Spinal Arachnoid Webs

Neurosurgery 89:917–927, 2021

Spinal arachnoid webs are rarely described bands of thickened arachnoid tissue in the dorsal thoracic spine. Much is unknown regarding their origins, risk factors, natural history, and outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: To present the single largest case series, detailing presenting symptoms and outcomes amongst operative and nonoperative patients, to better understand the role of intervention.

METHODS: This retrospective chart review identified 38 patients with arachnoid webs. Patient demographics, radiologic signs, symptoms, and surgical history data were extracted from the electronic medical record. Symptoms were divided by location and character. 28 patients were successfully contacted for follow up outcome surveys.

RESULTS: 26 patients (68%) underwent surgical intervention, 12 (32%) were managed non-operatively. 15 (39%) patients had undergone a previous unsuccessful surgery at a different site for their symptoms prior to arachnoid web diagnosis. Commonly presenting symptoms included myelopathy (68%), focal thoracic back pain (68%), lower extremity weakness (45%), numbness and sensory changes (58%), and lower extremity radicular pain (42%), upper extremity weakness (24%), and radicular pain (37%). Focal thoracic pain was associated with thoracic level (P < .02). Myelopathic symptoms were less common in postoperative patients. Postoperative patients described significantly more upper extremity (P < .01) and thoracic (P < .01) numbness and paresthesias. Surveyed nonoperative patients universally described their symptoms as either stable orworsening.

CONCLUSION: Spinal arachnoid webs present with thoracic myelopathy and back pain but can also present with upper extremity symptoms. Surgical intervention stabilizes or improves symptoms and is well received. Nonoperative patients do not spontaneously improve.