Health Care

Pocket of air found where man's brain should've been

Pocket of air found where man's brain should've been”

As explained in a case report called "The man that lost (part of) his mind" in the journal BMJ Case Reports, the 84-year-old man turned up to the emergency room at Causeway Hospital in Northern Ireland after suffering from a weakness on the left side of his body and repeatedly falling over.

Perhaps nothing too odd for a man of his age, but further investigations revealed these symptoms were a red flag signaling much bigger problems.

A CT scan revealed a nine-centimetre air-filled cavity in his right frontal lobe, looking like a big black blank area on the scan. The man was a nonsmoker and drank rarely, the article continued.

Additionally, blood tests in the emergency department came back normal and he showed normal eye movement ranges, visual fields, speech, and swallowing. He was otherwise fit and well, independent with physical activities of daily living (PADLs) and lived at home with his wife and two sons.

"We were able to see the brain scan images before receiving the formal report from our radiology specialists and immediately knew something was not right!" Brown told The Washington Post in an email.

The scans were so extreme, doctors wondered if the man had forgotten to disclose previous brain surgery or birth defects.

The man, who had suffered a small stroke because of the brain air pocket, was treated with a statin and anti-clotting medication instead of attempting surgery because of the risk, Live Science said.

In this case, the patient's pneumatocele - or pressurised air cavity - measured about 3.5 inches at its longest, according to the BMJ Case Reports article.

The physicians at Causeway Hospital determined that the benign brain tumor formed in his sinuses and corroded part of his skull, which pushed air inside. "When the patient sniffed/sneezed/coughed he would most likely be pushing small amounts of air into his head".

His left-sided weakness was likely caused by a small stroke - a "rare" side effect of having an air cavity in the brain.

"We thought that this was a pocket of air but were not sure how it had got there!"

Brown said the patient could have undergone surgeries: One that would decompress the air pocket in his head and another that would eliminate the tumour that had created the "one-way valve" and allowed air to move into the cavity in the first place. In his follow-up appointment 12 weeks later, the weakness on his left side appeared to have resolved.

"Because every now and then", Brown told LiveScience, "there will be a rare (or) unknown causation of these that could be overlooked".

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