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Coma from wall suction-induced CSF leak complicating spinal surgery


A 72-year-old woman was admitted for elective L4/L5 laminectomy. The operative procedure was extradural, and a Jackson-Pratt (JP) drain was placed in the tissue bed and set to wall suction during skin closure. During closure, the patient developed a 15 s period of asystole. The patient was haemodynamically stable, but was comatose for 3 days postoperatively. Cardiac enzymes and EEG were unrevealing. Head CT showed traces of subarachnoid haemorrhage and signs suggestive of cerebral anoxia. JP drain at the incision produced 170–210 mL/day of fluid, positive for β-2 transferrin, indicating cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The patient fully returned to baseline on hospital day 10. MRI on hospital day 8 normalised. The reversible coma and radiographic findings were most consistent with acute intracranial hypotension relating to acute loss of CSF. Because radiographic findings can mimic hypoxic-ischaemic injury, acute intracranial hypotension should be considered in the differential diagnosis of postoperative coma after cranial or spinal surgery.

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