Alice Giotta Lucifero, Cristian Gragnaniello, Matias Baldoncini, Alvaro Campero, Gabriele Savioli, Nicola Tartaglia, Antonio Ambrosi, Sabino Luzzi

November 2021, Volume 30, Issue 11, pp 3172 - 3190 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06956-4

First Online: 19 August 2021


To assess the rate, timing of diagnosis, and repairing strategies of vascular injuries in thoracic and lumbar spine surgery as their relationship to the approach.


PubMed, Medline, and Embase databases were utilized for a comprehensive literature search based on keywords and mesh terms to find articles reporting iatrogenic vascular injury during thoracic and lumbar spine surgery. English articles published in the last ten years were selected. The search was refined based on best match and relevance.


Fifty-six articles were eligible, for a cumulative volume of 261 lesions. Vascular injuries occurred in 82% of instrumented procedures and in 59% during anterior approaches. The common iliac vein (CIV) was the most involved vessel, injured in 49% of anterior lumbar approaches. Common iliac artery, CIV, and aorta were affected in 40%, 28%, and 28% of posterior approaches, respectively. Segmental arteries were injured in 68% of lateral approaches. Direct vessel laceration occurred in 81% of cases and recognized intraoperatively in 39% of cases.


Incidence of iatrogenic vascular injuries during thoracic and lumbar spine surgery is low but associated with an overall mortality rate up to 65%, of which less than 1% for anterior approaches and more than 50% for posterior ones.

Anterior approaches for instrumented procedures are at risk of direct avulsion of CIV. Posterior instrumented fusions are at risk for injuries of iliac vessels and aorta. Lateral routes are frequently associated with lesions of segmental vessels. Suture repair and endovascular techniques are useful in the management of these severe complications.

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