Medical College of Wisconsin
CTSICores SearchResearch InformaticsREDCap

Intracranial subdural empyema after surgery for lumbar lipomyelomeningocele: A rare complication. Surg Neurol Int 2016;7(Suppl 12):S301-4



Pubmed ID


Pubmed Central ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-84986249663   3 Citations


BACKGROUND: Surgery is routinely recommended for lumbar lipomyelomeningocele, especially in the setting of tethered cord syndrome. The most common complications are wound infections and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak, which remain confined to the surgical site. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no prior reports relating an intracranial subdural empyema following detethering surgery. Prompt diagnosis is essential since subdural empyema is a neurosurgical emergency.

CASE DESCRIPTION: The patient was an 11-month-old male who underwent detethering surgery for a lumbar lipomyelomeningocele. This was followed by wound drainage consistent with CSF leak, requiring revision. Cultures grew three aerobes (Escherichia coli, Enterococcus, and Klebsiella) and three anaerobes (Clostridium, Veillonella, and Bacteroides). He was started on cefepime, vancomycin, and flagyl. The patient required two more wound revisions and placement of an external ventricular drain (EVD) secondary to persistent wound leakage. A subsequent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain was carried out due to protracted irritability, which revealed extensive left subdural empyema along the parietooccipital region and the inferior and anterior temporal lobe. He underwent evacuation of the subdural empyema where cultures exhibited no growth. Subsequently, he progressed well. His lumbar incision continued to heal. Serial MRI brains and inflammatory markers were reassuring. He weaned off his EVD and went home to complete a 6-week course of antibiotics. Upon completion of his antibiotics, he returned for a clinic visit; he exhibited no interim fevers or wound issues; cranial imaging documented no evidence of a residual or recurrent subdural empyema.

CONCLUSION: Intracranial subdural empyema may occur after wound complications from detethering surgery despite early initiation of broad-spectrum antibiotics. Possible etiology may be local wound infection that seeds the subdural space and travels to the cranium, leading to meningitis and subdural empyema. Such a scenario should prompt surveillance imaging of the head as undiagnosed subdural empyema may lead to devastating consequences.

Author List

Nguyen HS, Foy A, Havens P


Andrew Foy MD Associate Professor in the Neurosurgery department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Peter L. Havens MD Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin