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J Neurosurg Spine. 2013 Feb;18(2):165-9. doi: 10.3171/2012.10.SPINE12271. Epub 2012 Nov 30.

Incidental durotomy during lumbar spine surgery: risk factors and anatomic locations: clinical article.

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Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Sendai Orthopaedic Hospital, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.



Incidental durotomy (dural tear) is a common complication of lumbar spine surgery. The purpose of this study was to clarify the anatomical location of and the specific causative factors for incidental durotomy during primary lumbar spine surgery.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 1014 consecutive cases involving patients (412 women and 602 men; mean age 57 years; age range 11-97 years) who underwent a surgical procedure for treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal disease at their institution between 2002 and 2008. In total, 1261 disc levels were treated surgically. Disease at the treated levels included 544 disc herniations, 453 instances of spinal canal stenosis without spondylolisthesis, 188 instances of lumbar spinal canal stenosis with spondylolisthesis (degenerative spondylolisthesis), 49 instances of combined stenosis (stenosis with disc herniation), and 22 juxtafacet cysts. In 5 of the treated levels, the condition was classified as "other" disease. Treatment included fenestration with discectomy in 547 levels, fenestration alone in 626, fenestration with resection of juxtafacet cysts in 22, unilateral recapping laminoplasty in 20, posterolateral spinal fusion or posterior lumbar interbody fusion in 17, microscopic discectomy with tubular retractor in 14, and "other" in 15.


Unintended durotomy occurred in 4% of cases and in 3.3% of disc levels. The incidence of dural tear was significantly higher in women (5.6%) than in men (3%). The incidence of dural tear was 2% in disc levels with lumbar disc herniation, 1.8% with lumbar spinal canal stenosis without spondylolisthesis, 9% with degenerative spondylolisthesis, and 18.2% with juxtafacet cysts; the incidence was significantly higher in levels with degenerative spondylolisthesis or levels with juxtafacet cysts, than in those with other diseases. Incidental durotomy occurred in 4 critical anatomical zones, namely, the caudal margin of the cranial lamina, cranial margin of the caudal lamina, herniated disc level, and medial aspect of the facet joint adjacent to the insertion of the hypertrophic ligamentum flavum.


Risk factors for unintended durotomy were female sex, older age, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and juxtafacet cysts. In this study, the authors identified 4 high-risk anatomical zones that spine surgeons should be aware of to avoid dural tears.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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