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Jacob K. Greenberg, Donna B. Jeffe, Christopher R. Carpenter, Yan Yan, Jose A. Pineda, Angela Lumba-Brown, Martin S. Keller, Daniel Berger, Robert J. Bollo, Vijay M. Ravindra, Robert P. Naftel, Michael C. Dewan, Manish N. Shah, Erin C. Burns, Brent R. O’Neill, Todd C. Hankinson, William E. Whitehead, P. David Adelson, Mandeep S. Tamber, Patrick J. McDonald, Edward S. Ahn, William Titsworth, Alina N. West, Ross C. Brownson, and David D. Limbrick Jr.

OBJECTIVE

There remains uncertainty regarding the appropriate level of care and need for repeating neuroimaging among children with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) complicated by intracranial injury (ICI). This study’s objective was to investigate physician practice patterns and decision-making processes for these patients in order to identify knowledge gaps and highlight avenues for future investigation.

METHODS

The authors surveyed residents, fellows, and attending physicians from the following pediatric specialties: emergency medicine; general surgery; neurosurgery; and critical care. Participants came from 10 institutions in the United States and an email list maintained by the Canadian Neurosurgical Society. The survey asked respondents to indicate management preferences for and experiences with children with mTBI complicated by ICI, focusing on an exemplar clinical vignette of a 7-year-old girl with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15 and a 5-mm subdural hematoma without midline shift after a fall down stairs.

RESULTS

The response rate was 52% (n = 536). Overall, 326 (61%) respondents indicated they would recommend ICU admission for the child in the vignette. However, only 62 (12%) agreed/strongly agreed that this child was at high risk of neurological decline. Half of respondents (45%; n = 243) indicated they would order a planned follow-up CT (29%; n = 155) or MRI scan (19%; n = 102), though only 64 (12%) agreed/strongly agreed that repeat neuroimaging would influence their management. Common factors that increased the likelihood of ICU admission included presence of a focal neurological deficit (95%; n = 508 endorsed), midline shift (90%; n = 480) or an epidural hematoma (88%; n = 471). However, 42% (n = 225) indicated they would admit all children with mTBI and ICI to the ICU. Notably, 27% (n = 143) of respondents indicated they had seen one or more children with mTBI and intracranial hemorrhage demonstrate a rapid neurological decline when admitted to a general ward in the last year, and 13% (n = 71) had witnessed this outcome at least twice in the past year.

CONCLUSIONS

Many physicians endorse ICU admission and repeat neuroimaging for pediatric mTBI with ICI, despite uncertainty regarding the clinical utility of those decisions. These results, combined with evidence that existing practice may provide insufficient monitoring to some high-risk children, emphasize the need for validated decision tools to aid the management of these patients.

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Nikita G. Alexiades, Edward S. Ahn, Jeffrey P. Blount, Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Samuel R. Browd, Gerald A. Grant, Gregory G. Heuer, Todd C. Hankinson, Bermans J. Iskandar, Andrew Jea, Mark D. Krieger, Jeffrey R. Leonard, David D. Limbrick Jr., Cormac O. Maher, Mark R. Proctor, David I. Sandberg, John C. Wellons III, Belinda Shao, Neil A. Feldstein, and Richard C. E. Anderson

OBJECTIVE

Complications after complex tethered spinal cord (cTSC) surgery include infections and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks. With little empirical evidence to guide management, there is variability in the interventions undertaken to limit complications. Expert-based best practices may improve the care of patients undergoing cTSC surgery. Here, authors conducted a study to identify consensus-driven best practices.

METHODS

The Delphi method was employed to identify consensual best practices. A literature review regarding cTSC surgery together with a survey of current practices was distributed to 17 board-certified pediatric neurosurgeons. Thirty statements were then formulated and distributed to the group. Results of the second survey were discussed during an in-person meeting leading to further consensus, which was defined as ≥ 80% agreement on a 4-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree).

RESULTS

Seventeen consensus-driven best practices were identified, with all participants willing to incorporate them into their practice. There were four preoperative interventions: (1, 2) asymptomatic AND symptomatic patients should be referred to urology preoperatively, (3, 4) routine preoperative urine cultures are not necessary for asymptomatic AND symptomatic patients. There were nine intraoperative interventions: (5) patients should receive perioperative cefazolin or an equivalent alternative in the event of allergy, (6) chlorhexidine-based skin preparation is the preferred regimen, (7) saline irrigation should be used intermittently throughout the case, (8) antibiotic-containing irrigation should be used following dural closure, (9) a nonlocking running suture technique should be used for dural closure, (10) dural graft overlay should be used when unable to obtain primary dural closure, (11) an expansile dural graft should be incorporated in cases of lipomyelomeningocele in which primary dural closure does not permit free flow of CSF, (12) paraxial muscles should be closed as a layer separate from the fascia, (13) routine placement of postoperative drains is not necessary. There were three postoperative interventions: (14) postoperative antibiotics are an option and, if given, should be discontinued within 24 hours; (15) patients should remain flat for at least 24 hours postoperatively; (16) routine use of abdominal binders or other compressive devices postoperatively is not necessary. One intervention was prioritized for additional study: (17) further study of additional gram-negative perioperative coverage is needed.

CONCLUSIONS

A modified Delphi technique was used to develop consensus-driven best practices for decreasing wound complications after cTSC surgery. Further study is required to determine if implementation of these practices will lead to reduced complications. Discussion through the course of this study resulted in the initiation of a multicenter study of gram-negative surgical site infections in cTSC surgery.

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Brandon G. Rocque, Bonita S. Agee, Eric M. Thompson, Mark Piedra, Lissa C. Baird, Nathan R. Selden, Stephanie Greene, Christopher P. Deibert, Todd C. Hankinson, Sean M. Lew, Bermans J. Iskandar, Taryn M. Bragg, David Frim, Gerald Grant, Nalin Gupta, Kurtis I. Auguste, Dimitrios C. Nikas, Michael Vassilyadi, Carrie R. Muh, Nicholas M. Wetjen, and Sandi K. Lam

OBJECTIVE

In children, the repair of skull defects arising from decompressive craniectomy presents a unique set of challenges. Single-center studies have identified different risk factors for the common complications of cranioplasty resorption and infection. The goal of the present study was to determine the risk factors for bone resorption and infection after pediatric cranioplasty.

METHODS

The authors conducted a multicenter retrospective case study that included all patients who underwent cranioplasty to correct a skull defect arising from a decompressive craniectomy at 13 centers between 2000 and 2011 and were less than 19 years old at the time of cranioplasty. Prior systematic review of the literature along with expert opinion guided the selection of variables to be collected. These included: indication for craniectomy; history of abusive head trauma; method of bone storage; method of bone fixation; use of drains; size of bone graft; presence of other implants, including ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt; presence of fluid collections; age at craniectomy; and time between craniectomy and cranioplasty.

RESULTS

A total of 359 patients met the inclusion criteria. The patients’ mean age was 8.4 years, and 51.5% were female. Thirty-eight cases (10.5%) were complicated by infection. In multivariate analysis, presence of a cranial implant (primarily VP shunt) (OR 2.41, 95% CI 1.17–4.98), presence of gastrostomy (OR 2.44, 95% CI 1.03–5.79), and ventilator dependence (OR 8.45, 95% CI 1.10–65.08) were significant risk factors for cranioplasty infection. No other variable was associated with infection.

Of the 240 patients who underwent a cranioplasty with bone graft, 21.7% showed bone resorption significant enough to warrant repeat surgical intervention. The most important predictor of cranioplasty bone resorption was age at the time of cranioplasty. For every month of increased age the risk of bone flap resorption decreased by 1% (OR 0.99, 95% CI 0.98–0.99, p < 0.001). Other risk factors for resorption in multivariate models were the use of external ventricular drains and lumbar shunts.

CONCLUSIONS

This is the largest study of pediatric cranioplasty outcomes performed to date. Analysis included variables found to be significant in previous retrospective reports. Presence of a cranial implant such as VP shunt is the most significant risk factor for cranioplasty infection, whereas younger age at cranioplasty is the dominant risk factor for bone resorption.

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Hannah E. Goldstein, Justin A. Neira, Matei Banu, Philipp R. Aldana, Bruno P. Braga, Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Michael L. DiLuna, Daniel H. Fulkerson, Todd C. Hankinson, Andrew H. Jea, Sean M. Lew, David D. Limbrick, Jonathan Martin, Joshua M. Pahys, Luis F. Rodriguez, Curtis J. Rozzelle, Gerald F. Tuite, Nicholas M. Wetjen, and Richard C. E. Anderson

OBJECTIVE

The long-term effects of surgical fusion on the growing subaxial cervical spine are largely unknown. Recent cross-sectional studies have demonstrated that there is continued growth of the cervical spine through the teenage years. The purpose of this multicenter study was to determine the effects of rigid instrumentation and fusion on the growing subaxial cervical spine by investigating vertical growth, cervical alignment, cervical curvature, and adjacent-segment instability over time.

METHODS

A total of 15 centers participated in this multi-institutional retrospective study. Cases involving children less than 16 years of age who underwent rigid instrumentation and fusion of the subaxial cervical spine (C-2 and T-1 inclusive) with at least 1 year of clinical and radiographic follow-up were investigated. Charts were reviewed for clinical data. Postoperative and most recent radiographs, CT, and MR images were used to measure vertical growth and assess alignment and stability.

RESULTS

Eighty-one patients were included in the study, with a mean follow-up of 33 months. Ninety-five percent of patients had complete clinical resolution or significant improvement in symptoms. Postoperative cervical kyphosis was seen in only 4 patients (5%), and none developed a swan-neck deformity, unintended adjacent-level fusion, or instability. Of patients with at least 2 years of follow-up, 62% demonstrated growth across the fusion construct. On average, vertical growth was 79% (4-level constructs), 83% (3-level constructs), or 100% (2-level constructs) of expected growth. When comparing the group with continued vertical growth to the one without growth, there were no statistically significant differences in terms of age, sex, underlying etiology, surgical approach, or number of levels fused.

CONCLUSIONS

Continued vertical growth of the subaxial spine occurs in nearly two-thirds of children after rigid instrumentation and fusion of the subaxial spine. Failure of continued vertical growth is not associated with the patient’s age, sex, underlying etiology, number of levels fused, or surgical approach. Further studies are needed to understand this dichotomy and determine the long-term biomechanical effects of surgery on the growing pediatric cervical spine.

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Todd C. Hankinson, Gerald F. Tuite, Dagmara I. Moscoso, Leslie C. Robinson, James C. Torner, David D. Limbrick Jr., Tae Sung Park, and Richard C. E. Anderson

OBJECTIVE

The distance to the ventral dura, perpendicular to the basion to C2 line (pB-C2), is commonly employed as a measure describing the anatomy of the craniovertebral junction. However, both the reliability among observers and the clinical utility of this measurement in the context of Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) have been incompletely determined.

METHODS

Data were reviewed from the first 600 patients enrolled in the Park-Reeves Syringomyelia Research Consortium with CM-I and syringomyelia. Thirty-one cases were identified in which both CT and MRI studies were available for review. Three pediatric neurosurgeons independently determined pB-C2 values using common imaging sequences: MRI (T1-weighted and T2-weighted with and without the inclusion of retro-odontoid soft tissue) and CT. Values were compared and intraclass correlations were calculated among imaging modalities and observers.

RESULTS

Intraclass correlation of pB-C2 demonstrated strong agreement between observers (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] range 0.72–0.76). Measurement using T2-weighted MRI with the inclusion of retro-odontoid soft tissue showed no significant difference with measurement using T1-weighted MRI. Measurements using CT or T2-weighted MRI without retro-odontoid soft tissue differed by 1.6 mm (4.69 and 3.09 mm, respectively, p < 0.05) and were significantly shorter than those using the other 2 sequences.

Conclusions pB-C2 can be measured reliably by multiple observers in the context of pediatric CM-I with syringomeyelia. Measurement using T2-weighted MRI excluding retro-odontoid soft tissue closely approximates the value obtained using CT, which may allow for the less frequent use of CT in this patient population. Measurement using T2-weighted MRI including retro-odontoid soft tissue or using T1-weighted MRI yields a more complete assessment of the extent of ventral brainstem compression, but its association with clinical outcomes requires further study.

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Brent R. O'Neill, Danielle Gallegos, Alex Herron, Claire Palmer, Nicholas V. Stence, Todd C. Hankinson, C. Corbett Wilkinson, and Michael H. Handler

OBJECTIVE

Cutaneous stigmata or congenital anomalies often prompt screening for occult spinal dysraphism (OSD) in asymptomatic infants. While a number of studies have examined the results of ultrasonography (US) screening, less is known about the findings when MRI is used as the primary imaging modality. The object of this study was to assess the results of MRI screening for OSD in infants.

METHODS

The authors undertook a retrospective review of all infants who had undergone MRI of the lumbar spine to screen for OSD over a 6-year period (September 2006–September 2012). All images had been obtained on modern MRI scanners using sequences optimized to detect OSD, which was defined as any fibrolipoma of the filum terminale (FFT), a conus medullaris ending at or below the L2–3 disc space, as well as more complex lesions such as lipomyelomeningocele (LMM).

RESULTS

Five hundred twenty-two patients with a mean age of 6.2 months at imaging were included in the study. Indications for imaging included isolated dimple in 235 patients (45%), asymmetrically deviated gluteal cleft in 43 (8%), symmetrically deviated (Y-shaped) gluteal cleft in 38 (7%), hemangioma in 28 (5%), other isolated cutaneous stigmata (subcutaneous lipoma, vestigial tail, hairy patch, and dysplastic skin) in 31 (6%), several of the above stigmata in 97 (18%), and congenital anomalies in 50 (10%).

Twenty-three percent (122 patients) of the study population had OSD. Lesions in 19% of these 122 patients were complex OSD consisting of LMM, dermal sinus tract extending to the thecal sac, and lipomeningocele. The majority of OSD lesions (99 patients [81%]) were filar abnormalities, a group including FFT and low-lying conus.

The rate of OSD ranged from 12% for patients with asymmetrically deviated gluteal crease to 55% for those with other isolated cutaneous stigmata.

Isolated midline dimple was the most common indication for imaging. Among this group, 20% (46 of 235) had OSD. There was no difference in the rate of OSD based on dimple location. Those with OSD had a mean dimple position of 15 mm (SD 11.8) above the coccyx. Those without OSD had a mean dimple position of 12.2 mm (SD 19) above the coccyx (p = 0.25).

CONCLUSIONS

The prevalence of OSD identified with modern high-resolution MRI screening is significantly higher than that reported with US screening, particularly in patients with dimples. The majority of OSD lesions identified are FFT and low conus. The clinical significance of such lesions remains unclear.

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Seerat Poonia, Sarah Graber, C. Corbett Wilkinson, Brent R. O'neill, Michael H. Handler, and Todd C. Hankinson

OBJECTIVE

Postoperative management following the release of simple spinal cord–tethering lesions is highly variable. As a quality improvement initiative, the authors aimed to determine whether an institutional protocol of discharging patients on postoperative day (POD) 1 was associated with a higher rate of postoperative CSF leaks than the prior protocol of discharge on POD 2.

METHODS

This was a single-center retrospective review of all children who underwent release of a spinal cord–tethering lesion that was not associated with a substantial fascial or dural defect (i.e., simple spinal cord detethering) during 2 epochs: prior to and following the institution of a protocol for discharge on POD 1. Outcomes included the need for and timing of nonroutine care of the surgical site, including return to the operating room, wound suturing, and nonsurgical evaluation and management.

RESULTS

Of 169 patients identified, none presented with CSF-related complications prior to discharge. In the preintervention group (n = 113), the postoperative CSF leak rate was 4.4% (5/113). The mean length of stay was 2.3 days. In the postintervention group, the postoperative CSF leak rate was 1.9% (1/53) in the patients with postdischarge follow-up. The mean length of stay in that group was 1.3 days.

CONCLUSIONS

At a single academic children's hospital, a protocol of discharging patients on POD 1 following uncomplicated release of a simple spinal cord–tethering lesion was not associated with an increased rate of postoperative CSF leaks, relative to the previous protocol. The rates identified are consistent with the existing literature. The authors' practice has changed to discharge on POD 1 in most cases.

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Todd C. Hankinson, Roy W. R. Dudley, Michelle R. Torok, Mohana Rao Patibandla, Kathleen Dorris, Seerat Poonia, C. Corbett Wilkinson, Jennifer L. Bruny, Michael H. Handler, and Arthur K. Liu

OBJECT

Thirty-day mortality is increasingly a reference metric regarding surgical outcomes. Recent data estimate a 30-day mortality rate of 1.4−2.7% after craniotomy for tumors in children. No detailed analysis of short-term mortality following a diagnostic neurosurgical procedure (e.g., resection or tissue biopsy) for tumor in the US pediatric population has been conducted.

METHODS

The Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data sets identified patients ≤ 21 years who underwent a diagnostic neurosurgical procedure for primary intracranial tumor from 2004 to 2011. One- and two-month mortality was estimated. Standard statistical methods estimated associations between independent variables and mortality.

RESULTS

A total of 5533 patients met criteria for inclusion. Death occurred within the calendar month of surgery in 64 patients (1.16%) and by the conclusion of the calendar month following surgery in 95 patients (1.72%). Within the first calendar month, patients < 1 year of age (n = 318) had a risk of death of 5.66%, while those from 1 to 21 years (n = 5215) had a risk of 0.88% (p < 0.0001). By the end of the calendar month following surgery, patients < 1 year (n = 318) had a risk of death of 7.23%, while those from 1 to 21 years (n = 5215) had a risk of 1.38% (p < 0.0001). Children < 1 year at diagnosis were more likely to harbor a high-grade lesion than older children (OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.5–2.4).

CONCLUSIONS

In the SEER data sets, the risk of death within 30 days of a diagnostic neurosurgical procedure for a primary pediatric brain tumor is between 1.16% and 1.72%, consistent with contemporary data from European populations. The risk of mortality in infants is considerably higher, between 5.66% and 7.23%, and they harbor more aggressive lesions.

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Monica Salazar Davern, Sumeet Garg, and Todd C. Hankinson

This report describes the presentation and operative treatment of a 3-year-old boy who survived a motor vehicle accident that resulted in a C6–7 distraction injury, complete avulsion of the spinal cord, and gross spinal instability. Only 5%–10% of all spinal cord and vertebral column injuries occur in children. Survival after such an injury is exceptionally rare in very young patients and is associated with severe neurological deficits. The authors discuss the substantial ethical challenges involved in the care of a patient with this injury. To their knowledge, only two other cases of survival have been reported in pediatric patients following motor vehicle trauma resulting in complete injury to the lower cervical spinal cord.