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Papers of the Week

2022 Nov




Concurrent Spinal and Intracranial Subdural Hematomas as a Cause of Near-Fatal Low Back Pain in the Chiropractic Office: A Case Report.


In older individuals, minor trauma may cause potentially fatal intracranial subdural hematoma (SDH). Rarely, these patients present with only low back and radicular pain as gravity redistributes the SDH to the lumbar spine. A 69-year-old male presented to a chiropractor with a 10-day history of acute on chronic low back pain, which radiated into his lower extremities bilaterally, involving weakness and difficulty walking, and a ground-level fall onto his elbows 16 days prior. He had visited his primary care provider, orthopedist, and traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, received oral analgesics and three ketorolac injections, and had lumbar radiographs, followed by acupuncture, cupping, and spinal manipulation without lasting relief. Considering the patient's concerning presentation, the chiropractor ordered lumbar magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on the first visit, revealing findings suggestive of late subacute lumbar SDH, and recommended urgent brain MRI and neurosurgical referral. The patient went to an orthopedic surgeon at a nearby hospital, becoming disoriented upon presentation, prompting admission. Brain MRI confirmed bilateral chronic intracranial SDH, prompting emergency hematoma evacuation via burr hole craniostomy. The patient's gait rapidly improved, and the pain subsided over the following two weeks. This case highlights an older male identified as having spinal SDH by a chiropractor, leading to referral and surgery for concurrent life-threatening intracranial SDH. Clinicians should be aware that spinal SDH may stem from asymptomatic intracranial SDH and should be suspicious of SDH in older individuals after a fall, signs of which warrant emergency referral for MRI and surgical evaluation.