A Belfast man stunned doctors in Northern Ireland with a medical scan revealing a 3-inch air pocket replacing part of 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. In the case report, doctors noted that: "There was no confusion, facial weakness, visual or speech disturbance..."
Perhaps nothing too odd for a man of his age, but further investigations revealed these symptoms were a red flag signaling much bigger problems.
After medics made the discovery, the patient was then transferred to Antrim Area Hospital for an MRI scan of his head, which confirmed doctor theories that it was an air pocket but also revealed a large osteoma - a benign, bone tumor. "He was a non-smoker and drank alcohol rarely".
"He was otherwise fit and well, independent with physical activities of daily living. and lived at home with his wife and two sons".
"(We) were all very perplexed by the images we saw!" Dr Finlay Brown, study co-author and physician at Causeway Hospital, told Newsweek.
The scans were so extreme, doctors wondered if the man had forgotten to disclose previous brain surgery or birth defects. Usually, such air pockets are seen-on a smaller scale-in those who have undergone brain surgery.More news: Tillerson: Important to ensure smooth transition, US must respond to Russia's behavior
"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 added.
It later turned out that the pneumocephalus, which means there is air in the cranium, has probably been caused by a benign bone tumour which means the base of the skull has eroded allowing air in, likely to have been going on for months and years.
"From speaking to the specialists, it seems it has been progressing insidiously over months to years", Brown told the Washington Post.
The doctors also noted that brain air pockets like this have, in rare cases, been reported to cause small strokes. He was later discharged and put on a secondary stroke prevention program, after which his left-sided weakness appeared to have been resolved.
Brown hopes that his case report will encourage other physicians to fully investigate their patients, even if they present common symptoms, in order to help miss a rare cause or condition.
His nonsurgical approach is not without risk: It's likely the patient will be at a greater risk for infection, since there remains a passageway for air - and therefore bacteria and viruses - into his brain cavity, Brown said. During a follow-up appointment 12 weeks after his hospital visit, the patient reportedly no longer felt weakness on his left side and "remained well", according to his case study.