Spinal epidural hematomas (SEHs) are uncommon complications caused by traumatic injuries to the spine. Emergency surgical evacuation is the standard treatment. Although recognized in the literature, the possibility of nonsurgical treatment of traumatic SEHs is far from being codified. The authors report on the treatment of four patients whose traumatic SEHs were diagnosed by magnetic resonance (MRI) imaging and managed conservatively with excellent results.
All patients had suffered severe spine injury with fracture of a lumbar vertebral body, were admitted within 12 hours of trauma, and exhibited only minimal neurological disturbances on admission. Magnetic resonance imaging studies were performed within 24 hours of trauma. Hematomas appeared isointense/slightly hyperintense on T1- and heterogeneous on T2-weighted MR images. Clot thickness varied between 0.8 cm and 1 cm, width between 1 cm and 1.8 cm, and length between 2.7 and 9 cm. In light of each patient's fairly good neurological condition a conservative approach was taken. In all cases serial MR imaging documented progressive clot resolution, which was completed within 8 to 10 days of trauma. At discharge all patients were neurologically intact.
The conservative treatment option of traumatic SEH should be reserved for exceptional cases whose deficits are minimal, when neurological deterioration is followed by early and sustained spontaneous recovery, and when there are clear medical contraindications for surgery. The results of the present study confirm that nonsurgical treatment is feasible in a subgroup of minimally symptomatic patients who harbor moderate-sized SEHs. Although the authors' experience shows a good spontaneous outcome of some traumatic SEH, further studies are necessary to understand the real spectrum of nonsurgical treatment of such lesions.