Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Leak Patient Guide

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks are rare. It's natural to be anxious if symptoms such as severe headaches are affecting your life. At Cedars-Sinai, you receive services from a team of CSF leak specialists—some of the leading experts in the field. Whether you are seeking care for a complex leak or a second opinion, we can help you feel better. 

Here are answers to frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions, a member of our team is available to assist you.

Most people with a CSF leak experience a specific type of headache that feels worse when you are upright and improves when you lie down. 

If you have these symptoms, an evaluation from a Cedars-Sinai specialist can help you get the right care:

  • If we suspect a CSF leak, you receive additional testing from our CSF leak experts.
  • If the headaches are due to another cause, such as migraines, we can refer you to the appropriate specialist.

No matter the cause, CSF leaks are curable. And most people make a full recovery.

People from around the world come to Cedars-Sinai for second opinions. Our experienced team can assess CSF leaks that may be difficult to detect. Our team approach means you receive recommendations from multiple specialists, including a neurosurgeon, radiologist and anesthesiologist.

Cedars-Sinai offers the complete range of CSF leak tests, enabling us to make an accurate diagnosis with less invasive options. We confirm many leaks using MRI myelogram or digital subtraction myelogram.

This test provides enhanced images of your spine so our experts can view potential leaks in vivid detail. Find out more about preparing for a digital subtraction myelogram.

Here are some additional things you need to know:

  • Anesthesia: We use general anesthesia, which helps you sleep during the test. 
  • Testing: You will undergo preoperative testing before your appointment. 
  • Timing: The test takes at least an hour and a half. You must wait for the anesthesia to wear off before going home. 
  • Getting home: You will not be able to drive after the procedure. You should make transportation arrangements beforehand. If you are using a transportation service, you will still need a loved one or support person to accompany you.

The treatment that's best for you depends on the type of leak you have. CSF leaks often heal on their own. Some leaks require treatment, especially if your symptoms come back.

Nonsurgical treatments, such as blood patches and special glue, help many people feel better. Our experts recommend the options that are best for your circumstances and explain how they work.

You may need surgery if you have a complex leak or nonsurgical treatments are not successful. Cedars-Sinai’s internationally renowned neurosurgeons perform procedures that help many people get the relief they need.

Have Questions or Need a Second Opinion?

Call us or send a message to the team. You can also have us call you back at your convenience.

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