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Open access

Surgical management of an extensive spinal epidural abscess: illustrative cases

Aleksey Eroshkin, Dmytro Romanukha, and Serhiy Voitsekhovskyi

BACKGROUND

Extensive spinal epidural abscesses (SEAs) occupying three or more spinal regions are rare. This study aimed to address the key dilemma of surgical treatment for holospinal epidural abscesses, i.e., to determine the required scope of surgery and minimize surgical trauma with adequate purulent drainage.

OBSERVATIONS

Two patients with extensive SEAs were treated at the Neurosurgery Department of the Central Hospital of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine from 2018 to 2020. Both patients had a neurological deficit and general inflammatory response syndrome. Spinal magnetic resonance examinations were performed, showing that the first and second patients had extensive SEAs at T11/S1 and C2/L1, respectively. Both underwent minimally invasive abscess drainage via intra- and translaminar access at the most caudal point using an epidural silicone catheter in the cranial direction along the entire length of the abscess.

LESSONS

To achieve the key goal of extensive SEA treatment, i.e., to prevent the development of a persistent neurological deficit, immediate effective spinal canal decompression should be performed. Access method and scope should meet the requirements of spinal canal decompression and purulent content aspiration to the greatest possible extent while inducing minimal trauma.

Open access

Cryptogenic cervical intramedullary abscess with rapidly progressive myelopathy: illustrative case

Nebras M. Warsi, Ann Wilson, Armaan K. Malhotra, Jerry C. Ku, Ahmed A. Najjar, Esther Bui, Michael Baker, Eric Bartlett, and Mojgan Hodaie

BACKGROUND

The purpose of the present case report is to highlight the presentation, workup, clinical decision making, and operative intervention for a 68-year-old woman who developed rapidly progressive myelopathy secondary to idiopathic cervical intramedullary abscess.

OBSERVATIONS

The patient underwent laminectomy and aspiration/biopsy of the lesion. Intraoperatively, division of the posterior median sulcus released a large volume of purulent material growing the oral pathogens Eikenella corrodens and Gemella morbillorum. Broad-spectrum antibiotics were initiated postoperatively. At the 6-month follow-up, the patient had almost completely recovered with some persistent hand dysesthesia. Complete infectious workup, including full dental assessment and an echocardiogram, failed to reveal the source of her infection.

LESSONS

The authors report the first case of cryptogenic spinal intramedullary abscess secondary to Eikenella spp. and Gemella spp. coinfection. Intramedullary abscesses are exceptionally rare and most commonly develop in children with dermal sinus malformations or in the context of immunosuppression. In adults without risk factors, they can readily be mistaken for more common pathologies in this age group, such as intramedullary neoplasms or demyelinating disease. Prompt diagnosis and management based on rapidly progressive myelopathy, assessment of infectious risk factors and/or symptoms, and targeted imaging are critical to avoid potentially devastating neurological sequelae.

Open access

An unusual case of a persistent, infected retroperitoneal fluid collection 5 years after anterior lumbar fusion surgery: illustrative case

Matthew T. Neal, Kara L. Curley, Alexandra E. Richards, Maziyar A. Kalani, Mark K. Lyons, and Victor J. Davila

BACKGROUND

Anterior lumbar fusion procedures have many benefits and continue to grow in popularity. The technique has many potential approach- and procedure-related complications. Symptomatic retroperitoneal fluid collections are uncommon but potentially serious complications after anterior lumbar procedures. Collection types include hematomas, urinomas, chyloperitoneum, cerebrospinal fluid collections, and deep infections.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors present an unusual case of a patient with persistent symptoms related to a retroperitoneal collection over a 5-year period following anterior lumbar fusion surgery. To the authors’ knowledge, no similar case with such extensive symptom duration has been described. The patient had an infected encapsulated fluid collection. The collection was presumed to be a postoperative lymphocele that was secondarily infected after serial percutaneous drainage procedures.

LESSONS

When retroperitoneal collections occur after anterior retroperitoneal approaches, clinical clues, such as timing of symptoms, hypotension, acute anemia, urinary tract infection, hydronephrosis, elevated serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen, low-pressure headaches, anorexia, or systemic signs of infection, can help narrow the differential. Retroperitoneal collections may continue to be symptomatic many years after anterior lumbar surgery. The collections may become infected after serial percutaneous drainage or prolonged continuous drainage. Encapsulated, infected fluid collections typically require surgical debridement of the capsule and its contents.

Open access

Subcutaneous emphysema of the neck after shunt surgery for hydrocephalus in a case of metastatic ovarian cancer: illustrative case

Smrithi Sathish, M. Manoranjitha Kumari, Shyama S. Prem, and Gopalakrishnan M. Sasidharan

BACKGROUND

A 46-year-old female, a patient with a relapsed carcinoma in her ovary, had undergone ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt surgery for obstructive hydrocephalus due to vermian metastasis. Two weeks after the shunt surgery, she complained of discomfort in the neck. There was subcutaneous emphysema along the shunt track without tenderness or signs of inflammation. She was afebrile, and her vital parameters were stable.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors ruled out pneumothorax and airway trauma as potential sources of emphysema. They tapped the shunt chamber and detected gram-negative bacilli. Ascitic fluid culture grew gas-forming Escherichia coli.

LESSONS

Although some amount of air can get trapped in the subcutaneous plane during the tunneling procedure of a VP shunt tube insertion, the reappearance of a new, large column of air along the shunt track can be an ominous sign of shunt infection. The shunt became contaminated by bacteria of gut origin, which seeded the ascitic fluid, and a florid bacterial growth ascended up the shunt track, producing gas along the subcutaneous plane. Physicians should consider this rare etiology in their differential diagnoses of subcutaneous emphysema following VP shunt surgery.

Open access

A minimally invasive lateral approach with CT navigation for open biopsy and diagnosis of Nocardia nova L4–5 discitis osteomyelitis: illustrative case

Bryan Zheng, Hael Abdulrazeq, Owen P. Leary, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Adetokunbo A. Oyelese, Jared S. Fridley, and Joaquin Q. Camara-Quintana

BACKGROUND

Lumbar spine osteomyelitis can be refractory to conventional techniques for identifying a causal organism. In cases in which a protracted antibiotic regimen is indicated, obtaining a conclusive yield on biopsy is particularly important. Although lateral transpsoas approaches and intraoperative computed tomography (CT) navigation are well documented as techniques used for spinal arthrodesis, their utility in vertebral biopsy has yet to be reported in any capacity.

OBSERVATIONS

In a 44-year-old male patient with a history of Nocardia bacteremia, CT-guided biopsy failed to confirm the microbiology of an L4–5 discitis osteomyelitis. The patient underwent a minimally invasive open biopsy in which a lateral approach with intraoperative guidance was used to access the infected disc space retroperitoneally. A thin film was obtained and cultured Nocardia nova, and the patient was treated accordingly with a long course of trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

LESSONS

The combination of a lateral transpsoas approach with intraoperative navigation is a valuable technique for obtaining positive yield in cases of discitis osteomyelitis of the lumbar spine refractory to CT-guided biopsy.

Open access

Spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage presenting in a patient with vitamin K deficiency and COVID-19: illustrative case

Nathaniel R. Ellens and Howard J. Silberstein

BACKGROUND

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is known to cause more severe symptoms in the adult population, but pediatric patients may experience severe neurological symptoms, including encephalopathy, seizures, and meningeal signs. COVID-19 has also been implicated in both ischemic and hemorrhagic cerebrovascular events. This virus inhibits angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, decreasing angiotensin (1–7), decreasing vagal tone, disrupting blood pressure autoregulation, and contributing to a systemic vascular inflammatory response, all of which may further increase the risk of intracranial hemorrhage. However, there has only been one reported case of intracranial hemorrhage developing in a pediatric patient with COVID-19.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors discuss the first case of a pediatric patient with COVID-19 presenting with intracranial hemorrhage. This patient presented with lethargy and a bulging fontanelle and was found to have extensive intracranial hemorrhage with hydrocephalus. Laboratory tests were consistent with hyponatremia and vitamin K deficiency. Despite emergency ventriculostomy placement, the patient died of his disease.

LESSONS

This case demonstrates an association between COVID-19 and intracranial hemorrhage, and the authors have described several different mechanisms by which the virus may potentiate this process. This role of COVID-19 may be particularly important in patients who are already at a higher risk of intracranial hemorrhage, such as those with vitamin K deficiency.

Open access

Chronic allergic fungal sinusitis invading the skull base in an immunocompetent male: illustrative case

Anant Naik, Darrion Bo-Yun Yang, Frank J. Bellafiore, Muhamad A. Amine, and Wael Hassaneen

BACKGROUND

Allergic fungal sinusitis (AFS) is an immunoglobulin E–mediated reaction to fungal organisms in the sinonasal region and can be categorized as acute or chronic. Acute infection is typical in immunocompromised patients, while chronic infection is classically seen in immunocompetent patients. Spread of infection to the skull base is a rare and potentially lethal complication of prolonged infection. Surgical management is frequently augmented with steroid therapy to prevent recurrence.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors present a case of a 20-year-old African American male with prolonged headaches and blurred vision who was diagnosed with chronic invasive fungal sinusitis resulting in invasion of fungal burden into the anterior skull base and the posterior aspect of the clivus, in addition to complete obliteration of the maxillary sinus. The patient was managed surgically without complication and with gradual improvement in vision.

LESSONS

Early management and detection of AFS should be a focus to prevent erosion of the fungal burden into the skull base. Neurosurgery and ear, nose, and throat surgery have a multidisciplinary role in the management of advanced AFS cases.

Open access

Postoperative Lemierre’s syndrome: a previously unreported complication of transoral surgery. Illustrative case

Giuseppe Mariniello, Sergio Corvino, Giuseppe Teodonno, Serena Pagano, and Francesco Maiuri

BACKGROUND

Lemierre’s syndrome is a rare but potentially life-threatening clinical condition characterized by bacteremia and thrombophlebitis of the internal jugular vein, usually secondary to oropharyngeal infection and often caused by Fusobacterium necrophorum; rarely, it occurs after surgical procedures. The most common clinical presentation includes acute pharyngitis, high fever, and neck pain. The diagnosis is based on blood culture and cranial and cervical spine computed tomography (CT)/magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with contrast. Antibiotic therapy for 3–6 weeks is the mainstay of treatment, while the use of anticoagulant drugs is controversial.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors describe a case of Lemierre’s syndrome that occurred after transoral surgery. The patient underwent a combined surgical approach from above (transoral) and below (anterolateral transcervical) to the upper cervical spine for the resection of a large anterior osteophyte causing dysphagia, globus sensation, and dysphonia. Three weeks after the surgical procedure, she developed fever and severe neck pain.

LESSONS

The aim of this paper is to consider Lemierre’s syndrome as a possible complication after the transoral approach, underlining the importance of its early diagnosis and with a suggestion to perform cranial and cervical spine CT or MRI venous angiography in patients who undergo surgery with a transoral approach and exhibit local or systemic signs of infection such as neck pain, persistent fever, and positive blood culture results.

Open access

Hypertrophic cranial pachymeningitis and orbital apex syndrome secondary to infection of the eye: illustrative case

Tara Zielke, Miri Kim, Joshua E. Simon, Ewa Borys, Vikram C. Prabhu, and Suguna Pappu

BACKGROUND

Hypertrophic cranial pachymeningitis is a rare inflammatory disorder characterized by thickening of the dura mater and multiple cranial neuropathies. Although an infectious etiology may be present, often no specific cause is discovered.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors described a 71-year-old man with progressive right eye vision loss, ptosis, and complete ophthalmoplegia with imaging findings suggestive of hypertrophic cranial pachymeningitis. Extensive studies, including cerebrospinal fluid studies, showed negative results. Blood serum, cell-free evaluation, and paraffin-embedded dural tissue testing had positive results for Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which allowed treatment tailored to the organism and a salutary clinical outcome.

LESSONS

The constellation of neurological and radiological findings may make a diagnosis difficult in an inflammatory setting. The most precise methodology for establishing a diagnosis involves sampling the dura and testing it for infectious pathology. However, if results are inconclusive, further cell-free serum sampling with next-generation sequencing is a viable option for identifying pathogens with infectious concerns. This case highlighted the importance of multimodality studies for identifying a targetable pathogen.

Open access

An immunocompetent farmer with isolated cerebral alveolar echinococcosis: illustrative case

Anna Maria Reuss, Marie-Angela Wulf, Markus F. Oertel, Oliver Bozinov, Anna Henzi, Marisa B. Kaelin, Michael Reinehr, Felix Grimm, and Elisabeth J. Rushing

BACKGROUND

Alveolar echinococcosis is a rare condition, but living or working in a rural environment is a substantial risk factor. The liver is the organ primarily affected, with additional extrahepatic manifestations in approximately 25% of cases. Primary extrahepatic disease is rare, and isolated cerebral involvement is extremely unusual.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors described an illustrative case of isolated cerebral alveolar echinococcosis in an immunocompetent farmer. Magnetic resonance imaging of the brain showed a predominantly cystic lesion with perifocal edema and a “bunch of grapes” appearance in the left frontal lobe. Histology revealed sharply demarcated fragments of a fibrous cyst wall accompanied by marked inflammation and necrosis. Higher magnification showed remnants of protoscolices with hooklets and calcified corpuscles. Immunohistochemistry and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis confirmed the diagnosis of cerebral alveolar echinococcosis. Interestingly, serology and thoracic and abdominal computed tomography results were negative, indicative of an isolated primary extrahepatic manifestation.

LESSONS

Isolated, primary central nervous system echinococcosis is extremely rare, with only isolated case reports. As in the authors’ case, it can occur in immunocompetent patients, especially persons with a rural vocational history. Negative serology results do not exclude cerebral echinococcosis, which requires histological confirmation. Immunohistochemical staining and PCR analysis are especially useful in cases without classic morphological findings.