AIMS: Our aim was to perform a systematic review of the literature to assess the incidence of post-operative epidural haematomas and wound infections after one-, or two-level, non-complex, lumbar surgery for degenerative disease in patients with, or without post-operative wound drainage.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Studies were identified from PubMed and EMBASE, up to and including 27 August 2015, for papers describing one- or two-level lumbar discectomy and/or laminectomy for degenerative disease in adults which reported any form of subcutaneous or subfascial drainage.
RESULTS: Eight papers describing 1333 patients were included. Clinically relevant post-operative epidural haematomas occurred in two (0.15%), and wound infections in ten (0.75%) patients. Epidural haematomas occurred in two (0.47%) patients who had wound drainage (n = 423) and in none of those without wound drainage (n = 910). Wound infections occurred in two (0.47%) patients with wound drainage and in eight (0.88%) patients without wound drainage.
CONCLUSION: These data suggest that the routine use of a wound drain in non-complex lumbar surgery does not prevent post-operative epidural haematomas and that the absence of a drain does not lead to a significant change in the incidence of wound infection. Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2016;98-B:984-9.