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Ann Thorac Surg. 2002 Aug;74(2):413-9; discussion 420-1.

Interventions for reversing delayed-onset postoperative paraplegia after thoracic aortic reconstruction.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104-4283, USA.



Delayed postoperative paraplegia is a recognized complication of thoracic (TAA) or thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm (TAAA) repair. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions to treat delayed-onset paraplegia.


Between January 1, 2000 and August 31, 2001, 99 patients underwent surgical repair of TAA, Crawford type I, II, or III TAAA. Standard intraoperative management included distal aortic perfusion and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage unless contraindicated. Therapeutic interventions to treat delayed paraplegia included lumbar CSF drainage and vasopressor therapy.


Three of the 99 patients had paraplegia upon awakening. Delayed-onset paraplegia occurred in 8 patients, 2 of whom had recurrent episodes. In those 8 patients, the initial episode occurred at a median of 21.6 hours (range 6.4 to 110.0 hours) after surgery and the second episode averaged 176 hours after surgery. At the onset of paraplegia, the average mean arterial pressure was 74 mm Hg and CSF pressure was 14 mm Hg. Three of the 8 patients had a functioning CSF catheter at the onset and the other 5 patients had catheters subsequently placed. Therapeutic interventions increased blood pressure to a mean arterial pressure of 95 mm Hg and decreased CSF pressure to 10 mm Hg. Five of the 8 patients with delayed-onset paraplegia made a full neurologic recovery and 3 had partial recovery.


Patients with delayed-onset paraplegia had an increased chance of recovery as compared with those patients in whom paraplegia was diagnosed upon emergence from anesthesia. Acute interventions directed to increase spinal cord perfusion by increasing systemic blood pressure and decreasing CSF pressure were effective for the reversal of delayed onset of paraplegia after TAA or TAAA repair, resulting in an overall 3% incidence of permanent paraplegia and 3% incidence of residual paraparesis.

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