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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Case Report: An Intracranial Complication of COVID-19 Nasopharyngeal Swab

  • Author(s): Holmes, Alexandria;
  • Allen, Bryant
  • et al.

Introduction: Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks are often the result of trauma or recent surgical procedures; however, a subset can develop from non-traumatic etiologies. Cerebrospinal fluid leaks from congenital and spontaneous encephaloceles can be clinically occult and have devastating consequences if undetected for prolonged periods of time. This report highlights a unique case of meningitis after CSF leak caused by ruptured congenital meningocele during a routine nasopharyngeal swab.

Case Report: A 54-year-old female with diagnosed CSF leak presented to the emergency department (ED) with acute onset of severe headache, and neck and back pain. Prior to this presentation, the patient had experienced two months of persistent headache and rhinorrhea since her coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) nasopharyngeal swab. As part of her outpatient workup, an otolaryngology consultation with subsequent beta-2 transferrin testing and magnetic resonance imaging was performed and she was diagnosed with a CSF leak from ruptured congenital meningocele. On ED presentation, she was afebrile, but with mild tachycardia, leukocytosis, and meningismus. Lumbar puncture revealed acute streptococcal meningitis. This patient’s meningitis developed due to prolonged occult CSF leak after her COVID-19 nasopharyngeal swab ruptured a pre-existing congenital meningocele.

Conclusion: Nasopharyngeal swabs are being performed much more frequently due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All front-line providers should be aware of the potential presence and rupture of congenital meningoceles in patients who have undergone recent nasopharyngeal swab when risk-stratifying for potential CSF leak and meningitis.

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