Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Surgery and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Technical advance

New surgical approach for late complications from spinal cord injury

Antonio J Reis

Author Affiliations

Clínica Santa Catarina, 9000-045, Funchal, Madeira – Portugal, And Hospital Sant'Ana, Parede, Portugal

BMC Surgery 2006, 6:12  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-6-12

Published: 23 October 2006



The most frequent late complications in spinal cord injury result from arachnoiditis and consequent alterations in dynamics of cerebrospinal fluid flow. A surgical procedure carried out on patients with these alterations, resolved the various pathologies more efficiently in all cases.


From October 2000 to March 2006, 23 patients were selected for surgery: three showed signs of syringomyelia, three presented with microcystic lesions, three presented with arachnoid cysts in different locations but always confluent to the scar area, and 14 showed evidence of tethered cords. The surgery consisted of laminectomy at four levels, followed by dural opening in order to remove all the arachnoiditis at the level of the scar and to remove the altered arachnoid and its cysts, at least at two levels above and below the lesion. The dentate ligaments were cut at all exposed levels.


The patients had no postoperative problems and not only retained all neurological functions but also showed neurological recovery. According to the motor and sensory scale of the American Spinal Injury Association, the recoveries were motor 20.6% (P < 0.001), touch 15.6% ((P < 0.001) and pinprick 14.4% (P < 0.001). These patients showed no signs of relapse at 4–66 month follow-up.


This alternative surgery resolved the pathologies provoking neurological deterioration by releasing the complete spinal cord at the level of the scar and the levels above and below it. It thus avoids myelotomies and the use of shunts and stents, which have a high long-term failure rate and consequent relapses. Nevertheless, this surgical procedure allows patients the chance to opt for any further treatment that may evolve in the future.