Unrecognized notochordal lesions as a likely cause of idiopathic clival cerebrospinal fluid leaks

Hirotaka Hasegawa, Jamie J. Van Gompel, Garret Choby, Aditya Raghunathan, Jason T. Little, John L. Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To examine an association between idiopathic transclival cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak and notochordal lesions. Methods: This study consisted of the illustrations of institutional patients who underwent surgery for transclival CSF leak between January 1, 2009 and April 25, 2020 and comprehensive review of the existing literature conducted on April 25, 2020. The cases were classified based on the presumed etiologies that were originally proposed in the articles (“idiopathic” vs. “secondary”). The baseline characteristics were compared between the groups, and the surgical outcomes were summarized. Results: In 3 institutional cases, ecchordosis physaliphora (EP) was confirmed at the fistula either pathologically (1) or radiologically (2). Among 42 literature cases, 28 were recognized as idiopathic, while 14 were secondary cases with histologically (n = 12) or radiologically (n = 2) confirmed notochordal lesion at the fistula. Thus, any notochordal lesions were histologically confirmed in 13 among a total of 45 cases (28.9%). Fourteen of the idiopathic cases had undescribed radiographic signs suggestive of small ecchordosis physaliphora at the fistula. Both idiopathic and secondary cases demonstrated resemblance in their ages (mean, 51.4 and 56.6 years; p = 0.102), female predominance (male, 36% vs. 25%; P = 0.521), no association with obesity (7% vs. 18%; P = 0.350) or increased intracranial pressure (7% vs. 6%; P = 1.000). All the fistulas were in the midline or paramidline clivus within several millimeters below the dorsum sellae. All the patients were treated surgically with a multilayer closure, resulting in a success rate of 93% with one surgery. Conclusion: Our analyses suggest the association of transclival CSF leak and notochord lesions. A prospective study is needed for definitive conclusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number107562
JournalClinical Neurology and Neurosurgery
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Clivus
  • Ecchordosis physaliphora
  • Notochord
  • Rhinorrhea
  • Skull base
  • Transsphenoidal surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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