Epidural hematoma due to Gardner-Wells Tongs placement during pediatric spinal deformity surgery

Richard Menger, James Lin, Meghan Cerpa, Lawrence G. Lenke

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Background: To our knowledge, this is the first documented report of an operative cranial epidural hematoma secondary to skull fracture due to placement of Gardner-Wells Tongs (GWT) in the setting of a spinal deformity reconstruction. Purpose: The objective is to illustrate the possibility of cranial pathology secondary to GWT placement and the need to properly correlate intraoperative neuromonitoring findings. Study design: Case report. Methods: A 14-year-old male with Marfan’s Syndrome presented for three-column osteotomy spinal reconstruction for a large and stiff thoracic kyphoscoliosis. Gardner-Wells Tongs (GWT) was placed prior to prone positioning to provide neck stability without issue. During the lumbar posterior column osteotomies the patient began to lose upper and lower extremity motor data. This indicated a cranial pathology. A temporary rod was placed on the concavity and an emergent flip without closure was performed. Upon flip, the patient was fixed and dilated with only right corneal reflex. The patient was rushed to the CT scanner where a large right-sided epidural hematoma was noted with a temporal bone fracture at the pin site, with the patient’s right temporal bone noted to be only 1.3 mm in thickness. Results: The patient underwent emergent epidural hematoma evacuation by the Neurosurgical team. The patient was discharged to rehabilitation 1 week after his cranial epidural hematoma surgery with a complete recovery including with full strength examination of all extremities. He subsequently underwent a definitive posterior spinal fusion with posterior column osteotomies 8 weeks later. Conclusion: Cranial pin fixation has the rare possibility to produce cranial pathology and has a specific complication protocol. Proper utilization and interpretation of neuromonitoring is essential to aid in intraoperative decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1142
Number of pages4
JournalSpine Deformity
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Epidural hematoma
  • Marfan’s
  • Neuromonitoring
  • Spinal deformity


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