Incidence of Unintended Durotomy in Spine Surgery Based on 108.478 Cases

Neurosurgery 68:117–124, 2011 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e3181fcf14e

Unintended durotomy is a common complication of spinal surgery. However, the incidences reported in the literature vary widely and are based primarily on relatively small case numbers from a single surgeon or institution.

OBJECTIVE: To provide spine surgeons with a reliable incidence of unintended durotomy in spinal surgery and to assess various factors that may influence the risk of durotomy.

METHODS: We assessed 108.478 surgical cases prospectively submitted by members of the Scoliosis Research Society to a deidentified database from 2004 to 2007.

RESULTS: Unintended durotomy occurred in 1.6% (1745 of 108.478) of all cases. The incidence of unintended durotomy ranged from 1.1% to 1.9% on the basis of preoperative diagnosis, with the highest incidence among patients treated for kyphosis (1.9%) or spondylolisthesis (1.9%) and the lowest incidence among patients treated for scoliosis (1.1%). The most common indication for spine surgery was degenerative spinal disorder, and among these patients, there was a lower incidence of durotomy for cervical (1.0%) vs thoracic (2.2%; P = .01) or lumbar (2.1%, P < .001) cases. Scoliosis procedures were further characterized by etiology, with the highest incidence of durotomy in the degenerative subgroup (2.2% vs 1.1%; P < .001). Durotomy was more common in revision compared with primary surgery (2.2% vs 1.5%; P < .001) and was significantly more common among elderly (. 80 years of age) patients (2.2% vs 1.6%; P = .006). There was a significant association between unintended durotomy and development of a new neurological deficit (P < .001).

CONCLUSION: Unintended durotomy occurred in at least 1.6% of spinal surgeries, even among experienced surgeons. Our data provide general benchmarks of durotomy rates and serve as a basis for ongoing efforts to improve safety of care.