Read More: Live Science
Falls are a common problem among older adults, but for one 84-year-old man in Northern Ireland, a brain scan revealed a highly uncommon cause for his falls: A part of his brain appeared to be missing. The stunning scan revealed a large, black space behind his forehead, where the front of his brain should have been. His physician, Dr. Finlay Brown, a general practitioner in Belfast, first reviewed the brain scan while waiting to hear back from radiologists. (Typically, radiologists provide a report that accompanies a scan, detailing what the image shows.) "Immediately, I could see the abnormality and wondered if the patient had failed to tell us about a previous brain surgery in his younger years" or if the patient was born with a brain abnormality, Brown told Live Science. When doctors were told that neither of these scenarios applied to the patient, they were "left very curious as to the cause of these findings," Brown said. It turned out that the patient had a pocket of air inside his skull, called a pneumatocele, which was compressing his brain tissue. These air pockets are seen more commonly in patients who have facial trauma or infections, or who have had brain surgery, according to a report of the case, published Feb. 27 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.