The authors review their experience in detecting occult traumatic dural lesions. In a retrospective study covering the period from January 1, 1984 to December 31, 1996, 23 patients were evaluated for occult traumatic dural lesions. Clinical presentation, diagnostic work-up, and management of the dural lesions were analyzed.
The clinical presentations of the previously undetected dural lesions of the anterior skull base were meningitis in eight cases, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) rhinorrhea in eight cases, both meningitis and CSF rhinorrhea in five cases, and a pulsating swelling in the region of the right upper eyelid in one case. In another case a fracture of the posterior frontal wall was detected incidentally on the preoperative CT scan performed prior to surgery for chronic sinusitis. One patient had a CSF fistula of the lateral skull base in addition to the frontobasal fistula. The interval between trauma and diagnosis varied from 1 to 48 years. Dural lesions were localized by high-resolution CT, fluorescein nasal endoscopy, CT cisternography, and MRI. Intraoperative exposure of the dural lesions and duraplasty were possible in all cases. During the first attempt successful repair of the dural lesions was accomplished in 22 (95.7%) of the 23 patiants. Two interventions were necessary to close a CSF leak of the cribriform plate.
Modern clinical and radiologic diagnostic methods should be employed to search for an occult dural lesion in patients with recurrent meningitis, meningitis caused by upper airway pathogens, or CSF rhinorrhea. The patient will remain at risk of potentially fatal meningitis until the lesion is appropriately repaired by duraplasty.