Intrathecal catheter-associated inflammatory mass in a neurofibromatosis type-1 patient receiving fentanyl and bupivacaine

Surg Neurol Int. 2017 Jul 25;8:159. doi: 10.4103/sni.sni_80_17. eCollection 2017.


Background: Catheter-associated inflammatory masses (CIMs) are a rare but serious complication of intrathecal drug delivery devices. CIM formation is influenced by local medication concentration, which is determined in part by flow dynamics at the catheter tip. Underlying spinal pathologies, such as neoplasms, may alter flow at the catheter tip, thereby contributing to CIM formation. Moreover, they may also complicate the clinical and radiologic diagnosis of a CIM.

Case description: A 36-year-old man with neurofibromatosis type 1 presented to our emergency department with complaints of increased back pain and leg weakness. To treat pain secondary to his multiple spinal masses, he had previously undergone placement of an implantable drug delivery system, which infused a compounded drug of fentanyl and bupivacaine. Imaging studies depicted numerous masses consistent with neurofibromatosis, including a compressive mass located circumferentially at the porous catheter terminus and proximal to the catheter tip. Surgical removal of this mass was performed; pathologic findings were consistent with a catheter tip granuloma.

Conclusions: In the described case, CIM formation likely resulted from a combination of, 1) an unusually high fentanyl concentration, and, 2) altered infusate flow due to spinal neurofibromas. Consideration of underlying spinal pathologies, particularly mass lesions, is critical to the management of intrathecal drug delivery devices.

Keywords: Catheter-associated inflammatory mass; chronic pain; fentanyl pump; granuloma; intraspinal drug therapy; intrathecal catheter.

Publication types

  • Case Reports