Spontaneous Spinal Epidural Hematomas in Pregnancy: A Systematic Review.


Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand. Electronic address: [Email]


BACKGROUND : Spontaneous spinal epidural hematomas (SSEH) are rare yet severe conditions. In pregnancy, this condition is challenging to diagnose and treat because of the risks to the mother and fetus. This study reviews the literature on SSEHs in pregnancy.
METHODS : We performed a systematic review of the English literature on SSEHs from 1990 until 2018. Outcome measures were mode of presentation, risk factors, initial neurologic findings, diagnostic investigations, site and size of the SSEH, treatment, neurologic recovery, and survival.
RESULTS : Fourteen publications (16 patients) were included. Two patients presented in the second trimester, with the remainder in the third trimester. All patients presented with back pain, and 15 subsequently developed spinal cord dysfunction. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed in all cases. The cervicothoracic region was the most commonly affected, and the average hematoma size extended across 3.9 vertebral levels. All patients with neurologic dysfunction underwent surgical decompression. In women under 32 weeks' gestation, caesarean section was not routinely performed. In contrast, women of gestational age of 32 weeks or more underwent a caesarean section prior to spinal decompression. Women without neurologic dysfunction underwent a caesarean section and neurologic monitoring without decompression. All patients with abnormal neurology improved after surgery, except 1 patient. No patients died.
CONCLUSIONS : In pregnancy, SSEHs typically present in the second or third trimesters with back pain, predominantly in the cervicothoracic region, followed by progressive neurologic dysfunction. MRI is diagnostic, and the treatment depends on the patient's neurologic dysfunction and gestational age.