Pseudohypoxic Brain Swelling After Uncomplicated Lumbar Decompression and Fusion for Spondylolisthesis

World Neurosurg. 2020 Jan:133:155-158. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2019.07.228. Epub 2019 Sep 4.


Background: Pseudohypoxic brain swelling (PHBS), also known as postoperative intracranial hypotension-associated venous congestion, is a rare complication after neurosurgery characterized by rapid and often severe postoperative deterioration in consciousness and distinct imaging findings on brain magnetic resonance imaging. Imaging findings associated with PHBS include computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging findings that resemble hypoxic changes and intracranial hypotensive changes in basal ganglia and thalamus, telencephalic, and infratentorial regions without notable changes in intracranial vasculature.

Case description: This report describes the case of an L4-5 microdiskectomy with posterior decompression and fusion complicated by clinical and radiographic findings resembling PHBS without a known intraoperative durotomy.

Conclusions: Spine surgeons should be alerted to the possibility that PHBS may occur in patients even after an operation without known durotomy or cerebrospinal fluid leakage and with spontaneous clinical resolution unrelated to suction drainage changes or epidural blood patches.

Keywords: Lumbar decompression and fusion; Postoperative complications; Postoperative intracranial hypotension−associated venous; Pseudohypoxic brain swelling.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Brain Edema / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Edema / etiology*
  • Decompression, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hypotension / diagnostic imaging
  • Intracranial Hypotension / etiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnostic imaging
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Spinal Fusion / adverse effects*
  • Spondylolisthesis / surgery*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome