Pneumocephalus is the medical condition defined as having a pocket of gas, generally air, trapped within the intracranial area. Pneumocephalus is also referred to as an intracranial aerocele or pneumatocele. The most common causes of pneumocephalus are head injury and neurosurgery.
Pneumocephalus may also occur spontaneously, be caused by other types of surgery or result from barotrauma. This is a type of trauma that results from the body being subjected to a sudden or drastic change in air pressure. Scuba divers, for example, are often subjected to barotrauma. Pneumocephalus may also, in rare cases, be caused by an epidural.
Symptoms of pneumocephalus include nausea, headaches, vomiting and dizziness. Those who suffer from this condition also experience an increased susceptibility to meningitis. The condition is diagnosed by examining brain images to detect the air pocket.
Medical patients require immediate surgery in the event that the air pocket causes increased intracranial pressure, brain deterioration or other adverse side effects. In some cases, an air pocket causes no complications and is eventually reabsorbed by the brain without the need for surgery. Those suffering from pneumocephalus are prescribed bed rest and must undergo periodic brain imaging until physicians are certain that the condition has resolved.