, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 83-87
Date: 16 Oct 2009

Intracranial Venous Thrombosis After Placement of a Lumbar Drain

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Abstract

Background

Lumbar drains are frequently used in clinical neuroscience and are often managed in the neurointensive care unit. Complications are generally rare, and intracranial venous thrombosis (IVT) and infarction has not been reported.

Methods

We report the case of a 45-year-old woman who developed a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak after spinal surgery. Fifteen hours after placement of a lumbar drain she developed pure alexia and color agnosia caused by left lateral sinus thrombosis with hemorrhagic infarction in the posterior inferior left temporal lobe. We review the literature on the association of IVT with injury to the spinal dura, and we propose a mechanism whereby the lumbar drain may facilitate its development.

Results

We found 29 cases in which spinal dural injury was followed by IVT. The association is not coincidental, because nearly all cases were associated with post-dural puncture headache, which occurs in only a minority of cases of dural puncture. Injury to the spinal dura alters the distribution of craniospinal elasticity causing profound intracranial CSF hypotension on assuming the erect posture. This causes acute dilation of cerebral veins resulting in both orthostatic headache and venous stasis. We propose that placement of the lumbar drain and elevation of the head of the bed aggravated intracranial CSF hypotension and facilitated IVT.

Conclusions

When a lumbar drain is placed for treatment of a spinal CSF leak, the patient should remain flat in bed. Any patient with post-dural injury headache that intensifies after an initial plateau, persists for longer than a week, or loses its orthostatic character should be evaluated for intracranial sinus or venous thrombosis.