Management and Outcomes of Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak Associated With Anterior Decompression for Cervical Ossification of the Posterior Longitudinal Ligament With or Without Dural Ossification

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Study Design:

A retrospective clinical study.


To analyze and evaluate the clinical outcomes of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak after anterior decompression for cervical ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) with or without dural ossification (DO).

Summary of Background Data:

Anterior decompression can be highly efficacious in the treatment of OPLL. However, in some cases of OPLL, there often exists DO and fusion with the posterior longitudinal ligament, which may increase the chance for CSF leak during an anterior decompression surgery.

Materials and Methods:

A retrospective analysis was performed on 126 OPLL patients (89 men and 37 women) treated with anterior decompression surgery between January 2008 and January 2012. The mean age at operation was 61 years (ranging from 46 to 72 y) and the average duration of diagnosis was 4.2 years (ranging from 3 d to 7 y). DO was present in 11 patients, of whom 7 developed dural tear or defect. Among the 115 patients without DO, only 4 developed dural tear. Intraoperative dural repair was performed with gelatin foam onlay and fibrin glue seal. Postoperative care for CSF leak involved bed rest, CSF drainage, nutritional support, and antibiotics.


A total of 11 cases associated with dural tear or defect developed postoperative CSF leak (an overall incidence of 8.7%). There was a statistically significant difference (P<0.001) in the incidence of CSF leak between the DO group (63.6%) and the non-DO group (3.5%). While leakage in 3 patients resolved spontaneously within 5 days of surgery, intermittent CSF cysts developed in 8 patients. These were treated with circular pressure bandages, repeated aspiration, and lumbar drainage. All 8 cases resolved 14–30 days after surgery. These 11 patients were followed up for an average of 12.8 months (range of 1 to 36 mo) with an average Japanese Orthopedic Association score of 51.2% and no significant neurological deficit or persistent headaches were recorded.


Patients with DO are at increased risk for dural injury while undergoing anterior decompression for the treatment of OPLL. This is associated with a high incidence of CSF leak. However, the majority of patients with CSF leak could be managed conservatively.

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