The website said the man "remained well" and regained strength in his left arm and leg after 12 weeks of treatment in the hospital.
Perhaps nothing too unusual for a man of his age, but further investigations revealed these symptoms were a red flag signaling much bigger problems. The man was a nonsmoker and drank rarely, the article continued. In the case report, doctors noted that: "There was no confusion, facial weakness, visual or speech disturbance..."
In other words, doctors thought, there was nothing apparent that would have suggested a clear reason for his symptoms. Brain-imaging CT scans revealed a odd 9-centimeter (3.5-inch) void in his skull just behind his forehead in the right frontal lobe.
Finlay Brown, a physician working in the emergency department at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, at the time, remembers reviewing the brain-imaging scans with the rest of the staff.
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"(We) were all very perplexed by the images we saw!" Brown told The Washington Post in an email. He said he had not. The condition is when a pocket of pressurized air forms within the cranium, which typically happens after brain surgery, the study's authors said.
In this case, the patient's pneumatocele - or pressurised air cavity - measured about 3.5 inches at its longest, according to the BMJ Case Reports article.
"To find a pocket of this size in an organized fashion was extremely uncommon, with very few documented cases found while I was researching for writing up the case report", Brown added.
"It had formed a "one-way valve" effect that would allow air to get through into the skull but wasn't able to get out". "When the patient sniffed/sneezed/coughed he would most likely be pushing small amounts of air into his head". To revert it, the man had two surgeries: one to decompress the air pocket and another to remove the offending tumor.
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However, the man declined both, because of his age and other health factors.
Instead, the patient was placed on secondary stroke prevention and eventually sent home.
His nonsurgical approach is not without risk: It's likely the patient will be at a greater risk for infection, since there remains a passageway for air - and therefore bacteria and viruses - into his brain cavity, Brown said.
"Unfortunately, as there are not many cases published, it is hard to know the exact prognosis", Brown said. His brain was still there, it had just been squished out of the way by the pocket of air.
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"Because every now and then", Brown told LiveScience, "there will be a rare (or) unknown causation of these that could be overlooked".