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Posterior fusion of the subaxial cervical spine: indications and techniques

James K. Liu and Kaushik Das

The biomechanical stability of the subaxial cervical spine (C3–7) can be compromised by numerous pathological processes, and the restoration of stability may ultimately require fusion and placement of rigid internal fixation devices. A posterior fusion and stabilization procedure is often used to treat cervical instability secondary to traumatic injury, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, neoplastic disease, infections, and previous laminectomy. Numerous techniques and advances in spinal instrumentation have evolved over the last 30 years. The authors review the indications and the various methods for stabilizing and fusing the subaxial cervical spine via posterior approaches.

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The history and evolution of transsphenoidal surgery

James K. Liu, Kaushik Das, Martin H. Weiss, Edward R. Laws Jr, and William T. Couldwell

✓ Initial attempts at transcranial approaches to the pituitary gland in the late 1800s and early 1900s resulted in a mortality rate that was generally considered prohibitive. Schloffer suggested the use of a transsphenoidal route as a safer, alternative approach to the sella turcica. He reported the first successful removal of a pituitary tumor via the transsphenoidal approach in 1906. His procedure underwent a number of modifications by interested surgeons, the culmination of which was A. E. Halstead's description in 1910 of a sublabial gingival incision for the initial stage of exposure. From 1910 to 1925, Cushing, combining a number of suggestions made by previous authors, refined the transsphenoidal approach and used it to operate on 231 pituitary tumors, with a mortality rate of 5.6%. As he developed increasing expertise with transcranial surgery, however, Cushing reduced his mortality rate to 4.5%. With the transcranial approach, he was able to verify suprasellar tumors and achieve better decompression of the optic apparatus, resulting in better recovery of vision and a lower recurrence rate. As a result he and most other neurosurgeons at the time abandoned the transnasal in favor of the transcranial approaches.

Norman Dott, a visiting scholar who studied with Cushing in 1923, returned to Edinburgh, Scotland, and continued to use the transsphenoidal procedure while others pursued transcranial approaches. Dott introduced the procedure to Gerard Guiot, who published excellent results with the transsphenoidal approach and revived the interest of many physicians throughout Europe in the early 1960s. Jules Hardy, who used intraoperative fluoroscopy while learning the transsphenoidal approach from Guiot, then introduced the operating microscope to further refine the procedure; he thereby significantly improved its efficacy and decreased surgical morbidity. With the development of antibiotic drugs and modern microinstrumentation, the transsphenoidal approach became the preferred route for the removal of lesions that were confined to the sella turcica. The evolution of the transsphenoidal approaches and their current applications and modifications are discussed.

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Hearing restoration after resection of an intracanalicular vestibular schwannoma: a role for emergency surgery?

Case report and review of the literature

Lawrence Z. Meiteles, James K. Liu, and William T. Couldwell

✓ Patients with vestibular schwannomas (VSs) most commonly present with sensorineural hearing loss, which is often insidious or gradual. Up to 26% of patients may present with sudden hearing loss, however, which poses an important surgical challenge. Sudden hearing loss has been attributed to spasm or occlusion of the labyrinthine artery resulting from tumor compression, and it is usually treated with corticosteroids. Hearing preservation surgery is not usually attempted in patients who have poor or nonserviceable hearing preoperatively.

The authors describe a 68-year-old man with complete deafness of the left ear since childhood, who developed sudden, profound sensorineural hearing loss in the right ear. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a small right-sided intracanalicular tumor. Treatment with high-dose corticosteroids produced only minimal improvement in hearing. Subsequent emergency decompression and resection of a VS resulted in rapid improvement and restoration of hearing, with facial nerve preservation.

Although most neurotologic lesions in patients with hearing in only one ear are managed nonsurgically, resection of small tumors in the setting of sudden hearing loss should be considered in selected cases. This finding indicates that a therapeutic window may exist during which sudden hearing loss caused by intracanalicular tumors is reversible.

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Reconstruction of the skull base after tumor resection: an overview of methods

James K. Liu, Zahid Niazi, and William T. Couldwell

Successful surgical management of malignant skull base tumors depends on both tumor resection and reconstruction of the cranial base defect. The primary goals of skull base reconstruction are to repair dural defects, to prevent the development of cerebrospinal fluid fistulas, and to provide a protective barrier that isolates the intracranial contents from the nasopharynx and paranasal sinuses. Failure to do so can result in potentially life-threatening infectious complications. With modern skull base and reconstructive techniques, malignant tumors in this region, which were once deemed inoperable, can now be safely removed. The authors review the different modalities available for skull base reconstruction following tumor resection.

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Conduits for cerebrovascular bypass and lessons learned from the cardiovascular experience

James K. Liu, Peter Kan, S. V. Karwande, and William T. Couldwell

Direct cerebral revascularization is an important procedure in the treatment of certain complex aneurysms and skull base tumors when acute sacrifice of the internal carotid artery is required. It likely remains an appropriate treatment in a small subgroup of patients with cerebral ischemia refractory to maximal medical management. Similar to cardiovascular surgery, the choice of a graft conduit is critical for a successful outcome. The standard conduits are interposition vein grafts (usually the greater saphenous vein), free arterial grafts (radial artery), and pedicled arterial grafts (superficial temporal artery). The goal of this review is to summarize the conduits commonly used in cerebral revascularization with emphasis on their patency rates and flow characteristics. Comparisons are made with similar data available in the cardiovascular literature.

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Interpositional carotid artery bypass strategies in the surgical management of aneurysms and tumors of the skull base

James K. Liu and William T. Couldwell

Cerebral revascularization is an important component in the surgical management of complex skull base tumors and aneurysms. Patients who harbor complex aneurysms that cannot be clipped directly and in whom parent vessel occlusion cannot be tolerated may require cerebrovascular bypass surgery. In cases in which skull base tumors encase the carotid artery (CA) and a resection is desired, a cerebrovascular bypass may be necessary in planned CA occlusion or sacrifice. In this review the authors discuss options for performing high-flow anterograde interposition CA bypass for lesions of the skull base. The authors review three important bypass techniques involving saphenous vein grafts: the cervical-to-petrous internal carotid artery (ICA), petrous-to-supraclinoid ICA, and cervical-to-supraclinoid ICA bypass. These revascularization techniques are important tools in the surgical treatment of complex aneurysms and tumors of the skull base and cavernous sinus.

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Hypophysial transposition (hypophysopexy) for radiosurgical treatment of pituitary tumors involving the cavernous sinus

Technical note

James K. Liu, Meic H. Schmidt, Joel D. Macdonald, Randy L. Jensen, and William T. Couldwell

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is performed with increasing frequency in the treatment of residual or recurrent pituitary adenomas. Its major associated risk in these cases of residual or recurrent pituitary tumor adjacent to normal functional pituitary gland is radiation exposure to the pituitary, which frequently leads to the development of hypopituitarism. The authors describe a technique of pituitary transposition to reduce the radiation dose to the normal pituitary gland in cases of planned radiosurgical treatment of residual pituitary adenoma within the cavernous sinus. A sellar exploration for tumor resection is performed, the pituitary gland is transposed from the region of the cavernous sinus, and a fat and fascia graft is interposed between the normal pituitary gland and the residual tumor in the cavernous sinus. The residual tumor may then be treated with SRS. The increased distance between the normal pituitary gland and the residual tumor facilitates treatment of the tumor with radiosurgery and reduces radiation exposure to the normal pituitary gland.

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Update on treatment modalities for optic nerve sheath meningiomas

James K. Liu, Scott Forman, Chitti R. Moorthy, and Deborah L. Benzil

Optic nerve sheath meningiomas (ONSMs) represent 1 to 2% of all meningiomas and one third of all optic nerve tumors. The management of ONSMs is controversial. Traditional surgical removal often results in postoperative blindness in the affected eye and thus has been abandoned as a treatment option in most patients. Surgery may be unnecessarily aggressive, especially if the patient has useful vision. When these tumors are left untreated, however, ensuing progressive visual impairment may lead to complete blindness. More recently, radiotherapy has gained wider acceptance as a treatment for these lesions. The authors of some reports have suggested that fractionated stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) may be the best option for treating primary ONSMs. In patients with documented progressive visual deterioration, fractionated SRS may be effective in improving or stabilizing remaining functional vision. The authors review the clinical presentation, radiographic characteristics, and management of ONSMs, emphasizing the use of fractionated SRS.

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Surgical management of posterior petrous meningiomas

James K. Liu, Oren N. Gottfried, and William T. Couldwell

Posterior petrous meningiomas (commonly termed posterior pyramid meningiomas and/or meningiomas of the posterior surface of the petrous pyramid) are the most common meningiomas of the posterior cranial fossa. They are located along the posterior surface of the temporal bone in the region of the cerebellopontine angle. They often mimic vestibular schwannomas, both clinically and on neuroimaging studies. Common clinical symptoms include hearing loss, cerebellar ataxia, and trigeminal neuropathy. The site of dural origin determines the direction of cranial nerve displacement. Total resection can be achieved in most cases with a low morbidity rate and an excellent prognosis. The authors review the surgical management of posterior petrous meningiomas.

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Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma presenting as a sacral tumor

Report of two cases

James K. Liu, Peter Kan, and Meic H. Schmidt

Primary lymphomas of the sacrum are rare tumors, reported only in a few cases in the literature. The authors describe two patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphomas presenting as a sacral tumor.

In the first case a 52-year-old man presented with progressive back pain, bilateral radicular pain, and saddle block anesthesia secondary to a lytic, expansile soft-tissue mass. The mass arose from the sacrum and eroded through the right S-1 to S-4 foramina and extended into the epidural space of the spinal canal. On magnetic resonance imaging, the sacral mass enhanced homogeneously with Gd. In the second case a 64-year-old man presented with left-sided radicular pain, paresthesias, and progressive weakness due to a lytic soft-tissue mass in the left sacral ala extending into the left L-5 and S-1 foramina. Metastatic workup in each patient demonstrated unremarkable findings. In both cases, an open biopsy procedure was performed after nondiagnostic examination of needle biopsy samples. Histopathological examination showed evidence consistent with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma in both patients. In the first case the disease was classified as Stage IAE, and the patient subsequently underwent four cycles of cyclophosphamide/doxorubicin/vincristine/prednisone (CHOP)– and rituximab-based chemotherapy followed by consolidation radiotherapy. In the second case the disease was also classified as Stage IAE, and the patient underwent CHOP-based chemotherapy and consolidation radiotherapy. In both cases radiography demonstrated a decrease in size of the sacral lymphomas.

The authors review the clinical, radiological, and histological features of sacral lymphomas. Lymphoma should be considered in the differential diagnosis of sacral tumors.