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Gregory A. Helm, Jonas M. Sheehan, Jason P. Sheehan, John A. Jane Jr., Charles G. diPierro, Nathan E. Simmons, George T. Gillies, David F. Kallmes, and Thomas M. Sweeney

✓ Autologous bone grafts are currently considered “gold standard” material for achieving long-term spinal arthrodesis. The present study was performed to determine whether demineralized bone matrix (DBM), type I collagen gels, or bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) can improve autologous bone spinal fusions. Using a unilateral decompression—contralateral fusion technique in dogs, each of these materials was added to an autologous bone graft. Volumetric analysis, histological analysis, and biomechanical testing were performed to assess the effectiveness of each material. The DBM had an inhibitory effect on solid bone fusion of the spine, whereas the type I collagen gels improved the bony interface between the graft and the host spine. The BMP-2 strongly enhanced the amount of bone deposition at the fusion site and increased the number of intervertebral levels that were solidly fused. This study strongly supports the use of BMP-2 as an additive to autologous bone grafts in spine stabilization.

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Charles G. diPierro, Gregory A. Helm, Christopher I. Shaffrey, James B. Chadduck, Scott L. Henson, Jacek M. Malik, Thomas A. Szabo, Nathan E. Simmons, and John A. Jane

✓ A new surgical technique for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis features extensive unilateral decompression with undercutting of the spinous process and, to preserve stability, uses contralateral autologous bone fusion of the spinous processes, laminae, and facets. The operation was performed in 29 patients over a 19-month period ending in December of 1991. All individuals had been unresponsive to conservative treatment and presented with low-back pain in addition to signs and symptoms consistent with neurogenic claudication or radiculopathy. Nine had undergone previous lumbar decompressive surgery. The minimum and mean postoperative follow-up times were 2 and 2 1/2 years, respectively. The mean patient age was 64 years; only two patients were younger than 50 years of age.

Of the patients with neurogenic claudication, 69% reported complete pain relief at follow-up review. Of those with radicular symptoms, 41% had complete relief and 23% had mild residual pain that was rated 3 or less on a pain—functionality scale of 0 to 10. For the entire sample, this surgery decreased pain from 9.2 to 3.3 (p < 0.0001) on the scale. Sixty-nine percent of patients were satisfied with surgery. Low-back pain was significantly relieved in 62% of all patients (p < 0.0001). Low-back pain relief correlated negatively with number of levels decompressed (p < 0.05). To assess fusion, follow-up flexion/extension radiographs were obtained, and no motion was detected at the surgically treated levels in any patient.

The results suggest that this decompression procedure safely and successfully treats not only the radicular symptoms caused by lateral stenosis but also the neurogenic claudication symptoms associated with central stenosis. In addition, the procedure, by using contralateral autologous bone fusion along the laminae and spinous processes, can preserve stability without instrumentation.

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Gregory A. Helm, Nathan E. Simmons, Charles G. diPierro, and Neal F. Kassell

✓ Several types of adjustable clamp have been widely utilized to gradually occlude the carotid artery for the treatment of various intracranial vascular lesions. A fairly large number of patients, many of whom have not been adequately followed, have these clamps still in place. The authors report two patients, initially treated with a Crutchfield clamp for an intracranial aneurysm, in whom carotid artery system revascularization occurred through the clamp many years later, leading to continued filling of the aneurysm. Recommendations are given on monitoring patients with Crutchfield clamps in order to minimize long-term complications.