Neurology India
menu-bar5 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus
  Users online: 2298  
 Home | Login 
About Editorial board Articlesmenu-bullet NSI Publicationsmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Videos Etcetera Contact
  Navigate Here 
 Resource Links
  »  Similar in PUBMED
 »  Search Pubmed for
 »  Search in Google Scholar for
  »  Article in PDF (1,027 KB)
  »  Citation Manager
  »  Access Statistics
  »  Reader Comments
  »  Email Alert *
  »  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

  In this Article
 »  References
 »  Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded42    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 1    

Recommend this journal


Table of Contents    
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 139-141

Isolated subarachnoid pneumorrhachis

1 Diskapi Education and Research Hospital, Neurosurgery Clinic, Irfan Bastug cad. Diskapi, Ankara, Turkey
2 Mus State Hospital, Neurosurgery Clinic, Mus, Turkey

Date of Submission17-Nov-2010
Date of Decision08-Dec-2010
Date of Acceptance20-Dec-2010
Date of Web Publication18-Feb-2011

Correspondence Address:
Bora Gurer
Diskapi Education and Research Hospital, Neurosurgery Clinic, Irfan Bastug cad. Diskapi, Ankara
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.76883

Rights and Permissions

How to cite this article:
Dolgun H, Gurer B, Sari O, Sekerci Z. Isolated subarachnoid pneumorrhachis. Neurol India 2011;59:139-41

How to cite this URL:
Dolgun H, Gurer B, Sari O, Sekerci Z. Isolated subarachnoid pneumorrhachis. Neurol India [serial online] 2011 [cited 2023 Dec 11];59:139-41. Available from:


A 19-year-old man was admitted to the emergency department for a stab injury on his back with a knife. Physical examination revealed a 3-cm puncture wound at the level of the T9-T10 vertebrae. Neurological examination was essentially normal. Plain radiographies of the head, chest and spine were also normal. Computed tomography (CT) [Figure 1], and three-dimentional reconstruction of the thoracic spine CT [Figure 2] revealed air within the spinal canal at the T9-T11 level. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the thoracic spine revealed subarachnoid air and also an 4-5-mm epidural hematoma at the T9-T11 level [Figure 3]a-c. CT of the head, thorax and abdomen showed no pathologies.
Figure 1: Axial CT of T12 vertebra demonstrating intraspinal air

Click here to view
Figure 2: Three-dimensional reconstruction of T9-T11 vertebra CT revealed spinal air

Click here to view
Figure 3a: Sagittal MRI of thoracic spine showing subarachnoid air at T9 and T11 levels
Figure 3b: Axial MRI of T9 level showing subarachnoid air
Figure 3c: Axial MRI of T11 level showing epidural hematoma

Click here to view

The initial diagnosis was subarachnoid pneumorrhachis and epidural hematoma. Patient was started on antibiotics for the prophylaxis. During the hospital stay there was no neurological deterioration or any development of cerebrospinal fluid fistula. He was discharged on Day 10. The follow-up MRI taken after one month showed resolution of air pact and epidural hematoma.

Pneumorrhachis, air in the spinal canal is an unusual condition and only few case reports have been published in the English literature. [1] The most common cause of pneumorrhachis is trauma or iatrogenic manipulations; other rare causes include respiratory complications, malignancies, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, inhalational drug abuse, diabetic ketoacidosis-associated emesis, degenerative disc disease and spontaneous pneumorrhachis. [2]

Air within the spinal canal may be seen in the epidural or subarachnoid space; the former is more common, and the latter is extremely rare. [1] Traumatic pneumorrhachis with air in the subarachnoid space is an extremely rare entity and as a rule, is almost always seen in association with air in other body cavities/spaces; pneumocephalus, pneumothorax, pneumomediastium, pneumopericardium or subcutaneous emphysema. [2],[3],[4],[5],[6] Isolated traumatic subarachnoid pneumorrhachis is a unique condition and only one published case of isolated subarachnoid pneumorrhachis of the cervical spine caused by stab wound has been published. [3]

Pneumorrhachis is usually asymptomatic and the diagnosis is primarily radiologic. [2] CT is the initial imaging modality; however, detection of air may not be always possible if the air is extradural or intradural. [2] The pressure in the epidural space is much lower than that in the subarachnoid space, by this way, atmospheric air passing through the puncture, then enters to the epidural space. [7] When there is associated arachnoid damage it may then enter the subarachnoid space. Magnetic resonance imaging and intrathecal contrast CT scan are the investigative modalities to detect extradural or intradural air. The limitation of intrathecal contrast CT is that it may be impossible to exclude the possibility of lumbar-puncture-related air in the subarachnoid space.

There are no set treatment guidelines as traumatic pneumorrhachis, both asymptomatic and symptomatic, is a rare condition. The presence of pneumorrhachis implies an open injury and is associated with the possible risk of meningitis. The general approach is conservative with meningitis prophylaxis unless there is neurologic deterioration. [8]

 » References Top

1.Goh BK, Yeo AW. Traumatic pneumorrhachis. J Trauma 2005;58:875-9.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Oertel MF, Korinth MC, Reinges MH, Krings T, Terbeck S, Gilsbach JM. Pathogenesis, diagnosis and management of pneumorrhachis. Eur Spine J 2006;5:636-43.   Back to cited text no. 2
3.Alkan A, Baysal T, Saras K, Sigirci A, Kutlu R. Early MRI findings in stab wound of the cervical spine: Two case reports. Neuroradiology 2002;44:64-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Inamasu J, Nakamura Y, Saito R, Kuroshima Y, Ichikizaki K. Air in the spinal canal after skull base fracture. Am J Emerg Med 2002;20:64-5.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Cayli SR, Koçak A, Kutlu R, Tekiner A. Spinal pneumorrhachis. Br J Neurosurg 2003;17:72-4.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Kaya U, Akay H, Arslan ED, Günaydn M, Büyükcam F, Tez M. Traumatic pneumorrhachis in a child: Case report. Pediatr Emerg Care 2010;26:852-3.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Lin LC, Liao LM, Yang RC. Pneumorrhachis following lumbar puncture: A case report. Kaohsiung J Med Sci 2006;22:39-43.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Yousaf I, Flynn P, McConnell R. Symptomatic intraspinal pneumocoele resulting from closed head injury. Br J Neurosurg 2003;17:248-9.  Back to cited text no. 8


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

This article has been cited by
1 Epidural Pneumatosis Complicating Pneumocystis jiroveci Pneumonia in a Patient With AIDS
Justin Tomal,Nirav Shah,John Schneider
Infectious Diseases in Clinical Practice. 2013; : 1
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
Online since 20th March '04
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow