CLOONEY RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL FOR EMERGENCY SURGERY

Published on: December 10, 2004

George Clooney was rushed to a hospital emergency room after a violent neck injury caused fluid to leak from his spinal cord, The ENQUIRER has learned exclusively.

Clooney's medical emergency was so serious that it could have caused paralysis and even death.

In blinding pain, the actor was wheeled into the operating room and doctors performed emergency surgery.

BLINDING PAIN
"The throbbing in George's head was so bad, he felt like it was going to explode," said a close source.

Clooney has been suffering excruciating migraines for weeks since he injured his neck during a fight scene in November for the upcoming thriller "Syriana."

Doctors had ordered him to rest and skip several TV appearances to promote his new movie, "Ocean's Twelve," in the hope that his neck would heal. But the actor has been playing basketball to lose 30 pounds he gained for "Syriana."

"George has been playing hurt and I think basketball made his neck injury worse," said the source.

SPINAL CORD TEAR
On Friday, December 3, Clooney's headache was so severe, he had to be taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

That's the same hospital where his "Ocean's Twelve" co-star Julia Roberts was recuperating after giving birth to twins.

"X-rays revealed that spinal fluid was leaking internally from a rip in his spinal cord," said the close source.

Leaking spinal fluid causes a headache that some experts describe as 100 times more intense than a migraine.

George was treated by injecting some of his own blood into the site of the leak to form a clot and stem the flow of fluid.

According to medical experts who did not treat him, Clooney was most likely suffering from a dural tear in which fluid leaks from a rip in the outside lining of the spinal cord. The dura mater contains fluid that protects and nourishes the nerves of the spinal cord and brain.

Losing fluid can cause severe headaches that can last for weeks.

Another possible effect of a tear is the formation of a pocket of fluid near the spine which can put pressure on the spinal cord and cause neurological problems such as pain and possible paralysis.

And since the protective covering of the cord now has a hole in it that can be breached by bacteria and viruses, patients are at risk for meningitis, a debilitating infection that can be fatal.

TREATMENT
If the tear is small enough, a surgeon can sometimes inject the patient's own blood at the point of the tear to form a patch, as they did in Clooney's case.

Another treatment is to inject fibrin glue to seal the opening. Larger tears are often repaired with sutures or by injecting some of the patient's own fat to form a patch.

Fortunately for Clooney, doctors are optimistic that he will recover completely and he was released from the hospital. But if the pain returns, a follow-up operation may be required.

"All indications were that the procedure was a success," said the source.

"George will still have his aches and pains, but hopefully those agonizing headaches are gone for good."

-- REGINALD FITZ