Doctors were stunned to find a pocket of air in place of the right frontal lobe of a patient’s brain. He was previously in good health.
The 84-year-old man in Ireland entered the emergency room after experiencing unsteady walking, multiple falls and weakness on his left side for several months. He did not smoke, drank very little alcohol, and had an otherwise solid medical history, New York Daily News reports.
The doctors wrote,
There was no confusion, facial weakness, visual or speech disturbance. He was otherwise fit and well, independent with physical activities of daily living…and lived at home with his wife and two sons.
But when the patient underwent a head CT and MRI scan, results showed a large, empty void where the right frontal lobe of his brain should have been. Called a pneumocephalus, this condition happens when a pocket of pressurized air forms inside the cranium, which usually only happens after a brain surgery. The air hollow in the man’s head was 3.5 inches at its largest point, which is an enormous size.
Finlay Brown, a doctor on the case, said, “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.”
The pneumocephalus in this patient’s case was caused by a benign bone tumor called an osteoma that formed in his sinuses and went through the base of his skull.
Brown said, “From speaking to the specialists, it seems it has been progressing insidiously over months to years. When the patient sniffed/sneezed/coughed, he would most likely be pushing small amounts of air into his head.”
The man needed two surgeries: one to remove the air pocket, and another to remove the tumor that had caused it. He was given medication and after 12 weeks, “remained well.”
The study was published in BMJ Case Reports.