David Christopher Kieser, Derek Thomas Cawley, Takashi Fujishiro, Cecile Roscop, Louis Boissiere, Ibrahim Obeid, Olivier Gille, Jean-Marc Vital, Vincent Pointillart

March 2019, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 463 - 469 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-017-5364-4

First Online: 26 October 2017


Firstly, to describe two cases of cerebral ischaemia complicating anterior upper thoracic spinal surgery and define the likely cause of this complication. Secondly, to describe preventative measures and the effect these have had in reducing this complication within our institution.


Firstly, a review of two cases of cerebral ischaemia complicating anterior upper thoracic spinal surgery utilizing a partial manubrial resection. Secondly, cadaveric dissections of the carotid arteries to determine the effect of neck positioning and aortic arch retraction during a simulated procedure. Thirdly, a retrospective review of 65 consecutive cases undergoing this procedure and assessment of the rate of this complication before and after the adoption of preventative measures.


Two cases of carotid artery territory cerebral ischaemia, without radiographic evidence of carotid or cardiac pathology were identified in 50 consecutive cases prior to the implementation of preventative measures. These patients revealed fluctuating hemodynamic instability after placement of the inferior retractor. Cadaveric dissection reveals significant carotid artery traction particularly with neck extension. Since the adoption of preventative measures, no cases of cerebral ischaemia have been encountered.


Cerebral ischaemia is a potential complication of anterior upper thoracic spinal surgery requiring retraction of the aortic arch. This most likely occurs from carotid stenosis due to aortic retraction and therefore, may be reduced by positioning the patient with neck flexion. Continuous non-invasive monitoring of cerebral saturation, as well as actively monitoring for hemodynamic instability and reduced carotid pulsation after retractor placement, allows for early detection of this complication. If detected, perfusion can be easily restored by reducing the retraction of aortic arch.

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