Retroperitoneal lymphocele after anterior spinal surgery

Alpesh A. Patel, William R. Spiker, Michael D. Daubs, Darrel S. Brodke, Ivan Cheng, Robert E. Glasgow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Study Design. Case report; Review of Literature. Objective. To present an uncommon complication after anterior lumbar surgery as well as a treatment option and a review of the literature. Summary of Background Data. A number of complications have been reported after anterior lumbar surgery. Common complications include vascular, ureteral, and neurologic injuries. The development of a retroperitoneal lymphocele has been previously been described, but details regarding evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment options are lacking in the literature. Methods. The case of a single patient with a postoperative retroperitoneal lymphocele was identified and retrospectively reviewed. Permission was obtained from the patient to review and publish this information. A review of literature on lymphoceles and anterior lumbar complications was also performed using PubMed and Ovid databases. RESULTS. A 76-year-old woman underwent anterior interbody fusion from L2-L3-L4-L5, followed by posterior T11-L5 fusion for degenerative scoliosis and spinal stenosis. Six weeks after surgery, she presented with severe abdominal pain, nausea, and emesis. Examination revealed a retroperitoneal lymphocele, which was confirmed after aspiration. The patient was treated with a laparoscopic marsupialization procedure without recurrence. At 12 months, the patient had no further abdominal symptoms, noted improvements in back and leg pain scores, and had stable radiographic findings. Conclusion. Retroperitoneal lymphocele is a rare complication after anterior lumbar interbody fusion. The different diagnosis should include infectious abscess, ureteral injury with urinoma, pancreatic injury with pseudocyst formation, and spinal fluid leak with pseudomeningocele. Diagnosis can be guided by serum and cyst fluid analysis. Although treatment options exist, surgical treatment may provide the most reliable results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E648-E652
Issue number18
StatePublished - Aug 15 2008


  • Anterior lumbar surgery
  • Complication
  • Lymphocele
  • Operative treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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