Woman experiences 'extremely rare' brain fluid leak following COVID testing

Most people who have tested for COVID-19 have reported no issues, but one woman had an extremely rare reaction that resulted in a brain fluid leak.
According to a report published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, the woman in her 40s got the test prior to her hernia repair.

But shortly after, she experienced a range of symptoms including a runny nose in one nostril, a metallic taste in her mouth, a headache, neck stiffness, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, Health noted.

She sought medical treatment at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics where doctors noticed a clear fluid coming out from the right side of her nose and ordered a nasopharyngoscopy, a procedure in which they insert a flexible scope tube through the nose and into the back of the throat.

When that didn’t yield any results, they analyzed her nasal drainage and found it was beta-2 transferrin, a marker only found in cerebrospinal (brain) fluid.

A CT scan and MRI revealed the woman had an encephalocele, a defect at the base of her skull allowing her brain’s lining to protrude into the nose making it easily ruptured with something like a nasal swab.

Doctors repaired the encephalocele and the woman was admitted to the hospital for “neurological monitoring and lumbar drain management.”

While the incident is terrifying, doctors and study authors underlined how extremely rare it is.

"In general, for the vast majority of the public, this is exceedingly rare. If you need to get a swab, you can get it done safely,” the study noted explaining that it was published as a warning to those who may have “predisposing factors.”

The woman had several predisposing factors including a history of sinus surgery, removal of nasal polyps 20 years ago, and a prior diagnosis of intracranial hypertension.

"Her prior diagnosis of intracranial hypertension is probably what set her up for this,” said study co-author Jarrett Walsh, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at the University of Iowa. Overall, he says, "she was just unlucky."

While there aren’t any side-effects to COVID-19 testing, the study authors warned that it’s a good reminder to get the test “done by trained personnel.”

They hope it doesn’t deter the public from getting tested in the future.

And if you get tested and develop any pain, seek medical attention.

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