Delayed Fatal Lumbar Artery Bleeding Following Less Invasive Posterolateral Decompression and Fusion

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Abstract

Study Design.

A case report.

Objective.

The aim of this study was to outline the potential risks of late bleeding from the segmental vessels following less invasively dorsolateral approaches to the thoracolumbar spine.

Summary of Background Data.

A low risk of major intraoperative bleeding, associated traditional dorsolateral approach to the lumbar spine is reported, but segmental arteries and great vessels may be rarely damaged. Spine surgeons who are involved with these approaches should be aware of this rare but potential dangerous vascular complication because it could be life-threatening, particularly in elderly patients with increased morbidity, and/or metastatic disease to the spine.

Methods.

A 76-year-old white woman with a comminuted osteoporotic fracture of the L1-vertebrae with spinal canal encroachment underwent a corpectomy and a 360° fusion with the use of a titanium mesh cage, through a less invasively dorsolateral approach.

Results.

Despite the lack of visible intraoperative bleeding and uneventful postoperative period, the patient died on the seventh postoperative day as a result of massive bleeding from a segmental artery at the level of L3 vertebrae body, two levels below our intervention area.

Conclusion.

This article describes a rare complication of delayed and fatal bleeding of the segmental L3 left vertebral artery following less invasively L1 corpectomy, mesh cage insertion, and pedicle screw fixation in a elderly female patient with history of two malignancies. Although injury to large vessels must always be prevented during these procedures, an injury to the segmental vessels occurs more frequently. The dorsolateral approach and other retroperitoneal approaches to the thoracolumbar region are established methods for the surgical stabilization of comminuted vertebral body fractures, especially on the hands of experienced spine surgeons. Great care should be given postoperatively for signs of bleeding and hematoma and the surgeon should be aware for these life-threatening complications.

Conclusion.

Level of Evidence: 5

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