Transcatheter arterial embolisation of intercostal vessels is a minimally invasive procedure that is increasingly being used in the management of haemothorax in the trauma patient, however significant complications – such as spinal ischaemia can occur. We present a rare case of paralysis in a patient following embolisation of the intercostal arteries due to bleeding from penetrating trauma.
A 46-year-old male presented to the Emergency department with two stab wounds to the right posterior chest. Computed tomography scan of the chest revealed active contrast extravasation from the right 9th intercostal artery. Selective embolisation of the right 9th intercostal artery using Gelfoam® and coils as well as further embolisation of the 7th, 8th and 10th intercostal arteries was performed. Unfortunately due to ongoing bleeding and hypotension, the patient subsequently required emergency surgery that revealed two penetrating injuries to the right inferior lobe of the lung. After the patient was extubated, he was found to have bilateral motor from the level of L4 and below and sensory deficits from L2 and below. Magnetic resonance imaging of the spine showed spinal cord infarction at the level of T11 and T12 that was thought to be secondary to the embolisation of the intercostal arteries inadvertently affecting the artery of Adamkiewicz.
Transcatheter arterial embolisation has an established roll in haemostasis of the trauma patient – particularly in intercostal arteries for the management of haemothorax. Although extremely rare, spinal complications from this procedure can be significantly life changing for the patient. The variable anatomy of the artery of Adamkiewicz should be carefully considered on a case-by-base basis in the stable trauma patient and balance of risk versus benefit be determined if the artery is unable to be identified on pre-procedure angiography.