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Nontraumatic acute spinal subdural hematoma

Report of five cases and review of the literature

Maurizio Domenicucci, Alessandro Ramieri, Pasquale Ciappetta and Roberto Delfini

✓ Acute subdural spinal hematoma occurs rarely; however, when it does occur, it may have disastrous consequences. The authors assessed the outcome of surgery for this lesion in relation to causative factors and diagnostic imaging (computerized tomography [CT], CT myelography), as well as eventual preservation of the subarachnoid space.

The authors reviewed 106 cases of nontraumatic acute subdural spinal hematoma (101 published cases and five of their own) in terms of cause, diagnosis, treatment, and long-term outcome.

Fifty-one patients (49%) were men and 55 (51%) were women. In 70% of patients the spinal segment involved was in the lumbar or thoracolumbar spine. In 57 cases (54%) there was a defect in the hemostatic mechanism. Spinal puncture was performed in 50 patients (47%). Late surgical treatment was performed in 59 cases (56%): outcome was good in 25 cases (42%) (in 20 of these patients preoperative neurological evaluation had shown mild deficits or paraparesis, and three patients had presented with subarachnoid hemorrhage [SAH]). The outcome was poor in 34 cases (58%; 23 patients with paraplegia and 11 with SAH).

The formation of nontraumatic acute spinal subdural hematomas may result from coagulation abnormalities and iatrogenic causes such as spinal puncture. Their effect on the spinal cord and/or nerve roots may be limited to a mere compressive mechanism when the subarachnoid space is preserved and the hematoma is confined between the dura and the arachnoid. It seems likely that the theory regarding the opening of the dural compartment, verified at the cerebral level, is applicable to the spinal level too. Early surgical treatment is always indicated when the patient's neurological status progressively deteriorates. The best results can be obtained in patients who do not experience SAH.

In a few selected patients in whom neurological impairment is minimal, conservative treatment is possible.

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Paolo Missori, Sergio Pandolfi, Manila Antonelli and Maurizio Domenicucci

Neural fibrolipoma is a benign tumor that most frequently infiltrates the median nerve. The authors describe a patient with spinal cord compression syndrome caused by a neural fibrolipoma. The tumor originated in the thoracic nerve at the T6–7 extradural level in the left conjugate foramen and extended into the thoracic cavity. Total removal was achieved by a combined posterior and costotransversectomy approach. Postoperatively, the patient's spinal cord compression syndrome resolved. No tumor recurrence has been observed in medium-term follow-up. This is the second case of an extradural spinal neural fibrolipoma to be reported in the literature.

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Paolo Missori, Sergio Paolini and Maurizio Domenicucci

Medical and surgical texts from the 16th to the 18th centuries document the origin of the cannula for ventriculostomy in pediatric hydrocephalus. Fabrizio d'Acquapendente was the first physician to report external ventriculostomy through the insertion of a silver cannula with a stopper. More than 100 years later, extended use of the trocar by urologists allowed Claude-Nicolas Le Cat to perform an external ventriculostomy with a trocar and a bung.

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Beniamino Guidetti, Pasquale Ciappetta and Maurizio Domenicucci

✓ The authors report their experience and long-term results in the surgical treatment of 61 tentorial meningiomas. These cases were operated on between 1951 and 1985 and represented 4.8% of all intracranial meningiomas operated on in that period. The mean duration of clinical history was 29 months, except for cases of meningioma of the posteromedial border, for which it was 5 years. Plain x-ray films and cerebral angiograms were obtained in all cases. Computerized tomography, performed in the last 20 cases (32.7%), supplied much better lesion topography and early diagnosis. The tumor site was posterolateral in 26 cases (42.6%), anterolateral in 14 (22.9%), posteromedial in eight (13.1%), at the free border in seven (11.4%), and in the tentorium itself in six (9.8%).

Lateral and medial tumors with solely or mainly supratentorial development were approached from above. The approach from below was reserved for meningiomas with subtentorial involvement only. In meningiomas with both supra- and subtentorial growth, a supratentorial bone flap was combined with a suboccipital craniectomy using a retromastoid incision. The mortality rate was 9.8%. Of the remaining 42 patients, who were followed for at least 5 years, long-term results were good in 26 cases (61.9%), fair in 11 (26.2%), and poor in five (11.9%). Postoperative complications arose in 34% of the patients, but cleared in 27%.

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Maurizio Domenicucci, Alessandro Ramieri, Maurizio Salvati, Christian Brogna and Antonino Raco

✓A spinal epidural hematoma is an extremely rare complication of cervical spine manipulation therapy (CSMT). The authors present the case of an adult woman, otherwise in good health, who developed Brown–Séquard syndrome after CSMT. Decompressive surgery performed within 8 hours after the onset of symptoms allowed for complete recovery of the patient's preoperative neurological deficit. The unique feature of this case was the magnetic resonance image showing increased signal intensity in the paraspinal musculature consistent with a contusion, which probably formed after SMT. The pertinent literature is also reviewed.

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Maurizio Domenicucci, Natale Russo, Elisabetta Giugni and Alberto Pierallini


Arachnoid cysts are relatively common congenital intracranial mass lesions that arise during the development of the meninges. They can be complicated by the formation of an ipsilateral chronic subdural hematoma (CSDH) after minor cranial trauma. Treatment of these coexisting conditions remains controversial. In this study the authors describe the anatomical, clinical, and neuroradiological features and outcome in a series of patients whose CSDH associated with arachnoid cysts were managed surgically by draining the hematoma alone and leaving the cyst intact. The authors based this surgical management on histological and neuroradiological observations concerning these associated medical conditions.


A series of 8 patients with CSDHs associated with arachnoid cysts underwent surgery to drain the hematoma though a bur hole. The arachnoid cyst was left intact. Postoperative follow-up included CT scanning and T1- and T2-weighted MR imaging.


Clinical, anatomical, and radiological observations suggest that because separate membranes cover arachnoid cysts and the related hematoma, arachnoid cysts remain unaffected by the subdural bleeding. In the present study, these observations received support from the neuroimaging appearances, suggesting that arachnoid cysts related to hematoma contained only blood breakdown products from the hematoma that had filtered through the reciprocal dividing membranes.


Arachnoid cysts associated with SDH are anatomically separate conditions whose neurological symptoms respond to surgical drainage of the CSDH alone.

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Maurizio Domenicucci, Demo Eugenio Dugoni, Cristina Mancarella, Alessandro D'Elia and Paolo Missori

A review of early 20th century literature regarding fractures of the atlas led the authors to discover a paper written in Italian by Professor Vincenzo Quercioli in 1908, at that time an assistant surgeon at the University of Siena. The work was published in the journal Il Policlinico, which at that time was directed by Professor Francesco Durante. The paper described the first case of a quadripartite fracture of the atlas, and it accurately reported the mechanism of injury, symptoms, neurological examination, treatment, complications, and cause of death of the patient.

Quercioli performed an autopsy on the patient and gave a detailed description of anatomopathological features. In particular, he identified the 4 symmetrical fracture lines related to the arches of the atlas and the substantial integrity of the atlantoaxial ligaments, particularly the transverse ligament. Based on those findings, Quercioli concluded that the mechanism of trauma was an axial force. This force passed through the center of the vertebral ring and caused symmetrical displacement and compression of the articular masses.

These concepts of dynamic physics led Quercioli to conclude that, because the atlas is wedge shaped, the masses of the atlas reacted to stress by moving away from the center. This reaction resulted in stretching the front and rear arches, which then fractured at their 4 points of weakness. The integrity of the spinal cord was intact, based on a negative neurological examination for CNS lesions. Thus, he concluded that these injuries were not fatal and could be cured by appropriate treatment with a Minerva cast and, in the presence of swallowing disorders, with a nasogastric tube.

The case described by Quercioli was later mentioned in two classic works on atlas fractures by Sir Geoffrey Jefferson, published in 1920 and 1927. In those works, Jefferson proposed his classification of 5 different anatomopathological classes; this work is widely cited in the literature and should be considered a classic. The patterns and deductions that Jefferson reported on these fractures appeared to draw upon the scientific experience of Quercioli and his description of the quadripartite atlas fracture, which appeared to be unique, even in Jefferson's review. Therefore, the authors believe that they have identified another scientist and pioneer of the atlas fracture in Professor Vincenzo Quercioli. With his brilliant insights, which remain useful and valid, Quercioli led the way to further research on the subject.

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Mark A. Mahan, Caterina Giannini and Robert J. Spinner