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  • Author or Editor: Daryl R. Fourney x
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Adam S. Wu and Daryl R. Fourney

Object

Routine histopathological examination of discectomy specimens remains common practice in many hospitals, although it rarely detects unsuspected clinically significant disease. Controversy exists as to the effectiveness of this practice. The objectives of this study were to compare the authors’ experience with a review of the literature.

Methods

In a retrospective database analysis the authors identified all intervertebral disc specimens obtained during spinal procedures over an 8-year period (1996–2004). Cases of benign (nonneoplastic and noninfectious) indications for surgery were included in the study, whereas cases of nonbenign indications were excluded. The final pathological diagnoses were reviewed, and a chart review was performed to determine whether any unexpected findings affected subsequent patient care. A total of 1858 discectomy specimens were identified: 1775 of these were obtained in 1719 routine discectomy procedures. Unexpected histopathological findings were identified in four cases, and none was clinically significant.

Conclusions

Routine histopathological examination of disc specimens is not justified. The decision to send specimens for pathological examination should be determined on a case-by-case basis after consideration of the clinical presentation, results of laboratory and imaging studies, and intraoperative findings.

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Adam S. Wu, Robert W. Griebel, Kotoo Meguro and Daryl R. Fourney

Spinal subdural empyema is an exceptionally rare and serious condition. Immediate surgery with complete exposure and drainage of the abscess is generally recommended. The authors present a patient in whom a Staphylococcus aureus septicemia related to nosocomial pneumonia developed after a thoracic laminectomy. The surgery was further complicated by an unintended durotomy (dural tear). Ten days postoperatively, the patient experienced back pain and lower-extremity symptoms caused by a subdural empyema. Cultures from the wound also grew S. aureus. This represents the first case of spinal subdural empyema in which the spread of infection into the subdural space is believed to have been facilitated by a dural tear. The patient had a favorable outcome despite an initial delay in surgical intervention because of a pulmonary embolus.