Lumbar drain complications in patients undergoing fenestrated or branched endovascular aortic aneurysm repair: Development of an institutional protocol for lumbar drain management

J Vasc Surg. 2020 Nov;72(5):1576-1583. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2020.02.013. Epub 2020 Apr 2.


Objective: Lumbar drain placement with cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage is an effective adjunct for reducing the risk of spinal cord ischemia in patients undergoing complex aortic aneurysm repair. However, lumbar drain placement is a challenging procedure with potential for significant complications. We sought to characterize complications of lumbar drain placement in a large, single-center experience of patients who underwent fenestrated or branched endovascular aneurysm repair (F/BEVAR).

Methods: All patients who underwent F/BEVAR and attempted lumbar drain placement from 2010 to 2019 were retrospectively reviewed. All lumbar drains were placed by four cardiovascular anesthesiologists who compose the complex aortic anesthesia team. Lumbar drain placement was guided by a set protocol and used whenever the aortic stent graft coverage was planned to extend more proximal than 40 mm above the celiac artery. Details relating to lumbar drain placement, management, and frequency and type of associated complications were characterized.

Results: During the study period, 256 patients underwent F/BEVAR, of whom 100 (39%) were planned for lumbar drain placement. Successful placement occurred in 98 (98%) of the cases. All lumbar drains were placed before induction of general anesthesia, using fluoroscopy guidance in 28 cases (28%). The most common level of placement was L4-5 (n = 42 [42%]). The majority (n = 82 [82%]) were left in place ≤48 hours; 21% were removed during the first 24 hours, and 61% were removed between 24 and 48 hours. Nonfunctionality was the most common complication, occurring in 16 (16%) patients. Catheter dislodgment or fracture, CSF leak, and postdural puncture headache were observed in 4 (4%), 7 (7%), and 4 (4%) patients, respectively. The most common bleeding complication was the presence of asymptomatic blood in the CSF (n = 11 [11%]), whereas subarachnoid hemorrhage combined with intraventricular hemorrhage occurred in three patients (3%); none of these patients required surgical drainage or intervention. No infectious complications were observed.

Conclusions: Lumbar drain placement for CSF drainage is a commonly employed adjunct to prevent spinal cord ischemia in F/BEVAR. Our experience demonstrates that lumbar drain placement can be performed successfully but is associated with a significant rate of nonfunctionality and a diverse range of complications that, fortunately, do not commonly have significant long-term sequelae.

Trial registration: NCT02050113.

Keywords: Complex aortic aneurysm complications; Fenestrated or branched endovascular aneurysm repair; Lumbar drain.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aortic Aneurysm / surgery*
  • Cerebral Intraventricular Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Cerebral Intraventricular Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak / epidemiology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid Leak / etiology
  • Drainage / adverse effects*
  • Drainage / methods
  • Endovascular Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Endovascular Procedures / instrumentation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Post-Dural Puncture Headache / epidemiology
  • Post-Dural Puncture Headache / etiology
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology*
  • Postoperative Complications / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / etiology
  • Spinal Cord Ischemia / prevention & control*
  • Stents
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data