Treatment of a persistent iatrogenic cerebrospinal fluid-pleural fistula with a cadaveric dural-pleural graft

Scott J. Raffa, David M. Benglis, Allan D. Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background context: A cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)-pleural fistula is a unique condition with which all spine surgeons need to be familiar, particularly those who use anterolateral approaches to the thoracic region. When direct suturing of the dural defect is not possible, techniques for indirect repair must be considered. Purpose: To report a novel technique for repair of a thoracic CSF-pleural fistula with a cadaveric dural-pleural graft after failure of initial treatment with Duragen (Integra, Plainsboro, NJ) and fibrin glue. Study design/setting: Case report/University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center. Methods: The case of a 65-year-old female is presented. Results: The patient represented 5 weeks after the initial operation (left-sided thoracotomy, partial T10-T11 corpectomy and removal of an intradural calcified disc) with dyspnea and severe positional headaches. Imaging of the brain revealed a subdural hematoma and magnetic resonance imaging of the thoracic region demonstrated a pseudomeningocele surrounding the postsurgical bed. She underwent a revision thoracotomy and CSF-pleural fistula repair. We addressed the dural opening indirectly by suturing a piece of cadaveric dural allograft to the thickened pleura, after Duragen and fibrin glue were placed over the dural defect. A lumbar drain and a chest tube were also placed. At 12 weeks post-op, the subdural hematoma had completely resolved and her chest X-rays demonstrated a significant decrease in the CSF-pleural collection. Conclusion: Anterolateral thoracic disc surgery poses a great challenge to the spine surgeon but can provide the most direct way of decompressing the spinal cord as a result of ventral pathology. Some of the most difficult aspects of dealing with a CSF leak in this area relates to 1) the relative complexity of suturing the dura directly as it is at a considerable distance from the operating surgeon; 2) the manner in which the contralateral dura slopes away and is hidden from view; and 3) the relatively negative intrathoracic pressure, which encourages the persistent flow of CSF from the intradural to the pleural cavity. We speculate that with open thoracic surgery and the creation of a large potential space with an open dural defect, this technique provided an additional barrier against the formation of a CSF-pleural fistula. Using this technique, we intentionally create a pseudomeningocele into the corpectomy defect that is contained within the confines of our dural-pleural graft.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e25-e29
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2009


  • Cadaveric dural-pleural graft
  • Cerebrospinal fluid-pleural fistula
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Thoracic disc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery


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