Texas woman leaked spinal fluid after COVID-19 nasal swab test
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SAN ANTONIO, Texas, March 9, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — A woman in Texas leaked spinal fluid after a COVID-19 nasal swab test punctured her brain tissue three weeks ago.
Chari Timm went to a San Antonio hospital due to chest pain and was recommended for a heart diagnostic exam late last month, KFOX14 reported. She was told she needed a COVID-19 test before receiving any further testing related to her actual source of pain, however.
When a nurse administered the nasal swab test, Timm said that she felt intense pain almost immediately. “It hurt, it was an immediate instant migraine,” she said. “I’ve never had a migraine ever in my life.”
“It started from the back of my head and just extend it to the front of my head and my entire brain was an extreme pain,” Timm continued. “Instantly fluid just was leaking out of my nose.”
The fluid turned out to be spinal liquid, which leaked out due to a tear in her dura mater, a membrane that protects the central nervous system. A neurologist later diagnosed Timm with pneumocephalus, a rare cranial condition involving air inside the cranial cavity that is typically associated with skull damage.
Timm will need surgery to repair the rupture, she said. “I have to remain at a 30-45 degree angle at all times,” she said. “I have to be careful with the air I breathe as bacteria may get in through the injury/[t]ear and [can] cause meningitis.”
Timm’s isn’t the first case of brain leak following a COVID-19 test. Last fall, the journal JAMA Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery revealed that an unnamed woman suffered similar cerebrospinal liquid loss after a testing swab punctured a part of her brain that contained the fluid.
A new study published in the journal warns that people with a history of significant sinus problems likely should avoid nasal swab tests altogether. Health care professionals conducting the tests should ask whether patients have had sinus or skull surgery, the report cautions.
“Sinus and skull-base surgery frequently removes bony partitions between the nasal cavity and skull base, resulting in the exposure of critical neurovascular structures. After surgery, patients are theoretically at higher risk of cerebrospinal fluid leak and neurovascular damage during [nasopharyngeal swab] insertion,” the study reads.
“If so, other modes of testing such as at the back of the throat should be performed,” said Dr. Phillip Chen, one of the study’s authors and a professor of otolaryngology (head and neck surgery) at the University of Texas at San Antonio.
Chen added that in a review of online videos about nasal swab test practices, “about half of the videos on how to perform Covid-19 nasopharyngeal swabs were incorrect,” some of them promoting incorrect swab angling and depth.
“Not one site of the 200 we searched online had information cautioning against blind nasopharyngeal swab testing in those with a history of sinus or skull base surgery,” Chen said.
Besides potential brain tissue damage, COVID-19 nasal tests have been flagged for seriously questionable accuracy rates. One study authored by British and American scientists last year found that PCR nasal swab testing has only around 63% sensitivity.
Several other studies, as well as federal guidelines, have identified major accuracy issues with PCR tests and other means of testing for coronavirus. The most common PCR testing protocol for COVID-19 also has come under fire in December, when a coalition of scientists called for the retraction of the original article detailing the method, due to a lack of a properly peer-reviewed report.