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Health Watch: Man's Runny Nose Was Actually Leaking Brain Fluid

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Imagine that for years you'd been told that your runny nose was due to allergies. Then you find out that it's your brain that's leaking.

CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez says an amazing surgery, performed through the patient's nose, fixed one man's potentially fatal leak.

"They said my brain was leaking… it was scary," Gregory Phillpotts said. "Who loses fluid from their brain... I didn't even know that was possible."

Not only is it possible, it had been happening to Phillpotts for years. Doctors in North Carolina had told him the clear liquid coming out of one nostril was caused by allergies.

"Some said allergies, bronchitis pneumonia."

When the leak got really bad last Thanksgiving, Phillpotts did some research and found his way to Dr. Alfred Iloreta at Mount Sinai who diagnosed his problem as a leak of cerobrospinal fluid.

The leak may have been caused by some head trauma many years ago.

"Cerbrospinal fluid bathes the brain and spinal cord, nourishes and protects the brain," Dr. Iloreta explained.

The leak was a potential route for bacteria to get into the brain, leading to a possibly lethal brain infection.

Iloreta proposed an innovative approach to fixing the leak. He would go through Phillpotts' nose to the site of the leak; using special scopes and a kind of GPS navigation system.

"We used his own tissue as a graft to patch the hole where the fluid was leaking from," the doctor added.

Gregory's surgery was just nine days ago. He still has to take it easy for a while but there are no more leaks.

"I feel like a million bucks," Phillpotts declared.

Dr. Iloreta says a brain leak can sometimes be confused for allergies, but the fact that it was just one nostril and all the antibiotics and antihistamines didn't work would be a reason to suspect a bigger problem.

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