Pneumocephalus (PNC) is the condition that forms air pockets in the cranial cavity in the skull. The most frequent cause of this condition is trauma, but other factors, including surgical procedures, can also be the reasons behind it.
The rare brain condition recently hit the headlines after an 84-year-old man, who was frequently falling over for several weeks and developed a weakness on his left side, was diagnosed with Pneumocephalus.
Doctors in northern Ireland initially feared that the old man might have suffered a stroke after he complained of sudden weakness in his left-side and recurring falls. However, there was no visual or speech disturbances, confusion, facial weakness - four other signs of stroke, doctors wrote in the journal.
Doctors thought it might be pneumatocele (an air-filled space). After medical scans, it was revealed that he has a 9cm air-filled pocket in the brain that made him fall again and again.
The suspicions were confirmed after subsequent MRI. The man underwent a period of observation and rehabilitation. After a discussion with the neurosurgical team, the patient was offered a surgery to remove the build-up of air and cut out the osteoma.
But, the patient, who stayed in the hospital for a long time declined the neurosurgical intervention and was discharged home on secondary stroke prevention and was advised to re-attend in the event of worsening symptoms, the authors noted.
The doctors were so intrigued by the case of the patient that they published it in the prestigious medical journal BMJ Case Reports, under the title 'The man that lost (part of) his mind'.
Surgeons wrote that pneumatocele 'is a rarely reported complication of frontal sinus osteoma', and that explained that the air-filled pockets have previously been reported as a 'rare cause of stroke'.