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Contrast mimicking a subarachnoid hemorrhage after lumbar percutaneous epidural neuroplasty: a case report

Chang Hyun Oh, Seong Dae An, Seung Hyun Choi and Gyu Yeul Ji*

Author Affiliations

Department of Neurosurgery, Guro Teun Teun Hospital, 1126-34, Guro 3-dong, Guro-gu, Seoul 152-880, Republic of Korea

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Journal of Medical Case Reports 2013, 7:88  doi:10.1186/1752-1947-7-88

Published: 2 April 2013



Subarachnoid hemorrhage is one of the most feared acute neurologic events. Accurate diagnosis of subarachnoid hemorrhage is essential, and computed tomography of the brain is the first diagnostic imaging study. However, in rare circumstances, a similar appearance may occur in the absence of blood in the subarachnoid space. The contrast enhancement of subarachnoid space is a rare complication after lumbar percutaneous epidural neuroplasty, with, to the best of our knowledge, no previous report in the literature.

Case presentation

A 42-year-old Korean male patient, who underwent a spinal operation five years previously at the level of L4 to S1, visited our clinic with persistent and aggravating low back pain. An imaging study revealed the focal and diffuse disc protrusion at the level of L4/5 and L5/S1. The clinician decided to perform a lumbar percutaneous epidural neuroplasty. During the procedure, dural adhesion was suspected at the previously operated level, and the neuroplasty catheter was malpositioned into the intradural space on the first attempt. After the catheter was repositioned, the scheduled epidural neuroplasty was completed. Our patient had no definite abnormal neurological signs. But, after a day, our patient complained of severe headache with sustained high blood pressure without neurological disorientation. Computed tomography of his brain showed a subarachnoid hemorrhage-like appearance with intracranial air. Sequential angiography, subtractional magnetic resonance imaging and examination of the cerebrospinal fluid revealed no abnormalities. Follow-up computed tomography after one day revealed no definite intracranial hemorrhage, and our patient was discharged with improved low back pain without neurological deficit.


We report a rare case of contrast mimicking a subarachnoid hemorrhage after lumbar percutaneous epidural neuroplasty. The physician should keep in mind a rare case like this, and the supine position with head elevation is necessary to avoid a similar complication after lumbar percutaneous epidural neuroplasty.