Foraminal deposition of calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate crystals in the thoracic spine: possible relationship with disc herniation and implications for surgical planning. Report of two cases.

Sergio Paolini, Pasquale Ciappetta, Antonio Guiducci, Massimo Principi, Paolo Missori, Roberto Delfini

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The authors report two cases of nodular calcium pyrophosphate dihydrate (CPPD) crystal deposition close to the thoracic neural foramen, which caused chronic radiculopathy. Preoperatively, the lesions were interpreted as calcified disc herniations. Both patients underwent surgery in which an extended transfacet pedicle-sparing approach was used. Incision of the posterior longitudinal ligament released soft degenerated material. In both cases, histological examination showed abundant degenerative debris along with CPPD crystals. Spinal CPPD deposition is a comparatively rare disease that almost invariably involves the posterior aspect of the spinal canal, typically the ligamentum flavum. The exceptional foraminal location of the lesions reported here, combined with the surgical findings, indicated that the CPPD crystals were deposited on a laterally herniated disc fragment. A distinctive feature in both cases was the soft consistency of the resected tissue. The consistency of the disc material and the location of the lesion in the axial plane (that is, median compared with lateral) are key factors in determining the optimal surgical approach to thoracic disc herniations. In describing consistency, terms such as "calcified" and "hard" have been used interchangeably in the literature. In the cases reported here, what appeared on computerized tomography and magnetic resonance imaging studies to be densely calcified lesions were shown intraoperatively to be soft herniations. The authors' experience underscores that not all densely calcified herniated discs are hard. Although detection of this discrepancy would have left surgical planning for the lateral disc herniations unchanged, it could have altered planning for centrally or centrolaterally located disc herniations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-78
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Surgery
  • Neurology

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