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More On CSF Rhinorrhea/Otorrhea

 

Trauma professionals worry about stuff. Like just about everything, really. Sometimes we have good guidance (research) to help us decide what to do. Many times, we don’t. Management of rhinorrhea and otorrhea from CSF leak after trauma is definitely one of those things.

I’ve seen a variety of treatments used in these patients over the years. Is it really a CSF leak? Let’s get a beta-2 transferrin test (see below). Can’t the patient get meningitis? Their may be concomitant sinus fracture and bacterial contamination, so why not give antibiotics? Or vaccinate them?

The Cochrane library contains a vast number of reviews of common clinical questions. One of those questions just happens to be the utility of giving prophylactic antibiotics in patients with basilar skull fracture. Interestingly, they’ve been reviewing and re-reviewing this question about every 5 years, since 2006. During the three reviews done, there have been no additional research papers published on the topic.

Here are the factoids:

  • Studies that specifically examined the use of prophylactic antibiotics in patients with basilar skull fracture were reviewed. All included meningitis as one of the outcome parameters.
  • There were only 5 high quality (randomized, controlled) trials, with a total of 208 participants
  • There were an additional 17 lower quality trials published, but no conclusions could be reached from them due to methodology problems
  • In the high quality trials, there were no differences in the incidence of meningitis, mortality, or meningitis-related mortality
  • There were no specific adverse effects related to antibiotic administration. But one of the high quality studies did note a shift to higher counts of pathologic bacteria in the posterior nasopharynx in the antibiotic group.
  • No studies on the use of meningitis vaccinations exist. A survey of UK physicians showed that 35% recommend at least one vaccine, typically for Strep Pneumo.

Bottom line: There is still no good evidence to support the use of prophylactic antibiotics or meningitis vaccination in patients with CSF leak from uncomplicated basilar skull fracture. When you see surveys that show some physicians promoting a treatment and others doing nothing, it means there is most likely no significant benefit. If there were a big difference, we would have seen it by now! And giving drugs (antibiotics, vaccines) that have no proven use is expensive and can always lead to unexpected complications. 

References:

  • Immunisations and antibiotics in patients with anterior skull base cerebrospinal fluid leaks. J Laryngol Otol 128(7):626-629, 2014.
  • Antibiotic prophylaxis for preventing meningitis in patients with basilar skull fractures. Cochrane Database Syst Rev April 28, 2015.

Tips For Taking Care Of CSF Leaks

The management of CSF leaks after trauma remains somewhat controversial. The literature is sparse, and generally consists of observational studies. However, some general guidelines are supported by large numbers of retrospectively reviewed patients.

  • Ensure that the patient actually has a CSF leak. In most patients, this is obvious because they have clear fluid leaking from ear or nose that was not present preinjury. Here are the options when the diagnosis is less obvious (i.e. serosanguinous drainage):
    • The “halo” or “double ring sign” is a form of pillow chromatography. The blood components separate from the CSF as they move through the pillow fabric, creating a clear ring or halo surrounding a bloody spot. This is the cheapest, fastest test and is actually fairly reliable.
    • High resolution images of the temporal bones and skull base. If an obvious breach is noted, especially if fluid is seen in the adjacent sinuses, then a CSF leak is extremely likely.
    • Glucose testing. CSF glucose is low compared to serum glucose.
    • Beta 2 transferrin assay. Don’t do it!! This marker is very specific to CSF. However, the test is expensive and results may take several days to a few weeks to receive. Most leaks will have closed before the results are available, making this a poor test.
  • Place the patient at bed rest with the head elevated. The basic concept is to decrease intracranial pressure, which in turn should decrease the rate of leakage. This same technique is used for management of mild ICP increases after head injury.
  • Consider prophylactic antibiotics carefully. The clinician must balance the likelihood of meningitis with the possibility of selecting resistant bacteria. If the likelihood of contamination is low and the patient is immunocompetent, antibiotics may not be needed.
  • Ear drops are probably not necessary. They may confuse the picture when gauging resolution of the CSF leak.
  • Wait. Most tramatic leaks will close spontaneously within 7-10 days. If it does not, a neurosurgeon or ENT surgeon should be consulted to consider surgical closure.

References:

  1. Brodie HA, Thompson TC. Management of complications from 820 temporal bone fractures. Am J Otol, 1997;18:188-197.
  2. Brodie HA. Prophylactic antibiotics for posttraumatic cerebrospinal fluid fistulas. Arch Otolaryngol Head, Neck Surg. 123:749-752.

In The Next Trauma MedEd Newsletter: Solid Organ Injury Update

The current Trauma MedEd newsletter was released to subscribers last weekend. It will have a general release on this blog next Monday. The topic is fat embolism and fat embolism syndrome.

The next issue will be sent out at the end of March, and will contain an update on solid organ injury. My last newsletter on this topic was in January of 2012!

Topics will include:

  • Updates on grading
  • Spleen vaccines
  • Which patients are eligible for nonop management
  • What is a “failure”
  • Sample practice guidelines

As always, this issue will go to all of my subscribers first. If you are not yet one of them, click this link right away to sign up now and/or download back issues.

Unfortunately, non-subscribers will have to wait until I release the issue on this blog, in mid-April. So sign up now!

In The Next Trauma MedEd Newsletter: Fat Embolism Syndrome

The next Trauma MedEd newsletter will be released this weekend. In this issue, I will review fat embolism and fat embolism syndrome.

Topics will include:

  • Fat embolism vs fat embolism syndrome (FES)
  • Etiology of fat embolism
  • Clinical hallmarks of FES
  • Diagnosis of FES
  • Treatment and outcomes of FES

As always, this issue will go to all of my subscribers first. If you are not yet one of them, click this link right away to sign up now and/or download back issues.

Unfortunately, non-subscribers will have to wait until I release the issue on this blog, about 10 days later. So sign up now!

Update: Kidney Injury Scaling

Over the past two days, I’ve reviewed the new AAST organ injury scaling updates for spleen and liver injuries. Today, I’ll cover the new kidney grading scale.

Liver and spleen grading is generally simple, focusing on laceration depth and subcapsular hematoma coverage to determine the exact value. However, the kidney is totally different. Although technically a solid organ, it’s got a bunch of hollow, urine-containing stuff inside. This is the main determinant of the original scaling system: collection system involvement.

Like liver and spleen, the kidney scale was updated to take advantage of CT information. But once again, bleeding identified via the CT angiogram is incorporated into the higher grades. Active bleeding contained within Gerota’s fascia is assigned a grade of III. Extravasation escaping this fascia is assigned a IV.  The other grades remain unchanged.

Here are the updated guidelines. Click the image or link below it to open a bigger image in a new window.

Click to download larger image

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