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Editorial

Surgical complications in adult spondylolisthesis

Michael G. Fehlings and Doron Rabin

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Charles A. Sansur, Davis L. Reames, Justin S. Smith, D. Kojo Hamilton, Sigurd H. Berven, Paul A. Broadstone, Theodore J. Choma, Michael James Goytan, Hilali H. Noordeen, Dennis Raymond Knapp Jr., Robert A. Hart, Reinhard D. Zeller, William F. Donaldson III, David W. Polly Jr., Joseph H. Perra, Oheneba Boachie-Adjei, and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Object

This is a retrospective review of 10,242 adults with degenerative spondylolisthesis (DS) and isthmic spondylolisthesis (IS) from the morbidity and mortality (M&M) index of the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS). This database was reviewed to assess complication incidence, and to identify factors that were associated with increased complication rates.

Methods

The SRS M&M database was queried to identify cases of DS and IS treated between 2004 and 2007. Complications were identified and analyzed based on age, surgical approach, spondylolisthesis type/grade, and history of previous surgery. Age was stratified into 2 categories: > 65 years and ≤ 65 years. Surgical approach was stratified into the following categories: decompression without fusion, anterior, anterior/posterior, posterior without instrumentation, posterior with instrumentation, and interbody fusion. Spondylolisthesis grades were divided into low-grade (Meyerding I and II) versus high-grade (Meyerding III, IV, and V) groups. Both univariate and multivariate analyses were performed.

Results

In the 10,242 cases of DS and IS reported, there were 945 complications (9.2%) in 813 patients (7.9%). The most common complications were dural tears, wound infections, implant complications, and neurological complications (range 0.7%–2.1%). The mortality rate was 0.1%. Diagnosis of DS had a significantly higher complication rate (8.5%) when compared with IS (6.6%; p = 0.002). High-grade spondylolisthesis correlated strongly with a higher complication rate (22.9% vs 8.3%, p < 0.0001). Age > 65 years was associated with a significantly higher complication rate (p = 0.02). History of previous surgery and surgical approach were not significantly associated with higher complication rates. On multivariate analysis, only the grade of spondylolisthesis (low vs high) was in the final best-fit model of factors associated with the occurrence of complications (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

The rate of total complications for treatment of DS and IS in this series was 9.2%. The total percentage of patients with complications was 7.9%. On univariate analysis, the complication rate was significantly higher in patients with high-grade spondylolisthesis, a diagnosis of DS, and in older patients. Surgical approach and history of previous surgery were not significantly correlated with increased complication rates. On multivariate analysis, only the grade of spondylolisthesis was significantly associated with the occurrence of complications.

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D. Kojo Hamilton, Justin S. Smith, Charles A. Sansur, Aaron S. Dumont, and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Object

The originally described technique of atlantoaxial stabilization using C-1 lateral mass and C-2 pars screws includes a C-2 neurectomy to provide adequate hemostasis and visualization for screw placement, enable adequate joint decortication and arthrodesis, and prevent new-onset postoperative C-2 neuralgia. However, inclusion of a C-2 neurectomy for this procedure remains controversial, likely due in part to a lack of studies that have specifically addressed whether it affects patient outcome. The authors' objective was to assess the surgical and clinical impact of routine C-2 neurectomy performed with C1–2 segmental instrumented arthrodesis in a consecutive series of elderly patients with C1–2 instability.

Methods

Forty-four consecutive patients (mean age 71 years) underwent C1–2 instrumented fusion, including C-1 lateral mass screw insertion. Bilateral C-2 neurectomies were performed. Standardized clinical assessments were performed both pre- and postoperatively. Numbness or discomfort in a C-2 distribution was documented at follow-up. Fusion was assessed using the Lenke fusion grade.

Results

Among all 44 patients, mean blood loss was 200 ml (range 100–350 ml) and mean operative time was 129 minutes (range 87–240 minutes). There were no intraoperative complications, and no patients reported new postoperative onset or worsening of C-2 neuralgia postoperatively. Outcomes for the 30 patients with a minimum 13-month follow-up (range 13–72 months) were assessed. At a mean follow-up of 36 months, Nurick grade and pain numeric rating scale scores improved from 3.7 to 1.0 (p < 0.001) and 9.4 to 0.6 (p < 0.001), respectively. The mean postoperative Neck Disability Index score was 7.3%. The fusion rate was 97%, and the patient satisfaction rate was 93%. All 24 patients with preoperative occipital neuralgia reported relief. Seventeen patients noticed C-2 distribution numbness only during examination in the clinic, and 2 patients reported C-2 numbness, but it did not affect their daily function.

Conclusions

In this series of C1–2 instrumented arthrodesis in elderly patients, excellent fusion rates were achieved, and patient satisfaction was not negatively affected by C-2 neurectomy. In the authors' experience, C-2 neurectomy enhanced surgical exposure of the C1–2 joint, thereby facilitating hemostasis, placement of instrumentation, and decortication of the joint space for arthrodesis. Importantly, with C-2 neurectomy in the present series, no cases of new onset postoperative C-2 neuralgia occurred, in contrast to a growing number of reports in the literature documenting new-onset C-2 neuralgia without C-2 neurectomy. On the contrary, 80% of patients in the present series had preoperative occipital neuralgia and in all of these patients this neuralgia was relieved following C1–2 instrumented arthrodesis with C-2 neurectomy.

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Vincent C. Traynelis

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D. Kojo Hamilton, Justin S. Smith, Tanya Nguyen, Vincent Arlet, Manish K. Kasliwal, and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Object

Sexual function is an often-overlooked aspect of health-related quality of life among older adults treated for spinal deformity. The authors' objective was to assess sexual function among older adults following thoracolumbar fusion with pelvic fixation for spinal deformity.

Methods

This was a retrospective review of consecutive older adults (≥50 years) treated with posterior thoracolumbar instrumentation (including pelvic fixation) for spinal deformity and with a minimum 18-month follow-up. Patients completed the Changes in Sexual Function Questionnaire-14 (CSFQ-14), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-12).

Results

Sixty-two patients (45 women and 17 men) with a mean age of 70 years (range 50–83 years) met the inclusion criteria. Eight women did not complete all questionnaires and were excluded from the subanalysis. The mean number of instrumented levels was 9.8 (range 6–18), and the mean follow-up was 36 months (range 19–69 months). Based on the CSFQ-14, 13 patients (24%) had normal sexual function, and 8 (15%), 10 (19%), and 23 (42%) had mild, moderate, and severe dysfunction, respectively. Thirty-nine percent of patients reporting severe sexual dysfunction did not have available partners—23% because of a partner's death and 16% because of a partner's illness)—or had significant medical comorbidities of their own (48%). Thirty-nine percent of assessed patients had either no or only mild sexual dysfunction. Patients with minimal or mild disability tended to have no or mild sexual dysfunction.

Conclusions

The authors of this study assessed sexual function in older adults following surgical correction of spinal deformity that included posterior instrumented fusion and iliac bolts. Nearly 40% of assessed patients had either no or only mild sexual dysfunction, suggesting that despite an older age and extensive spinopelvic instrumentation, it remains very possible to maintain or achieve satisfactory sexual function.

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Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Justin K. Scheer, Jamie S. Terran, Justin S. Smith, D. Kojo Hamilton, Han Jo Kim, Greg M. Mundis Jr., Robert A. Hart, Ian M. McCarthy, Eric Klineberg, Virginie Lafage, Shay Bess, Frank Schwab, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Christopher P. Ames, and International Spine Study Group

OBJECT

Regional cervical sagittal alignment (C2–7 sagittal vertical axis [SVA]) has been shown to correlate with health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The study objective was to examine the relationship between cervical and thoracolumbar alignment parameters with HRQOL among patients with operative and nonoperative adult thoracolumbar deformity.

METHODS

This is a multicenter prospective data collection of consecutive patients with adult thoracolumbar spinal deformity. Clinical measures of disability included the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Scoliosis Research Society-22 Patient Questionnaire (SRS-22), and 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36). Cervical radiographic parameters were correlated with global sagittal parameters within the nonoperative and operative cohorts. A partial correlation analysis was performed controlling for C-7 SVA. The operative group was subanalyzed by the magnitude of global deformity (C-7 SVA ≥ 5 cm vs < 5 cm).

RESULTS

A total of 318 patients were included (186 operative and 132 nonoperative). The mean age was 55.4 ± 14.9 years. Operative patients had significantly worse baseline HRQOL and significantly larger C-7 SVA, pelvic tilt (PT), mismatch between pelvic incidence and lumbar lordosis (PI-LL), and C2-7 SVA. The operative patients with baseline C-7 SVA ≥ 5 cm had significantly larger C2-7 lordosis (CL), C2-7 SVA, C-7 SVA, PI-LL, and PT than patients with a normal C-7 SVA. For all patients, baseline C2-7 SVA and CL significantly correlated with baseline ODI, Physical Component Summary (PCS), SRS Activity domain, and SRS Appearance domain. Baseline C2-7 SVA also correlated with SRS Pain and SRS Total. For the operative patients with baseline C-7 SVA ≥ 5 cm, the 2-year C2-7 SVA significantly correlated with 2-year Mental Component Summary, SRS Mental, SRS Satisfaction, and decreases in ODI. Decreases in C2-7 SVA at 2 years significantly correlated with lower ODI at 2 years. Using partial correlations while controlling for C-7 SVA, the C2-7 SVA correlated significantly with baseline ODI (r = 0.211, p = 0.002), PCS (r = −0.178, p = 0.009), and SRS Activity (r = −0.145, p = 0.034) for the entire cohort. In the subset of operative patients with larger thoracolumbar deformities, the change in C2-7 SVA correlated with change in ODI (r = −0.311, p = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS

Changes in cervical lordosis correlate to HRQOL improvements in thoracolumbar deformity patients at 2-year follow-up. Regional cervical sagittal parameters such as CL and C2–7 SVA are correlated with clinical measures of regional disability and health status in patients with adult thoracolumbar scoliosis. This effect may be direct or a reciprocal effect of the underlying global deformities on regional cervical alignment. However, the partial correlation analysis, controlling for the magnitude of the thoracolumbar deformity, suggests that there is a direct effect of cervical alignment on health measures. Improvements in regional cervical alignment postoperatively correlated positively with improved HRQOL.