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Spine J. 2013 Oct;13(10):e15-9. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.05.024. Epub 2013 Jun 22.

Acute epidural lipedema: a novel entity and potential complication of bone morphogenetic protein use in lumbar spine fusion.

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Grand Rapids Orthopedic Residency Program, 1000 Monroe NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49506, USA. Electronic address:



Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) induce osteogenesis, making them useful for decreasing time to union and increasing union rates. Although the advantages of BMP-2 as a substitute for iliac crest graft have been elucidated, less is known about the safety profile and adverse events linked to their use in spinal fusion. An accumulation of reactive edema in the epidural fat may lead to neural compression and significant morbidity after lumbar spinal fusion. Bone morphogenetic protein has never been implicated as a cause of spinal epidural lipedema.


We report on a case of rapid accumulation of edematous adipose tissue in the epidural space after lumbar spine decompression and fusion with bone morphogenic protein.


Case report.


The patient was a 45-year-old woman with chronic back pain, worsening bilateral L5 radiculopathy, and degenerative disc disease. Surgery consisting of a one-level transpedicular decompression, transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion, and posterolateral fusion was performed using BMP-2 as an adjunct for arthrodesis.


Two days postoperatively, the patient developed progressive cauda equina syndrome. Lumbar magnetic resonance imaging revealed edematous epidural fat extending above the initial laminectomy, compromising the spinal canal, and compressing the thecal sac. Emergent laminectomies at L3, L4, and L5 were performed, and intraoperative pathology revealed edematous epidural adipose tissue. The patient's cauda equina syndrome resolved after spinal decompression and the removal of epidural fat. Final cultures were negative for infection, and histology report yielded an accumulation of edematous fibroadipose tissue.


We present a case of rapid accumulation of edematous adipose tissue causing cauda equina syndrome after a lumbar decompression and fusion surgery. The acute nature and extensive development of the lipedema presented in this case indicate an intense inflammatory reaction. We hypothesize that there may be a link between the use of BMP-2 and the accumulation of this edematous tissue. A thorough understanding of the mechanisms of BMP-2 and specific guidelines for their role in spinal surgery may improve functional outcomes and reduce the number of preventable complications. To the best of our knowledge and after a thorough literature search, this is the only reported case of epidural lipedema causing cauda equina syndrome.


BMP-2; Cauda equina; Complication; Lipedema

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