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Michael Y. Wang and Michael Thambuswamy

Object

Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) is a disorder afflicting as many as 2% of East Asians. However, reports of OPLL in non-Asians have been sporadic in the medical literature. This study describes clinical and radiographic findings with OPLL in non-Asians at a tertiary care center treating a diverse multiethnic population.

Methods

Over a 6-year period, 43 patients not of East Asian descent presented to an urban tertiary medical center with OPLL. Patient data, including ethnicity, spinal cord function, Nurick grade, radiographic findings, OPLL subtype, and degree of cervical stenosis, were recorded.

Results

The average patient age was 59 years (range 32–92 years) with 18 women and 25 men. There were 22 Caucasian patients, 17 Hispanic patients, and 4 Black patients. With respect to the radiographic findings, OPLL morphology was continuous in 19, segmental in 17, mixed in 6, and other in 1. Average canal diameter was 7.6 mm (range 4.2–9.0 mm) at the most stenotic points. The mean Nurick grade was 2.95 at presentation, but 7 of the patients had OPLL identified incidentally and with early or minimal symptoms and signs of myelopathy.

Conclusions

Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament in non-Asians demonstrates similar demographic and radiographic characteristics as in East Asians. The representation of different ethnic groups mirrors the demographics of the medical center population in general, showing no specific predilection for particular ethnic groups. Surgical decompression in appropriately selected patients results in similar rates of improvement when compared with the Japanese literature.

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Michael Y. Wang, Guillermo Pineiro, and Praveen V. Mummaneni

Object

Percutaneous pedicle screws have recently become popularized for lumbar spinal fixation. However, successful anatomical hardware placement is highly dependent on intraoperative imaging. In traditional open surgery, stimulus-evoked electromyography (EMG) responses can be useful for detecting pedicle screw breaches. The use of insulated sleeves for percutaneous screws has allowed for EMG testing in minimally invasive surgery; however, no reports on the reliability of this testing modality have been published.

Methods

A total of 409 lumbar percutaneous pedicle screws were placed in 93 patients. Levels of instrumentation included L-1 (in 12 patients), L-2 (in 34), L-3 (in 44), L-4 (in 120), L-5 (in 142), and S-1 (in 57 patients). Intraoperative EMG stimulation thresholds were obtained using insulating sleeves over a metallic tap prior to final screw placement. Data were compared with postoperative fine-cut CT scans to assess pedicle screw placement. Data were collected prospectively and analyzed retrospectively.

Results

There were 5 pedicle breaches (3 medial and 2 lateral; 3 Grade 1 and 2 Grade 2 breaches) visualized on postoperative CT scans (1.2%). Two of these breaches were symptomatic. In 2 instances, intraoperative thresholds were the sole basis for screw trajectory readjustment, which resulted in proper placement on postoperative imaging. Thirty-five screw trajectories were associated with a threshold of less than 12 mA. However, all breaches were associated with thresholds of greater than 12 mA. Using thresholds below 12 mA as the indicator of a screw breach, this resulted in a sensitivity of 0.0, specificity of 90.3, positive predictive value of 0.0, and negative predictive value of 0.98. Utilizing a threshold of any decreased stimulus (< 20 mA) would have detected 60% of breaches, with a mean threshold of 16.25 mA.

Conclusions

While these data are limited by the low number of radiographic breaches, it appears that tap stimulation with an insulating sleeve may not be reliable for detecting low-grade radiographically breached pedicles using typical stimulation thresholds (< 12 mA). Imaging-based modalities remain more reliable for assessing percutaneous pedicle screw trajectories until more robust and sensitive electrophysiological testing methods can be devised.

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Michael Y. Wang, Matthew D. Cummock, Yong Yu, and Rikin A. Trivedi

Object

Minimally invasive spine (MIS) procedures are increasingly being recognized as equivalent to open procedures with regard to clinical and radiographic outcomes. These techniques are also believed to result in less pain and disability in the immediate postoperative period. There are, however, little data to assess whether these procedures produce their intended result and even fewer objective data to demonstrate that they are cost effective when compared with open surgery.

Methods

The authors performed a retrospective analysis of hospital charges for 1- and 2-level MIS and open posterior interbody fusion for lumbar spondylotic disease, disc degeneration, and spondylolisthesis treated at a single academic medical center. Patients presenting with bilateral neurological symptoms were treated with open surgery, and those with unilateral symptoms were treated with MIS. Overall hospital charges and surgical episode–related charges, length of stay (LOS), and discharge status were obtained from the hospital finance department and adjusted for multi-/single-level surgeries.

Results

During a 14-month period, 74 patients (mean age 55 years) were treated. The series included 59 single-level operations (75% MIS and 25% open), and 15 2-level surgeries (53% MIS and 47% open). The demographic profile, including age and Charlson Comorbidity Index, were similar between the 4 groups. The mean LOS for patients undergoing single-level surgery was 3.9 and 4.8 days in the MIS and open cases, respectively (p = 0.017). For those undergoing 2-level surgery, the mean LOS was 5.1 for MIS versus 7.1 for open surgery (p = 0.259). With respect to hospital charges, single-level MIS procedures were associated with an average of $70,159 compared with $78,444 for open surgery (p = 0.027). For 2-level surgery, mean charges totalled $87,454 for MIS versus $108,843 for open surgery (p = 0.071). For single-level surgeries, 5 and 20% of patients undergoing MIS and open surgery, respectively, were discharged to inpatient rehabilitation. For 2-level surgeries, the rates were 13 and 29%, respectively.

Conclusions

While hospital setting, treatment population, patient selection, and physician expectation play major roles in determining hospital charges and LOS, this pilot study at an academic teaching hospital shows trends for quicker discharge, reduced hospital charges, and lower transfer rates to inpatient rehabilitation with MIS. However, larger multicenter studies are necessary to validate these findings and their relevance across diverse US practice environments.

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Daniel J. Hoh, Charles Y. Liu, and Michael Y. Wang

Object

Effective methods for fixation of the axis include C1–2 transarticular and C-2 pedicle screw placement. Both techniques pose a risk of vertebral artery (VA) injury in patients with narrow pedicles or an enlarged, high-riding VA. Pars screws at C-2 avoid the pedicle, but can cause VA injury with excessively long screws. Therefore, the authors evaluated various entry points and trajectories to determine ideal pars screw lengths that avoid breaching the transverse foramen.

Methods

Both pars were studied on 50 CT scans (100 total). Various pars lengths were assessed using 2 entry points and 3 trajectories (6 measurements). Entry point A was the superior one-fourth of the lateral mass. Entry point B was 3-mm rostral to the inferior aspect of the lateral mass. Using entry points A and B, Trajectory 1 was the minimum distance to the transverse foramen; Trajectory 2 was the maximum distance to the transverse foramen; and Trajectory 3 was the steepest angle to the pars/C-2 superior facet junction without transverse foramen breach.

Results

The mean patient age was 46 ± 17 years, and 84% of the CT scans reviewed were obtained in men. There was no significant difference in right or left measurements. Entry point B demonstrated greater pars lengths for each trajectory compared with entry point A (p < 0.0001). For both entry points, Trajectory 3 provided the greatest pars length. Using Trajectory 3 with entry point B, 84, 95, and 99% had a pars length that measured ≥ 18, 16, and 14 mm, respectively. Using Trajectory 3 with Entry point A, only 41, 64, and 87% had a pars length that measured ≥ 18, 16, and 14 mm, respectively.

Conclusions

Using an entry point 3-mm rostral to the inferior edge of the lateral mass and a trajectory directed toward the superior facet/pars junction, 99% of partes interarticularis in this study would tolerate a 14-mm screw without breach of the transverse foramen.

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Michael Y. Wang and Praveen V. Mummaneni

Object

Adult degenerative scoliosis can be a cause of intractable pain, decreased mobility, and reduced quality of life. Surgical correction of this problem frequently leads to substantial clinical improvement, but advanced age, medical comorbidities, osteoporosis, and the rigidity of the spine result in high surgical complication rates. Minimally invasive surgery is being applied to this patient population in an effort to reduce the high complication rates associated with adult deformity surgery.

Methods

A retrospective study of 23 patients was undertaken to assess the clinical and radiographic results with minimally invasive surgery for adult thoracolumbar deformity surgery. All patients underwent a lateral interbody fusion followed by posterior percutaneous screw fixation and possible minimally invasive surgical transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion if fusion near the lumbosacral junction was necessary. A mean of 3.7 intersegmental levels were treated (range 2–7 levels). The mean follow-up was 13.4 months.

Results

The mean preoperative Cobb angle was 31.4°, and it was corrected to 11.5° at follow-up. The mean blood loss was 477 ml, and the operative time was 401 minutes. The mean visual analog scale score improvement for axial pain was 3.96. Clear evidence of fusion was seen on radiographs at 84 of 86 treated levels, with no interbody pseudarthroses. Complications included 2 returns to the operating room, one for CSF leakage and the other for hardware pullout. There were no wound infections, pneumonia, deep venous thrombosis, or new neurological deficits. However, of all patients, 30.4% experienced new thigh numbness, dysesthesias, pain, or weakness, and in one patient these new symptoms were persistent.

Conclusions

The minimally invasive surgical treatment of adult deformities is a promising method for reducing surgical morbidity. Numerous challenges exist, as the surgical technique does not yet allow for all correction maneuvers used in open surgery. However, as the techniques are advanced, the applicability of minimally invasive surgery for this population will likely be expanded and will afford the opportunity for reduced complications.

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Jeremiah N. Johnson and Michael Y. Wang

Bilateral pedicle fractures in the spine are uncommon in the absence of bony abnormality, previous surgery, or trauma. The authors report a case of spontaneous bilateral lumbar pedicle fracture in a 50-year-old sedentary woman, which caused intractable pain and did not respond to months of conservative management. The fractures were surgically treated using a percutaneous, minimally invasive technique with screws placed directly through the fractures into the vertebral body. The pedicles were strategically tapped to achieve the lag effect and reapproximate the posterior fragment with the anterior elements. The patient tolerated the procedure well and experienced early improvement of her symptoms, and follow-up imaging showed evidence of fracture healing. Transpedicular fixation and the use of the lag effect could be a useful strategy in the treatment of future cases involving poorly healing pedicle fractures causing persistent symptoms.

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Sanjay S. Dhall, Michael Y. Wang, and Praveen V. Mummaneni

Object

As minimally invasive approaches gain popularity in spine surgery, clinical outcomes and effectiveness of mini–open transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) compared with traditional open TLIF have yet to be established. The authors retrospectively compared the outcomes of patients who underwent mini–open TLIF with those who underwent open TLIF.

Methods

Between 2003 and 2006, 42 patients underwent TLIF for degenerative disc disease or spondylolisthesis; 21 patients underwent mini–open TLIF and 21 patients underwent open TLIF. The mean age in each group was 53 years, and there was no statistically significant difference in age between the groups (p = 0.98). Data were collected perioperatively. In addition, complications, length of stay (LOS), fusion rate, and modified Prolo Scale (mPS) scores were recorded at routine intervals.

Results

No patient was lost to follow-up. The mean follow-up was 24 months for the mini-open group and 34 months for the open group. The mean estimated blood loss was 194 ml for the mini-open group and 505 ml for the open group (p < 0.01). The mean LOS was 3 days for the mini-open group and 5.5 days for the open group (p < 0.01). The mean mPS score improved from 11 to 19 in the mini-open group and from 10 to 18 in the open group; there was no statistically significant difference in mPS score improvement between the groups (p = 0.19). In the mini-open group there were 2 cases of transient L-5 sensory loss, 1 case of a misplaced screw that required revision, and 1 case of cage migration that required revision. In the open group there was 1 case of radiculitis as well as 1 case of a misplaced screw that required revision. One patient in the mini-open group developed a pseudarthrosis that required reoperation, and all patients in the open group exhibited fusion.

Conclusions

Mini–open TLIF is a viable alternative to traditional open TLIF with significantly reduced estimated blood loss and LOS. However, the authors found a higher incidence of hardware-associated complications with the mini–open TLIF.

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David M. Benglis Jr., James D. Guest, and Michael Y. Wang

Minimally invasive approaches to the cervical spine for lateral disc herniation or foraminal stenosis have recently been described. Lower rates of blood loss, decreased narcotic dependence, and less tissue destruction as well as shorter hospital stays are all advantages of utilizing these techniques. These observations can also be realized with a minimal access approach to cervical laminoplasty. Multiple levels of the cervical spine can be treated from a posterior approach with the potential to decrease the incidences of postoperative axial neck pain and kyphotic deformity. In this report the authors present a concise history of the open laminoplasty technique, provide data from previous cadaveric studies (6 cases) along with recent clinical experience for minimally invasive laminoplasty, and describe the advantages and challenges of this novel procedure.

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Michael Y. Wang, Steven C. Ludwig, D. Greg Anderson, and Praveen V. Mummaneni

Minimally invasive spinal instrumentation techniques have evolved tremendously over the past decade. Although there have been numerous reports of lumbar instrumentation performed via a percutaneous or minimal incisional route, to date there have been no reports of minimally invasive iliac screw placement.

A method was developed for accurate placement of minimally invasive iliac screw placement based on a modification of currently available percutaneous lumbar instrumentation techniques. The method involves fluoroscopically guided insertion of a cannula-based screw system, and this technique was successful applied to treat an L-5 burst fracture with L-4 to iliac spinal stabilization via a minimally invasive approach.

This report demonstrates the feasibility of percutaneous iliac screw instrumentation. However, future studies will be needed to validate the safety and efficacy of this approach.

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Paul Khoueir, Daniel J. Hoh, and Michael Y. Wang

✓Cervical kyphosis in patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can be severely disabling. Surgical treatment of this disorder is technically demanding, however, with a considerable risk of neurological and vascular injuries. The extension osteotomy is a well-described posterior treatment for this condition, but this approach presents the risk of acute subluxation and spinal column translation during the reduction. In this paper, the authors report the novel use of a hinged posterior cervical rod for controlled correction of cervical kyphosis. After sustaining a traumatic spinal fracture, a 57-year-old man with AS developed a delayed cervical flexion deformity. The patient was neurologically intact, but suffered from disabling impairment in horizontal gaze and activities of daily living, and from neck pain. The patient subsequently underwent surgical correction via a posterior cervical extension osteotomy at C7–T1 with manual extension of the neck for osteoclastic reduction of the cervical kyphosis. Controlled correction was performed by using a hinged rod affixed to posterior cervical and thoracic screws, allowing for free sagittal correction while restricting translational forces. Once the desired angle of correction was achieved, the hinge connector was locked, transforming the rod into a rigid device for permanent internal fixation. The use of hinged rods in cervical kyphosis correction provides a controlled method for reduction at the osteotomy site, decreasing the risk of neurological injury.