Doctors discover empty space where part of man's brain should be

Doctors shocked by 3.5-inch air bubble where part of man's brain should be

Doctors shocked by 3.5-inch air bubble where part of man's brain should be

When the man added left-sided arm and leg weakness to the list of complaints, his doctor advised him to go to the emergency room, fearing a possible stroke.

Still, there were no red flags in the man's medical history. Brain-imaging CT scans revealed a unusual 9-centimeter (3.5-inch) void in his skull just behind his forehead in the right frontal lobe. The man was a nonsmoker and drank rarely, the article continued.

Although it is common for elderly people to occasionally fall down, the 84-year-old reportedly did not display other life-threatening issues such as slurred speech or confusion, according to a report about the case published by the British Medical Journal Case Reports. A blood test detected nothing abnormal.

"(We) were all very perplexed by the images we saw!" "I wondered if the patient had previously undergone brain surgery or had a congenital abnormality we didn't know about". He said he had not.

It turned out the man had pneumocephalus, or the presence of air in his cranium, a condition that is found in "nearly 100 per cent of cases after brain surgery", Brown said. Doctors found an osteoma, or benign bone tumor, in a part of the skull that separates the brain from the nasal cavity, called the ethmoid bone, the website said.

Doctors were surprised to discover the cause - a large air pocket in his skull where part of his brain should be.

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"From speaking to the specialists, it seems it has been progressing insidiously over months to years", Brown told the Washington Post.

"It had formed a "one-way valve" effect that would allow air to get through into the skull but wasn't able to get out". To revert it, the man had two surgeries: one to decompress the air pocket and another to remove the offending tumor. He was given medication to prevent a secondary stroke and sent home with orders to monitor whether his left-side weakness worsened.

His nonsurgical approach is not without risk: It's likely the patient will be at a greater risk for infection, since there remains a passageway for air - and therefore bacteria and viruses - into his brain cavity, Brown said. His brain was still there, it had just been squished out of the way by the pocket of air.

As more air got in, it slowly pushed the brain aside, said Brown. In a 12-week follow-up, the man was reported to be doing fine and his left-side weakness had cleared up.

"Because every now and then", Brown told LiveScience, "there will be a rare (or) unknown causation of these that could be overlooked".

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