Large gaping hole discovered in Irish man's brain

A CT scan of the man's head revealed a large air cavity compressing his right frontal lobe. The condition is known as pneumocephalus

An 84-year-old man has declined surgery after a massive air-pocket was found in his brain.

He stayed in the hospital temporarily before being discharged but left doctors scratching their heads over one of the strangest cases they'd seen. In the three days leading up to his hospital visit, his left arm and leg had noticeably weakened. "He was a non-smoker and drank alcohol rarely".

Routine blood tests and regular health checks he undertook also failed to detect any sort of deformity, despite the huge hole inside his head.

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.

"He was otherwise fit and well, independent with physical activities of daily living. and lived at home with his wife and two sons". In a way, they wouldn't be wrong.

Staff chose to give the man a CT and MRI scan, and it was then that they saw the blank where some of his brain should have been, measuring 3.5 inches long.

"(We) were all very perplexed by the images we saw!"

In fact they even wondered if the man had forgotten to disclose elements of his medical history. He said he had not. The condition is when a pocket of pressurized air forms within the cranium, which typically happens after brain surgery, the study's authors said.

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It can also occur after sinus infections and head or facial injuries - but with pockets of air or gas that are far smaller.

"To find a pocket of this size in an organized fashion was extremely uncommon, with very few documented cases found while I was researching for writing up the case report", Brown said.

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.

This had enabled a "one-way valve effect" that had gradually carved the cranial air cavity, he said.

He said it had likely been forming over months, even years.

The MRI also revealed that the patient had experienced a small stroke related to the air pocket in his brain. The man came to the doctor's office about weakness on his left side and because he took many a tumble because of his unsteady walk.

"CT of the brain showed a large (nine-centimetre) air-filled cavity within the right frontal lobe", Dr Finlay Brown wrote in a BMJ Case Reports study. However, due to the man's age and current state of health, he is declining surgery. That could explain the small stroke that the man was found to have suffered and caused his left-side weakness.


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