03:31am Sunday 07 June 2020

Possible Link Between Obesity and Rare Health Condition

An encephalocele is a sac-like protrusion of the brain through openings in the skull. In some cases, CSF can leak through these openings. The condition can remain undetected, or may cause symptoms such as hearing loss, leakage of clear fluid from the nose, meningitis and epidural or brain inflammation.  

According to Douglas Mattox, MD, senior author of the study, and chair in the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery at Emory, there has been some controversy with regards to the development of temporal bone encephaloceles and CSF leaks. While experts agree that encephaloceles can be the result of a birth defect or such things as chronic ear infection or trauma, some believe that obesity may also play a role.  

In order to examine that theory, the researchers looked at follow-up results of 56 cases of successful encephalocele repairs, and BMI was calculated for all 56 patients. The mean BMI of patients with spontaneous CSF leaks was found to be 35; whereas, that of patients with CSF leaks due to identifiable causes was found to be less, at 29.  

“The majority of the patients in our study presented with spontaneous CSF leaks prior to surgery,” Mattox says. “The BMI in those patients was significantly greater than that of patients with CSF leaks with some other identifiable cause. While the BMI in both groups was above normal, a BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight, a BMI of greater than 30 is considered obese.”  

The researchers advise that this data provides evidence of yet another health risk for patients who have problems with obesity, and that doctors should be alert for symptoms in their overweight populations.  

Other investigators include Elina Kari, MD, Administrative Chief Resident, Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

  1. Kathi Baker: 404 727 9371

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