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Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2003 May 15;28(10):E194-7.

Full-thickness thoracic laminar erosion after posterior spinal fusion associated with late-presenting infection.

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Department of Orthopedics, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison 53792, USA.



A case report describes unilateral complete laminar erosion of the caudal thoracic spine and late-presenting infection in a patient 10 years after anteroposterior reconstruction for scoliosis.


To present an unusual but significant complication that may occur after implantation of spinal instrumentation.


The reported patient presented with a deep infection and persistent back pain 10 years after successful anteroposterior reconstruction for adult idiopathic scoliosis. Delayed onset infections after implantation of spinal instrumentation are infrequent, yet when present, often require hardware removal.


The case of a 51-year-old woman who underwent irrigation and debridement for a late-presenting infection and removal of posterior hardware 10 years after her index procedure is presented. Interoperatively, it was noted that full-thickness laminar erosion was present from T4 to T12.


The patient was taken to the operating room for wound irrigation, debridement, and hardware removal. It was discovered that a Cotrel-Dubousset rod placed on the convexity of the curve had completely eroded through the lamina of T7-T12. Infectious material was found along the entire length of both the convex and concave Cotrel-Dubousset rods. Intraoperative cultures grew Staphylococcus epidermidis and Propionibacterium acnes. Intravenous and oral antibiotics were administered, resulting in resolution of the infection and preoperative pain.


The exact role of late-presenting infection with regard to the laminar erosion and rod migration seen in this case remains to be elucidated. However, the authors believe the primary cause of bony erosion was mechanical in origin. Regardless, most spine surgeons will treat many patients who have had posterior spinal implants and will perform hardware removal on a significant number of these patients during their careers. A full-thickness laminar erosion exposes the spinal cord to traumatic injury during hardware removal and debridement. This case is presented as a cautionary note to help surgeons become cognizant of a potentially devastating complication.

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