Covid-19 nasal swab test caused brain fluid leak in woman
Published: 10:55 AM, 3 October 2020 Updated: 11:51 AM, 3 October 2020
A woman (not in the case study) undergoing Covid-19 nasal swab test; Photo: Collected
A woman in her 40s is the first known person to have brain fluid leak into her nose after undergoing a nasal swab test for Covid-19, putting her at risk of life-threatening infection, doctors reported in a medical journal ‘JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery’ on Thursday.
The woman, hailing from the United States, had an undiagnosed skull defect that prevents the bones from completely closing, likely allowing the swab to prompt the symptoms, including a runny nose and headache, reported News 18, Business Insider.
However, her case showed health care professionals should take care to follow testing protocols closely, medical journal’s senior author Jarrett Walsh told AFP, saying: “People who've had extensive sinus or skull base surgery should consider requesting ‘oral testing’ if available.”
Meanwhile, the woman in the case study subsequently developed headache, vomiting, neck stiffness, and aversion to light, and was transferred to Walsh’s care. She also complained of a metallic taste in her mouth, neck stiffness, and light sensitivity, the study reports.
Physicians at the University of Iowa later found that her Covid-19 test likely didn’t cause the encephalocele itself, but rather aggravated it, allowing cerebrospinal fluid to leak out. She, 20 years earlier, underwent surgery to repair her skull, as a result, her potential neurological side effects are being monitored.
Walsh said the woman had gone for a nasal test ahead of elective hernia surgery. “She had been swabbed previously for another procedure, same side, no problems at all. She feels like maybe the second swab was not using the best technique and that the entry was a little bit high,” he said.
In fact, the woman had been treated years ‘intracranial hypertension’ which means that the pressure from the cerebrospinal fluid that protects and nourishes the brain was too high. So, the doctors at the time used a shunt to drain some of the fluid and the condition resolved. Since then, she has fully recovered.
“The symptoms she developed were a result of irritation to the lining of the brain,” Walsh believed.
If the problem hadn’t been treated, she could have developed a potentially life-threatening brain infection from bacteria or air could have entered the skull and placed excess pressure on the brain, he added.
Walsh said that though this was likely a very rare occurrence, it was a reminder of the need for high-quality training, resulting in the hundreds of millions of more tests that will be performed before the Covid-19 pandemic is over.