Arachnoid web of the spine: A systematic literature review

Peyton L. Nisson, Ibrahim Hussain, Roger Härtl, Samuel Kim, Ali A. Baaj*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE An arachnoid web of the spine (AWS) is a rare and oftentimes challenging lesion to diagnose, given its subtle radiographic findings. However, when left untreated, this lesion can have devastating effects on a patient’s neurological function. To date, only limited case reports and series have been published on this topic. In this study, the authors sought to better describe this lesion, performing a systematic literature review and including 2 cases from their institution’s experience. METHODS A systematic literature search was performed in September 2018 that queried Ovid MEDLINE (1946–2018), PubMed (1946–2018), Wiley Cochrane Library: Central Register of Controlled Trials (1898–2018), and Thompson Reuters Web of Science: Citation Index (1900–2018), per PRISMA guidelines. Inclusion criteria specified all studies and case reports of patients with an AWS in which any relevant surgery types were considered and applied. Studies on arachnoid cysts and nonhuman populations, and those that did not report patient treatments or outcomes were excluded from the focus review. RESULTS A total of 19 records and 2 patients treated by the senior authors were included in the systematic review, providing a total of 43 patients with AWS. The mean age was 52 years (range 28–77 years), and the majority of patients were male (72%, 31/43). A syrinx was present in 67% (29/43) of the cases. All AWSs were located in the thoracic spine, and all but 2 (95%) were located dorsally (1 ventrally and 1 circumferentially). Weakness was the most frequently reported symptom (67%, 29/43), followed by numbness and/or sensory loss (65%, 28/43). Symptoms predominated in the lower extremities (81%, 35/43). It was found that nearly half (47%, 20/43) of patients had been experiencing symptoms for 1 year or longer before surgical intervention was performed, and 35% (15/43) of reports stated that symptoms were progressive in nature. The most commonly used surgical technique was a laminectomy with intradural excision of the arachnoid web (86%, 36/42). Following surgery, 91% (39/43) of patients had reported improvement in their neurological symptoms. The mean follow-up was 9.2 months (range 0–51 months). CONCLUSIONS AWS of the spine can be a debilitating disease of the spine with no more than an indentation of the spinal cord found on advanced imaging studies. The authors found this lesion to be reported in twice as many males than females, to be associated with a syrinx more than two-thirds of the time, and to only have been reported in the thoracic spine; over 90% of patients experienced improvement in their neurological function following surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)175-184
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2019


  • Arachnoid web
  • Dorsal
  • Outcomes
  • Review
  • Spine
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Surgery


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