Incidental durotomy in degenerative lumbar spine surgery – a register study of 64,431 operations

Fredrik Strömqvist, Freyr Gauti Sigmundsson, Björn Strömqvist, Bo Jönsson, Magnus K. Karlsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Incidental durotomy (ID) is one of the most common intraoperative complications seen in spine surgery. Conflicting evidence has been presented regarding whether or not outcomes are affected by the presence of an ID. PURPOSE: To evaluate whether outcomes following degenerative spine surgery are affected by ID and the incidence of ID with different diagnoses and different surgical procedures. MATERIALS: By using SweSpine, the national Swedish Spine Surgery Register, preoperative, surgical and postoperative 1-year follow-up data were obtained for 64,431 surgeries. All patients were surgically treated due to lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) without or with concomitant degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) or lumbar disc herniation (LDH) between 2000 and 2015. Gender, age, smoking habits, walking distance, consumption of analgesics, back and leg pain (Visual Analogue Scale [VAS]), quality of life (EuroQol [EQ5D] and Short Form 36 [SF-36]), and disability (Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]) were recorded. RESULTS: Overall, incidence of ID during the study period was 5.0%. For the LDH, LSS, and DS subgroups, it was 2.8%, 6.5%, and 6.5%, respectively. Laminectomy was associated with a higher incidence of ID than discectomy (p<.001). ID was more common in all three subgroups if the patient had previously been subjected to spine surgery and with increasing age of the patients (p<.001). LDH patients with an ID reported a higher degree of residual leg pain, inferior mental quality of life (SF-36 MCS), and higher disability (ODI) than LDH patients without ID (all p<.001) 1-year after surgery. LSS patients with an ID reported inferior SF-36 MCS (p<.001) and DS patients with an ID had inferior SF-36 MCS and higher ODI compared to patients with the same diagnosis but without an ID (p<.001). However, these numerical differences are well below references for MCID, for all three subgroups. ID was associated with a higher frequency of patients being dissatisfied with the surgical outcome at 1-year follow-up. In patients who did not improve in back and leg pain following surgery (delta-value), ID was less common than in patients reporting improved back and leg pain from before as compared to following surgery. CONCLUSIONS: The overall occurrence of ID in the present study was 5%, with higher figures in LSS and DS and lower figures in LDH. Higher age of the patient and previous surgery were associated with higher frequencies of ID. The outcome at 1 year following surgery was not affected to a clinically relevant extent when an ID was obtained. However, ID was associated with a higher degree of patient dissatisfaction and a longer hospital length of stay.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-630
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number4
Early online date2018 Aug 30
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Orthopedics
  • Surgery

Free keywords

  • Complications
  • Dural lesion Incidental durotomy
  • Outcome
  • Spine surgery


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