A Belfast man stunned doctors in Northern Ireland with a medical scan revealing a 3-inch air pocket replacing part of his brain.
What Is The Air Pocket?
After experiencing some pain in his legs and suffering multiple falls, an unidentified 84-year-old man visited Causeway Hospital in February. When he arrived in the emergency room, doctors learned that he lived a mostly healthy life and had no prior medical emergencies of this nature.
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.
To rule out other possible medical causes, the doctors performed a CT scan. When the results from the CT scan came out, the doctors saw a 3-inch air pocket in his right frontal lobe.
"(We) were all very perplexed by the images we saw!" Dr. Finlay Brown told The Washington Post. "In my research for writing the case report I wasn't able to find very many documented cases of a similar nature to this one."
In addition to the alarming air pocket, the CT scan also disclosed that the man had a benign tumor in his skull.
How Did This Happen?
Doctors diagnosed the man with pneumocephalus, which is the presence of air or gas in the skull. This rare condition typically occurs in the elderly.
The most common causes for pneumocephalus include a sinus infection or serious facial trauma. The emergence of air in a brain cranium following a major surgery is also commonly attributed to this condition.
However, doctors quickly ruled out these common causes as the culprit behind this man's large air pocket in his brain.
The physicians at Causeway Hospital determined that the benign brain tumor formed in his sinuses and corroded part of his skull, which pushed air inside. The doctors speculated that a small stroke may have also factored into the emergence of the air pocket that formed over several years.
These findings were disclosed in BMJ Case Reports on February 27.
The man that lost (part of) his mind - a man presented to the emergency department following recurrent falls over several weeks and onset of new left-sided weakness. Read the case background, treatment and follow up here >> https://t.co/iFmkhjo1uj pic.twitter.com/CqpEPuaEOP — BMJCaseReports (@BMJCaseReports) March 1, 2018
Treatment For The Air Pocket
Surgery is the most obvious treatment to remove the air pocket and to restore the man's brain cavity back to the correct shape. However, due to the man's age and current state of health, he is declining surgery.
While avoiding surgery does put his health at risk, the outcome is unknown because of the rare circumstances in this case.
As an alternative, the man is seeking treatment with statin and anti-clotting medication.