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Z Orthop Ihre Grenzgeb. 2007 Jan-Feb;145(1):55-60.

[Epidural varicosis as a rare cause of acute radiculopathy with complete foot paresis--case report and literature review].

[Article in German]

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Klinik und Poliklinik für Orthopädie, Uniklinik Bonn, Germany.



Lumbar epidural varicosis presenting with radiculopathy is a seldom anticipated condition. An uncommon case of symptomatic enlargement of epidural veins mimicking lumbar disc herniation led us to perform a literature review to elucidate aetiopathological and diagnostic considerations as well as treatment options of this intraspinal pathology.


The case of a 40-year-old woman with acute sciatia accompanied by a complete paresis of foot elevation and extension caused by enlarged epidural veins is described. A literature survey (Medline 1960-2005) was conducted to uncover further cases of symptomatic epidural varicosis.


The literature review revealed only 75 published cases of symptomatic epidural varices which is generally judged as a rare cause of radiculopathy. Different models for the origin of enlarged epidural veins have been proposed. Enlargement may occur primary or secondary to a herniated disc or compressive lesions in the spinal cord. In some cases obstruction or occlusion of the inferior vena cava due to pregnancy or deep vein thrombosis are suspected to increase the pressure of the epidural venous plexi via collateral pathways. MRI has been reported to be of high value in demonstrating the dilated epidural vein, but the findings might be misinterpreted as herniated nucleus pulposus material. Coagulative ablation and/or excision of enlarged epidural veins is recommended and produces good long-term results in cases without extraspinal vessel pathology.


Enlargement of epidural veins with compression of lumbar nerve roots can mimic the clinical signs of disc herniation or spinal stenosis, even when accompanied by neurological disorders. Although rare, lumbar epidural varicosis should be appreciated as a possible cause of radiculopathy and diagnosed before surgery. Apart from intraspinal abnormalities causing dilatation of epidural veins, stenosis or occlusion of the extraspinal venous drainage system should be considered.

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