

The 84-year-old man arrived in the emergency room with complaints that weren't uncommon for a patient his age.

When doctors were told that neither of these scenarios applied to the patient, they were "left very curious as to the cause of these findings", Brown said. The man came to the doctor's office about weakness on his left side and because he took many a tumble because of his unsteady walk. Dr. Finlay Brown told The Washington Post.

These air pockets can occur for a number of reasons, namely as a result of an injury to the head, an infection, or the aftereffects of a surgical procedure.

However, doctors quickly ruled out these common causes as the culprit behind this man's large air pocket in his brain.

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"In my research for writing the case report I wasn't able to find very many documented cases of a similar nature to this one", Brown said. The condition is when a pocket of pressurized air forms within the cranium, which typically happens after brain surgery, the study's authors said.

In the patient's case, the condition was facilitated by an osteotoma, a benign bone tumor, which erodes his sinuses. In this man's case, the air cavity formed in his brain measured 3.5 inches at its longest point, which is enormous.

He said it had likely been forming over months, even years. "When the patient sniffed/sneezed/coughed he would most likely be pushing small amounts of air into his head". However, due to the man's age and current state of health, he is declining surgery.

The doctors determined that the osteoma wore away part of the ethmoid bone, which allowed air to be pushed, under pressure, into his brain, "creating a "one-way valve" effect", the report said. "I wondered if the patient had previously undergone brain surgery or had a congenital abnormality we didn't know about".

After consulting with specialists about surgery to release the air and remove the bone tumor, the man opted to skip any such intervention, given the risks.

Brown and his co-authors, however, emphasized in their paper symptoms like these should always be thoroughly explored and examined.

"Because every now and then, there will be a rare [or] unknown causation of these that could be overlooked", he told the science news site.