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Neurosurgery. 2000 Dec;47(6):1449-51.

Transdural cauda equina incarceration after microsurgical lumbar discectomy: case report.

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Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery, Department of Neurosurgery, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, New York 10128, USA.



Complications usually occur when they are least expected. We present an unusual case of nerve entrapment after microsurgical discectomy.


A patient undergoing uneventful first lumbar microsurgical discectomy developed severe back and leg pain and a progressive neurological deficit during the first postoperative night. Herniation of cauda equina nerve roots had occurred through an unnoticed minimal defect in the dura, which had not caused cerebrospinal fluid leakage. The roots were incarcerated and swollen, and they filled the space of the resected nucleus pulposus. It was presumed that elevation of intra-abdominal pressure and consequent increased intraspinal pressure during extubation led to the herniation of arachnoid and cauda equina roots. The nerve roots were then trapped and incarcerated in the manner of bowel loops in an abdominal wall hernia.


During reoperation, the nerve roots were repositioned into the dural sac. The patient recovered without further complications and without long-term sequelae.


All dural tears that occur during intraspinal surgery, even if they are small and the arachnoid is intact, should be closed with stitches or at a minimum with a patch of muscle or gelatin sponge with fibrin glue. Care should be taken to avoid increased intra-abdominal pressure during extubation. Excessive pain and progressive neurological dysfunction occurring shortly after microsurgical lumbar discectomy or any intraspinal procedure is indicative of possible hemorrhage with subsequent compression of nerve roots. The case reported here provides anecdotal evidence that this situation can also be caused by a herniation of cauda equina nerve roots through a small dural defect that was not evident during the initial operation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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