The choice of graft material for duraplasty in decompressions of Chiari malformations remains a matter of debate. The authors present a detailed technique for harvesting ligamenta nuchae, as well as the clinical and radiographic outcomes of this technique, in a case series.
The authors conducted a retrospective study evaluating the outcomes of Chiari malformation type I decompression and duraplasty in children aged 0–18 years at a single institution from 2013 to 2016. They collected both intraoperative and postoperative variables and compared them qualitatively to published data.
During the study period, the authors performed 25 Chiari malformation decompressions with ligamentum nuchae graft duraplasties. Of the 25 patients, 10 were females, and the mean age at surgery was 8.6 years (range 13 months to 18 years). The median operative time was 163 minutes (IQR 152–187 minutes), with approximately 10 minutes needed by a resident surgeon to harvest the graft. The mean length of stay was 3 nights (range 2–6 nights), and the mean follow-up was 12.6 months (range 0.5–43.5 months). One patient (4%) developed a CSF leak that was repaired using an oversewing patch. There were no postoperative pseudomeningoceles or infections. Of the 19 patients presenting with a syrinx, imaging showed improvement in 10 (53%) and 8 (42%) had stable syrinx size on imaging. Of 16 patients presenting with a symptomatic Chiari malformation, 14 (87.5%) experienced resolution of symptoms and in 1 (4%) symptoms remained the same. One patient (4%) presented with worsening syrinx and symptoms 1.5 months after initial surgery and underwent repeat decompression.
The authors describe a series of clinical and imaging outcomes of patients who underwent Chiari malformation decompression and duraplasty with a harvested ligamentum nuchae. The rates of postoperative CSF leak are similar to established techniques of autologous and artificial grafts, with similarly successful outcomes. Further study will be needed with larger patient cohorts to more directly compare duraplasty graft outcomes.