Safe discharge of patients from an ambulatory care center after incidental durotomy during minimally invasive spine surgery

Thomas L. Francavilla, Michael C. Weiss, Reginald Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Incidental durotomy is a well-known complication of spinal surgery that may occur occasionally. Increasingly, minimally invasive techniques are being used for spinal decompressions in an ambulatory surgical center (ASC) setting. The management of this complication in an ASC setting has not been reported. Methods: A total of 832 consecutive minimally invasive decompressive spinal surgeries were performed by a single surgeon in an ASC during the course of 1 year. Incidental durotomies with cerebrospinal fluid leakage were repaired and patients were discharged to home. Patients with a watertight suture dural repair did not receive any modifications to the usual discharge activities allowed. All other patients were treated with bed rest overnight and head of bed restrictions. A protocol for close patient follow-up after discharge was followed. The complications were collected prospectively and analyzed retrospectively. Results: There were 30 incidental durotomies (3.6%), with all occurring in the lumbar spine. Suture repair was accomplished in 28 patients (93%). Patch repair was performed in 2 patients (7%). All patients were discharged to home from the ASC. There were 2 short-term complications noted after discharge. The patient safety protocols in place identified the complications and allowed timely interventions. Conclusions: Incidental durotomy occurring during minimally invasive spinal decompressive surgery is an occasional event. Suture repair of the laceration is feasible in most instances. Lumbar spine patients may be safely discharged to home from the ASC. Patients can be stratified into those with, or without, a watertight suture dural closure. Those with such a closure, who are without symptoms of intracranial hypotension, do not require modification of their activities. A short period of bedrest with head of bed modification successfully treated the remainder. Hospitalization or routine prolonged bed rest is not necessary. Protocols must be put in place to identify and timely manage potentially serious sequelae.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)386-391
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Journal of Spine Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Ambulatory surgery
  • CSF leakage
  • Complications
  • Dural repair
  • Incidental durotomy
  • Minimally invasive spine surgery
  • Patient safety
  • Safety protocol
  • Surgical technique

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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