Pocket of air found where man's brain should've been

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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.

The doctors also noted that brain air pockets like this have, in rare cases, been reported to cause small strokes.

CT scan showing an air pocket located in the right frontal lobe of an Irish man's brain.

The pocket was revealed to be a pneumatocele, a pressurized air-filled cavity, based in the brain's right frontal lobe.

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

"We were able to see the brain scan images before receiving the formal report from our radiology specialists and immediately knew something was not right!"

Finlay Brown, a physician working in the emergency department at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, at the time, remembers reviewing the brain-imaging scans with the rest of the staff. 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. Brown told The Washington Post in an email.

Generally, pneumocephalus appear after brain surgery, sinus infections or head and facial injuries.

A CT scan of the patient's brain, showing a large, black space in part of the brain, which is actually an air pocket or pneumatocele.

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Brown said it turned out the man had pneumocephalus, also known as pressurised air cavity, meaning the presence of air in the cranium.

Staff made a decision 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. However, due to the man's age and current state of health, he is declining surgery.

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

But the patient said he had suffered none.

"When the patient sniffed/sneezed/coughed he would most likely be pushing small amounts of air into his head", Dr Brown told the Post. To revert it, the man had two surgeries: one to decompress the air pocket and another to remove the offending tumor.

"The left-sided weakness was noted to have resolved on follow-up 12 weeks later and he remained well", the authors conclude in the published report.

Brown said he had never seen a case of brain pneumatocele tied to symptoms of falling, and he chose to publish this case to emphasize "the importance of thorough investigation of even the most common of symptoms", Brown said.

"Because every now and then, there will be a rare [or] unknown causation of these that could be overlooked", he told the science news site.