Study Design. Retrospective medical record review and literature review.
Objective. To identify cases where a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak occurred during an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and to create a management algorithm based on the findings.
Summary of Background Data. ACDF is a commonly performed spinal operation. It is effective with very low complication rates. One rare complication of ACDF is a CSF leak. There is limited information on the management of CSF leaks after ACDF and management is on a surgeon-by-surgeon basis.
Methods. We reviewed 3 surgeons' case logs and identified cases where a CSF leak was encountered during ACDF and reviewed the patients' medical records, operative reports and imaging to determine how these leaks were managed. We also performed a PubMed search for articles about the presentation and management of CSF leaks after ACDF.
Results. Thirteen CSF leaks were identified in 1223 ACDFs, corresponding to a CSF leak rate of 1%. Of these, 9 were successfully treated with intraoperative repair. Postoperative lumbar drainage was used in the remaining 4 patients and was successful in 1 patient. Three patients underwent neck re-exploration and attempted delayed repair. Three patients, including one who was found to have hydrocephalus, ultimately required continuous CSF diversion via shunting. We identified 7 case reports of CSF leak in ADCF in the literature and 1 article that reviewed the prevalence and management of this complication.
Conclusion. CSF leak after ACDF is an uncommon complication that can usually be repaired. We provide a stepwise management strategy for CSF leaks in ACDF.
Level of Evidence: 5