Perioperative complications associated with spinal fusion have been investigated steadily to reduce morbidity and mortality. Although there are several reports reviewing abdominal complications occurring with anterior spinal fusion, complications related to posterior spinal fusion (PSF) are rare. However, abdominal compartment syndrome (ACS) after PSF could be the most fatal and unpredictable complication in spinal surgery.
This 73-year-old man with body mass index (BMI) of 23.02, and surgical history of appendectomy 10 years prior complained of severe nausea and vomiting on the second postoperative day of L4-5 transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF). By postoperative day 4, he presented with dyspnea and fever, and the first diagnostic impression suggested aspiration pneumonia due to vomiting. Physical examination revealed severe abdominal distention and tenderness to palpation at most of the abdomen. Computed tomography (CT) scan of abdomen and chest revealed left inguinal hernia of the small bowel with incarceration suggesting intra-abdominal hypertension (IAH), and multifocal peri-bronchial consolidation in both lungs, respectively. His respiratory symptoms progressed to respiratory failure, and he was finally mechanically ventilated in conjunction with antibiotics. After 2 weeks of intensive care, the patient’s symptom had improved, and finally he was transferred to a nursing facility.
IAH and ACS rarely occur as abdominal complications of PSF. We suggest several risk factors including body mass index, abdominal surgical history, and long segment fusion for development of abdominal complications.