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Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Timothy B. Mapstone, Jacob B. Archer, Christopher Wilson, Nicholas Theodore, Robert F. Spetzler, and Mark C. Preul

An understanding of the underlying pathophysiology of tethered cord syndrome (TCS) and modern management strategies have only developed within the past few decades. Current understanding of this entity first began with the understanding and management of spina bifida; this later led to the gradual recognition of spina bifida occulta and the symptoms associated with tethering of the filum terminale. In the 17th century, Dutch anatomists provided the first descriptions and initiated surgical management efforts for spina bifida. In the 19th century, the term “spina bifida occulta” was coined and various presentations of spinal dysraphism were appreciated. The association of urinary, cutaneous, and skeletal abnormalities with spinal dysraphism was recognized in the 20th century. Early in the 20th century, some physicians began to suspect that traction on the conus medullaris caused myelodysplasia-related symptoms and that prophylactic surgical management could prevent the occurrence of clinical manifestations. It was not, however, until later in the 20th century that the term “tethered spinal cord” and the modern management of TCS were introduced. This gradual advancement in understanding at a time before the development of modern imaging modalities illustrates how, over the centuries, anatomists, pathologists, neurologists, and surgeons used clinical examination, a high level of suspicion, and interest in the subtle and overt clinical appearances of spinal dysraphism and TCS to advance understanding of pathophysiology, clinical appearance, and treatment of this entity. With the availability of modern imaging, spinal dysraphism can now be diagnosed and treated as early as the intrauterine stage.

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Sergiy V. Kushchayev, Morgan B. Giers, Doris Hom Eng, Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Jennifer M. Eschbacher, Martin M. Mortazavi, Nicholas Theodore, Alyssa Panitch, and Mark C. Preul


Spinal cord injury occurs in 2 phases. The initial trauma is followed by inflammation that leads to fibrous scar tissue, glial scarring, and cavity formation. Scarring causes further axon death around and above the injury. A reduction in secondary injury could lead to functional improvement. In this study, hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels were implanted into the gap formed in the hemisected spinal cord of Sprague-Dawley rats in an attempt to attenuate damage and regenerate tissue.


A T-10 hemisection spinal cord injury was created in adult male Sprague-Dawley rats; the rats were assigned to a sham, control (phosphate-buffered saline), or HA hydrogel–treated group. One cohort of 23 animals was followed for 12 weeks and underwent weekly behavioral assessments. At 12 weeks, retrograde tracing was performed by injecting Fluoro-Gold in the left L-2 gray matter. At 14 weeks, the animals were killed. The volume of the lesion and the number of cells labeled from retrograde tracing were calculated. Animals in a separate cohort were killed at 8 or 16 weeks and perfused for immunohistochemical analysis and transmission electron microscopy. Samples were stained using H & E, neurofilament stain (neurons and axons), silver stain (disrupted axons), glial fibrillary acidic protein stain (astrocytes), and Iba1 stain (mononuclear cells).


The lesions were significantly smaller in size and there were more retrograde-labeled cells in the red nuclei of the HA hydrogel–treated rats than in those of the controls; however, the behavioral assessments revealed no differences between the groups. The immunohistochemical analyses revealed decreased fibrous scarring and increased retention of organized intact axonal tissue in the HA hydrogel–treated group. There was a decreased presence of inflammatory cells in the HA hydrogel–treated group. No axonal or neuronal regeneration was observed.


The results of these experiments show that HA hydrogel had a neuroprotective effect on the spinal cord by decreasing the magnitude of secondary injury after a lacerating spinal cord injury. Although regeneration and behavioral improvement were not observed, the reduction in disorganized scar tissue and the retention of neurons near and above the lesion are important for future regenerative efforts. In addition, this gel would be useful as the base substrate in the development of a more complex scaffold.

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Evgenii Belykh, Kashif Malik, Isabelle Simoneau, Kaan Yagmurlu, Ting Lei, Daniel D. Cavalcanti, Vadim A. Byvaltsev, Nicholas Theodore, and Mark C. Preul

André Feil (1884–1955) was a French physician best recognized for his description, coauthored with Maurice Klippel, of patients with congenital fusion of cervical vertebrae, a condition currently known as Klippel-Feil syndrome. However, little is known about his background aside from the fact that he was a student of Klippel and a physician who took a keen interest in describing congenital anomalies. Despite the relative lack of information on Feil, his contributions to the fields of spinal disease and teratology extended far beyond science to play an integral role in changing the misguided perception shrouding patients with disfigurements, defects, deformities, and so-called monstrous births. In particular, Feil's 1919 medical school thesis on cervical abnormalities was a critical publication in defying long-held theory and opinion that human “monstrosities,” anomalies, developmental abnormalities, and altered congenital physicality were a consequence of sinful behavior or a reversion to a primitive state. Indeed, his thesis on a spinal deformity centering on his patient, L. Joseph, was at the vanguard for a new view of a patient as nothing less than fully human, no matter his or her physicality or appearance.

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Nikolay L. Martirosyan, M. Yashar S. Kalani, G. Michael Lemole Jr., Robert F. Spetzler, Mark C. Preul, and Nicholas Theodore


The arterial basket of the conus medullaris (ABCM) consists of 1 or 2 arteries arising from the anterior spinal artery (ASA) and circumferentially connecting the ASA and the posterior spinal arteries (PSAs). The arterial basket can be involved in arteriovenous fistulas and arteriovenous malformations of the conus. In this article, the authors describe the microsurgical anatomy of the ABCM with emphasis on its morphometric parameters and important role in the intrinsic blood supply of the conus medullaris.


The authors performed microsurgical dissections on 16 formalin-fixed human spinal cords harvested within 24 hours of death. The course, diameter, and branching angles of the arteries comprising the ABCM were then identified and measured. In addition, histological sections were obtained to identify perforating vessels arising from the ABCM.


The ASA tapers as it nears the conus medullaris (mean preconus diameter 0.7 ± 0.12 mm vs mean conus diameter 0.38 ± 0.08 mm). The ASA forms an anastomotic basket with the posterior spinal artery (PSA) via anastomotic branches. In most of the specimens (n= 13, 81.3%), bilateral arteries formed connections between the ASA and PSA. However, in the remaining specimens (n= 3, 18.7%), a unilateral right-sided anastomotic artery was identified. The mean diameter of the right ABCM branch was 0.49 ± 0.13 mm, and the mean diameter of the left branch was 0.53 ± 0.14 mm. The mean branching angles of the arteries forming the anastomotic basket were 95.9° ± 36.6° and 90° ± 34.3° for the right- and left-sided arteries, respectively. In cases of bilateral arterial anastomoses between the ASA and PSA, the mean distance between the origins of the arteries was 4.5 ± 3.3 mm. Histological analysis revealed numerous perforating vessels supplying tissue of the conus medullaris.


The ABCM is a critical anastomotic connection between the ASA and PSA, which play an important role in the intrinsic blood supply of the conus medullaris. The ABCM provides an important compensatory function in the blood supply of the spinal cord. Its involvement in conus medullaris vascular malformations makes it a critical anatomical structure.

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Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Adrian J. Maurer, Jacob B. Archer, Ricardo A. Hanel, Michael E. Sughrue, Nicholas Theodore, and Mark C. Preul

During his lifetime and a career spanning 42 years, James Watson Kernohan made numerous contributions to neuropathology, neurology, and neurosurgery. One of these, the phenomenon of ipsilateral, false localizing signs caused by compression of the contralateral cerebral peduncle against the tentorial edge, has widely become known as “Kernohan's notch” and continues to bear his name. The other is a grading system for gliomas from a neurosurgical viewpoint that continues to be relevant for grading of glial tumors 60 years after its introduction. In this paper, the authors analyze these two major contributions in detail within the context of Kernohan's career and explore how they contributed to the development of neurosurgical procedures.

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Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Jeanne S. Feuerstein, Nicholas Theodore, Daniel D. Cavalcanti, Robert F. Spetzler, and Mark C. Preul

The authors present a review of spinal cord blood supply, discussing the anatomy of the vascular system and physiological aspects of blood flow regulation in normal and injured spinal cords. Unique anatomical functional properties of vessels and blood supply determine the susceptibility of the spinal cord to damage, especially ischemia. Spinal cord injury (SCI), for example, complicating thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair is associated with ischemic trauma. The rate of this devastating complication has been decreased significantly by instituting physiological methods of protection. Traumatic SCI causes complex changes in spinal cord blood flow, which are closely related to the severity of injury. Manipulating physiological parameters such as mean arterial blood pressure and intrathecal pressure may be beneficial for patients with an SCI. Studying the physiopathological processes of the spinal cord under vascular compromise remains challenging because of its central role in almost all of the body's hemodynamic and neurofunctional processes.

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Nicholas C. Bambakidis, Eric M. Horn, Peter Nakaji, Nicholas Theodore, Elizabeth Bless, Tammy Dellovade, Chiyuan Ma, Xukui Wang, Mark C. Preul, Stephen W. Coons, Robert F. Spetzler, and Volker K. H. Sonntag


Sonic hedgehog (Shh) is a glycoprotein molecule that upregulates the transcription factor Gli1. The Shh protein plays a critical role in the proliferation of endogenous neural precursor cells when directly injected into the spinal cord after a spinal cord injury in adult rodents. Small-molecule agonists of the hedgehog (Hh) pathway were used in an attempt to reproduce these findings through intravenous administration.


The expression of Gli1 was measured in rat spinal cord after the intravenous administration of an Hh agonist. Ten adult rats received a moderate contusion and were treated with either an Hh agonist (10 mg/kg, intravenously) or vehicle (5 rodents per group) 1 hour and 4 days after injury. The rats were killed 5 days postinjury. Tissue samples were immediately placed in fixative. Samples were immunohistochemically stained for neural precursor cells, and these cells were counted.


Systemic dosing with an Hh agonist significantly upregulated Gli1 expression in the spinal cord (p < 0.005). After spinal contusion, animals treated with the Hh agonist had significantly more nestin-positive neural precursor cells around the rim of the lesion cavity than in vehicle-treated controls (means ± SDs, 46.9 ± 12.9 vs 20.9 ± 8.3 cells/hpf, respectively, p < 0.005). There was no significant difference in the area of white matter injury between the groups.


An intravenous Hh agonist at doses that upregulate spinal cord Gli1 transcription also increases the population of neural precursor cells after spinal cord injury in adult rats. These data support previous findings based on injections of Shh protein directly into the spinal cord.