Background: Although it is generally accepted that incidental durotomies (ID) should be primarily repaired, the current literature shows no consensus regarding the peri- and postoperative management in case of ID during lumbar spine surgery. Because ID is a rather frequent complication and may be associated with significant disability, we were interested to analyze the current handling of ID in three European countries.
Methods: In March 2014, members of the Swiss, German, and Austrian neurosurgical and spine societies were asked to complete an online questionnaire regarding the management of ID during and after lumbar spine surgery. Two, respectively 4 weeks after the first invitation, reminder requests were sent to all invitees, who had not already responded at that time.
Results: There were 175 responses from 397 requests (44.1 %). Responders were predominantly neurosurgeons (89.7 %; 10.3 % were orthopedic surgeons), of which 45.7, 40.0, and 17.8 % work in a non-university hospital, university hospital, and private clinic, respectively. As for the perioperative management of ID, 19.4 % of the responders suggest only bed rest, while, depending on the extent of the ID, 84.0 % suggest additional actions, TachoSil/Spongostan with fibrin glue or a similar product and single suture repair being the most mentioned. Concerning epidural wound drainage in case of ID, 37.2 % desist from placing an epidural wound drainage with or without aspiration, 30.9 % place it sometimes, and 33.7 % place it regularly, but only without aspiration. Most responders prescribe bed rest for 24 (34.9 %) or 48 h (28.0 %), with much fewer prescribing bed rest for 72 h (6.3 %) and none more than 72 h, and 14.9 % of participants never prescribe bed rest. The vast majority of physicians (82.9 %, n = 145) always inform their patients after the operation in case of ID.
Conclusions: There is substantial heterogeneity in the management of incidental durotomies. The majority of spine surgeons today aim at complete/sufficient primary repair of the ID with varying recommendations concerning postoperative bed rest. Still, there is a trend towards early mobilization if the incidental durotomy has been closed completely/sufficiently with no participant favoring bed rest for more than 72 h.