Surgical anatomy of dural defects in spontaneous spinal cerebrospinal fluid leaks

Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol, Bahram Mokri, David G. Piepgras, Fredric B. Meyer, John L.D. Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Spontaneous intracranial hypotension is typically caused by a spontaneous spinal cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak. The configuration of the related dural defects can be complex. We describe our experience with the surgical anatomy of these defects. METHODS: Thirteen consecutive patients with spontaneous spinal CSF leaks who underwent surgical exploration at Mayo Clinic between 1994 and 2003 were studied. All patients' records, imaging studies, detailed intraoperative findings, and outcomes were reviewed. RESULTS: There were four men and nine women with an average age of 40 years (range, 12-62 yr). Preoperative imaging studies revealed a single site of CSF leak in eight patients, two sites in three patients, and multiple sites in two patients. Intraoperatively, the exact site of leakage could not be found in four patients. Among the other nine patients, primary closure of a meningeal diverticulum was achieved in one patient. Significant regional attenuation of the dura prevented primary repair of the leak site in eight patients. Muscle, fibrin glue, and Gelfoam (Upjohn Co., Kalamazoo, MI) soaked in patient's own blood were commonly used to pack the epidural space in an attempt to seal the site of the leak. Ligation of two nonappendicular nerve roots allowed closure of the leak in one of these patients. Postoperatively, resolution of symptoms occurred in eight patients, significant improvement was noted in three patients, and only transient resolution in two. The mean duration of follow-up was 20.5 months. CONCLUSION: Surgery for closure of spontaneous spinal CSF leaks may not be straightforward. Even when extradural CSF leakage is discovered preoperatively by imaging studies, it may not always be possible to identify the exact site of the leakage intraoperatively. Furthermore, the anatomy of the dural defects may be complex and not amenable to primary closure. In such cases, the use of adjuvant techniques during surgical exploration may be effective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ONS-238-ONS-245
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Cerebrospinal fluid leaks
  • Intracranial hypotension
  • Laminectomy
  • Meningeal diverticula
  • Orthostatic headaches

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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