Occam paradox? A variation of tapia syndrome and an unreported complication of guidewire-assisted pedicle screw insertion Journal Article uri icon


  • Study Design Case report. Clinical Question The clinical aim is to report on a previously unknown association between guidewire-assisted pedicle screw insertion and neuropraxia of the recurrent laryngeal nerve (RLN), and how this may overlap with the signs of Tapia syndrome; we also report our approach to the clinical management of this patient. Methods A 17-year-old male patient with idiopathic scoliosis experienced Tapia syndrome after posterior instrumentation and arthrodesis at the level of T1-L1. After extubation, the patient had a hoarse voice and difficulty in swallowing. Imaging showed a breach in the cortex of the anterior body of T1 corresponding to the RLN on the right. Results Otolaryngological examination noted right vocal fold immobility, decreased sensation of the endolarynx, and pooling of secretions on flexible laryngoscopy that indicated right-sided cranial nerve X injury and left-sided tongue deviation. Aspiration during a modified barium swallow prompted insertion of a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube before the patient was sent home. On postoperative day 20, a barium swallow demonstrated reduced aspiration, and the patient reported complete resolution of symptoms. The feeding tube was removed, and the patient resumed a normal diet 1 month later. Tapia syndrome, or persistent unilateral laryngeal and hypoglossal paralysis, is an uncommon neuropraxia, which has previously not been observed in association with a breached vertebral body at T1 along the course of the RLN. Conclusion: Tapia syndrome should be a differential diagnostic consideration whenever these symptoms persist postoperatively and spine surgeons should be aware of this as a potential complication of guidewires in spinal instrumentation.

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publication date

  • 2013