Early diagnosis and treatment of acute or subacute spinal epidural hematoma

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BackgroundDespite low morbidity, acute or subacute spinal epidural hematoma may develop quickly with a high tendency to paralysis. The delay of diagnosis and therapy often leads to serious consequences. In this study we evaluated the effects of a series of methods for the diagnosis and treatment of the hematoma in 11 patients seen in our hospital.MethodsOf the 11 patients (8 males and 3 females), 2 had the hematoma involving cervical segments, 2 cervico-thoracic, 4 thoracic, 1 thoraco-lumbar, and 2 lumbar. Three patients had quadriplegia, including one with central cord syndrome; another had Brown-Sequard's syndrome; and the other seven had paraplegia. Five patients were diagnosed at our hospitals within 3–48 hours after appearance of symptoms, and 6 patients were transferred from community hospitals within 21–106 hours after development of symptoms. Key dermal points, key muscles and the rectal sphincter were determined according to the American Spinal Injury Society Impairment Scales as scale A in two patients, B in 5 and C in 4. Emergency MRI in each patient confirmed that the dura mater was compressed in the spinal canal, with equal intensity or hyperintensity on T1 weighted image and mixed hyperintensity on T2 weighted image. Preventive and curative measures were taken preoperatively and emergency operation was performed in all patients. Open laminoplasty was done at the cervical and cervico-thoracic segments, laminectomy at the thoracic segments, laminectomy with pedicle screw fixation at the thoraco-lumbar and lumbar segments involving multiple levels, and double-sided laminectomy with the integrity of articular processes at the lumbar segments involving only a single level. During the operation, special attention was given to hematoma evacuation, hemostasis and drainage tube placement.ResultsNeither uncontrollable hemorrhage nor postoperative complications occurred. All patients were followed up for 1–6 years. A marked difference was noted between postoperative and preoperative scales (u=3.66, P<0.01). Most patients recovered after therapy, but the recovery of patients treated at our hospitals was superior to that of those transferred from community hospitals (t =2.95, P<0.05). Of the patients treated at our hospitals, 4 were cured and 1 was upgraded with scale from A to D, whereas none of those transferred from community hospitals recovered completely, even one remained scale C.ConclusionsPhysical examination plus MRI is essential to early diagnosis of acute or subacute spinal epidural hematoma. Preventive and curative measures including emergency operation are helpful to the recovery of patients' nerve function.Chin Med J 2007;120(15):1303–1308

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