Object: Incidental durotomies (IDs) are an unfortunate but anticipated potential complication of spinal surgery. The authors surveyed the frequency of IDs for a single spine surgeon and analyzed the major risk factors as well as the impact on long-term patient outcomes.
Methods: The authors conducted a prospective review of elective spinal surgeries performed over a 15-year period. Any surgery involving peripheral nerve only, intradural procedures, or dural tears due to trauma were excluded from analysis. The incidence of ID was categorized by surgery type including primary surgery, revision surgery, and so forth. Incidence of ID was also examined in the context of years of physician experience and training. Furthermore, the incidence and types of sequelae were examined in patients with an ID.
Results: Among 3000 elective spinal surgery cases, 3.5% (104) had an ID. The incidence of ID during minimally invasive procedures (3.3%) was similar, but no patients experienced long-term sequelae. The incidence of ID during revision surgery (6.5%) was higher. There was a marked difference in incidence between cervical (1.3%) and thoracolumbar (5.1%) cases. The incidence was lower for cases involving instrumentation (2.4%). When physician training was examined, residents were responsible for 49% of all IDs, whereas fellows were responsible for 26% and the attending for 25%. Among all of the cases that involved an ID, 7.7% of patients went on to experience a neurological deficit as compared with 1.5% of those without an ID. The overall failure rate of dural repair was 6.9%, and failure was almost 3 times higher (13%) in revision surgery as compared with a primary procedure (5%).
Conclusions: The authors established a reliable baseline incidence for durotomy after spine surgery: 3.5%. They also identified risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a durotomy, including location of the spinal procedure, type of procedure performed, and the implementation of a new procedure. The years of physician training or resident experience did not appear to be a major risk for ID.