Safety of spinal decompression using an ultrasonic bone curette compared with a high-speed drill: Outcomes in 337 patients

Mohamad Bydon, Risheng Xu, Kyriakos Papademetriou, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham, Ziya L. Gokaslan, George Jallo, Ali Bydon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Object. Unintended durotomies are a common complication of spine surgery and are often correlated with increased postoperative morbidity. Recently, ultrasonic bone curettes have been introduced in spine surgery as a possible alternative to the conventional high-speed drill, offering the potential for greater bone-cutting precision and less damage to surrounding soft tissues. To date, however, few studies have investigated the safety and efficacy of the ultrasonic bone curette in reducing the rates of incidental durotomy compared with the high-speed drill. Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of 337 consecutive patients who underwent posterior cervical or thoracic decompression at a single institution between January 2009 and September 2011. Preoperative pathologies, the location and extent of spinal decompression, and the use of an ultrasonic bone curette versus the high-speed drill were noted. The rates of incidental durotomy, as well as hospital length of stay (LOS) and perioperative outcomes, were compared between patients who were treated using the ultrasonic bone curette and those treated using a high-speed drill. Results. Among 88 patients who were treated using an ultrasonic bone curette and 249 who were treated using a high-speed drill, 5 (5.7%) and 9 (3.6%) patients had an unintentional durotomy, respectively. This finding was not statistically significant (p = 0.40). No patients in either cohort experienced statistically higher rates of perioperative complications, although patients treated using an ultrasonic bone curette tended to have a longer hospital LOS. This difference may be attributed to the fact that this series contained a statistically higher number of metastatic tumor cases (p < 0.0001) in the ultrasonic bone curette cohort, likely increasing the LOS for that patient population. In 13 patients, the dural defect was repaired intraoperatively. No patients who experienced an incidental durotomy had new-onset or permanent neurological deficits postoperatively. Conclusions. The safety and efficacy of ultrasonic bone curettes in spine surgery has not been well established. This study shows that the ultrasonic bone curette has a similar safety profile compared with the high-speed drill, although both are capable of causing iatrogenic dural tears during spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)627-633
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013


  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak
  • Cervical
  • Complication
  • Dural tear
  • Durotomy
  • High-speed drill
  • Thoracic
  • Ultrasonic bone curette

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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