Indexed on: 17 Dec '09Published on: 17 Dec '09Published in: Spine
STUDY DESIGN.: A case report and review of the literature. OBJECTIVE.: To discuss the significance of identifying symptomatic epidural pneumorrhachis associated with an occult pneumomediastinum in the absence of pneumothorax and subcutaneous emphysema after minor trauma. SUMMARY OF BACKGROUND DATA.: Pneumorrhachis is defined as the presence of air in the epidural space or subarachnoid space. Previous reports have suggested that traumatic epidural pneumorrhachis was usually asymptomatic and a combination of pneumothorax, pneumomediastinum, and subcutaneous emphysema following major trauma and managed by conservative treatment. METHODS.: A 53-year-old man was admitted to the emergency department after the traffic collision. He presented with diffuse pain ranging from the neck to back, and complained of radiating shoulder pain. RESULTS.: The lateral cervical spine radiograph revealed an air shadow in the anterior cervical space. Axial image of cervical spine computed tomography (CT) revealed epidural pneumorrhachis. The sagittal reconstruction image of neck CT showed a small amount of air in the posterior mediastinum, and scattered air in the anterior cervical spinal canal. Our patient was treated conservatively and had a complete and uneventful recovery. CONCLUSION.: To our knowledge, this is the first case in which symptomatic traumatic epidural pneumorrhachis was associated with an occult pneumomediastinum in the absence of pneumothorax and subcutaneous emphysema. These findings may be useful in alerting trauma specialists to carefully evaluate the associated pathologies leading to pneumorrhachis enabling adequate therapy.