A rare case of concomitant pneumocephalus and pneumorachis after lumbar spine surgery with late presenting dural leak

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We report a case of pneumocephalus and pneumorachis i.e., air in the cranial cavity and the spinal canal, which are rarely associated with a primary spinal cause. Their concomitant occurrence and association with a late presenting dural leak are also uncommon.

Case presentation

A 70-year-old man presented 1 month after decompressive surgery for lumbar canal stenosis with leakage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) from the wound site and severe headache. There were no signs of surgical site infection or meningitis. There was no intraoperative or immediate postoperative evidence of dural tear. He was neurologically intact. On detailed work-up, he was found to have air collections in the subarachnoid and intraventricular spaces in the brain and intraspinal air in both the cervical and the lumbar regions. He showed gradual resolution of these findings radiologically and symptomatic improvement through conservative management with analgesics, empirical antibiotics, high flow oxygen, and maintenance of hydration within 1 month.


Pneumocephalus and pneumorachis are commonly seen after trauma. Spine surgery is a rare cause. They may present with symptoms similar to meningitis and may be erroneously diagnosed and treated. No standard treatment guidelines exist in the literature. Most cases have been managed conservatively. Early detection may allow noninvasive management leading to complete resolution.

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The authors would like to thank the patient and his family to give consent for reporting of this case.

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Correspondence to Mayank Gupta.

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Gupta, M., Kumar Varma, K.K. & Singh Chhabra, H. A rare case of concomitant pneumocephalus and pneumorachis after lumbar spine surgery with late presenting dural leak. Spinal Cord Ser Cases 5, 86 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41394-019-0235-3

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