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Open access

Evaluation of tortuous vertebral arteries before cervical spine surgery: illustrative case

J. Manuel Sarmiento, Justin D. Cohen, Robin M. Babadjouni, Miguel D. Quintero-Consuegra, Nestor R. Gonzalez, and Tiffany G. Perry

BACKGROUND

Cervical spine surgery sometimes necessitates complex ventral/dorsal approaches or osteotomies that place the vertebral artery (VA) at risk of inadvertent injury. Tortuosity of the VA poses increased risk of vessel injury during anterior decompression or placement of posterior instrumentation.

OBSERVATIONS

In this report, the authors describe a patient with degenerative cervical spondylotic myelopathy and focal kyphotic deformity requiring corrective surgery via a combined ventral/dorsal approach. Computed tomography (CT) and CT angiography (CTA) of the spine identified a left medially enlarged C4 transverse foramen and tortuous VA V2 segment forming a potentially dangerous medial loop into the vertebral body, respectively. The patient’s presentation and management are described.

LESSONS

The course of the VA is variable, and a tortuous VA with significant medial or lateral displacement may be dangerous during ventral and dorsal approaches to the cervical spine. CTA of the cervical spine is warranted in cases in which atlantoaxial fixation is needed or suspicious transverse foramen morphology is identified to understand the course of the VA and identify anatomical variations that would put the VA at risk during cervical spine surgery.

Open access

Occipitocervical fusion of traumatic atlanto-occipital dissociation in a patient with autofused cervical facet joints: illustrative case

J. Manuel Sarmiento, Daniel Chang, Peyton L. Nisson, Julie L. Chan, and Tiffany G. Perry

BACKGROUND

Patients who survive traumatic atlanto-occipital dissociation (AOD) may present with normal neurological examinations and near-normal-appearing diagnostic images, such as cervical radiographs and computed tomography (CT) scans.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors described a neurologically intact 64-year-old female patient with a degenerative autofusion of her right C4–5 facet joints who presented to their center after a motor vehicle collision. Prevertebral soft tissue swelling and craniocervical subarachnoid hemorrhage prompted awareness and consideration for traumatic AOD. An abnormal occipital condyle–C1 interval (4.67 mm) on CT and craniocervical junction ligamentous injury on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) confirmed the diagnosis of AOD. Her autofused right C4–5 facet joints were incorporated into the occipitocervical fusion construct.

LESSONS

Traumatic AOD can be easily overlooked in patients with a normal neurological examination and no associated upper cervical spine fractures. A high index of suspicion is needed when evaluating CT scans because normal values for craniocervical parameters are significantly different from the accepted ranges of normal on radiographs in the adult population. MRI of the cervical spine is helpful to evaluate for atlanto-occipital ligamentous injury and confirm the diagnosis. Occipitocervical fusion construct may need to be extended to incorporate spinal levels with degenerative autofusion to prevent adjacent level degeneration.

Open access

Radiculopathy with concomitant sacroiliac dysfunction and lumbosacral degenerative disease: illustrative case

Jeffrey D. Oliver, Noah L. Lessing, Harry M. Mushlin, Joshua R. Olexa, Kenneth M. Crandall, and Charles A. Sansur

BACKGROUND

The sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is an important cause of low back pain and referred leg pain (RLP). Pain from SIJ dysfunction may occur in isolation or may result from a combination with lumbosacral area–mediated pain. SIJ fusion is one treatment modality for medically refractory symptoms and may also have a role in the treatment of RLP.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors present a challenging case of concomitant lumbosacral degenerative disease and SIJ dysfunction in a patient with radiculopathy. They provide clinical characteristics and imaging findings and discuss difficulties in dealing with the intersection of these two distinct diagnoses. In addition, the authors offer a review of the relevant literature, elucidating the role of SIJ dysfunction in causing radicular lower extremity pain, the relationship to concomitant lumbosacral degenerative disease, and outcome data for SIJ fusion as it relates to RLP.

LESSONS

With increasing numbers of patients undergoing spinal instrumentation in the setting of degenerative lumbosacral arthritis, as well as randomized controlled trial data demonstrating the efficacy of SIJ fusion for medically refractory SIJ dysfunction, it is important to recognize the challenges in understanding how both of these patient groups may present with radiculopathy. Failure to do so may result in incorrect patient selection, poor outcomes, and increased morbidity for at-risk patients.

Open access

Catastrophic delayed cervical arthroplasty failure: illustrative case

Diego A. Carrera and Christian B. Ricks

BACKGROUND

Cervical disc replacement (CDR) is an increasingly used alternative to fusion for symptomatic cervical disc disease. While more studies have suggested favorability of CDR over fusion procedures, limited data exist regarding implant fatigability. Here, the authors present a unique and previously unreported failure of the M6-C prosthesis causing spinal cord injury.

OBSERVATIONS

A 49-year-old female with history of cervical degenerative disease and prior C4–7 M6-C arthroplasty presented 9 years later after a minor fall from standing. She endorsed bilateral hand numbness ascending to forearms and shoulders, with dysesthesias and weakness. Imaging showed fractured arthroplasty penetrating the spinal cord. Revision surgery found a ruptured arthroplasty annulus with metal piece piercing the spinal cord. Partial C4 and C5 corpectomy was performed to remove the integrated fins of the arthroplasty and inspect the cord and dura. This was reconstructed with a corpectomy cage and plate. The patient made an excellent recovery, with improvement in her weakness and resolution of her sensory symptoms.

LESSONS

Possibility of fatigue-related failures presenting years after implantation have only been infrequently reported but can be catastrophic for patients. The authors encourage further discussions in this area, increased counseling with patients, and recommend a patient registry to better document adverse events.

Open access

Utilization of lateral anterior lumbar interbody fusion for revision of failed prior TLIF: illustrative case

Ghani Haider, Katherine E. Wagner, Venita Chandra, Ivan Cheng, Martin N. Stienen, and Anand Veeravagu

BACKGROUND

The use of the lateral decubitus approach for L5–S1 anterior lumbar interbody fusion (LALIF) is a recent advancement capable of facilitating single-position surgery, revision operations, and anterior column reconstruction. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first description of the use of LALIF at L5–S1 for failed prior transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) and anterior column reconstruction. Using an illustrative case, the authors discuss their experience using LALIF at L5–S1 for the revision of pseudoarthrosis and TLIF failure.

OBSERVATIONS

The patient had prior attempted L2 to S1 fusion with TLIF but suffered from hardware failure and pseudoarthrosis at the L5–S1 level. LALIF was used to facilitate same-position revision at L5–S1 in addition to further anterior column revision and reconstruction by lateral lumbar interbody fusion at the L1–2 level. Robotic posterior T10–S2 fusion was then added to provide stability to the construct and address the patient’s scoliotic deformity. No complications were noted, and the patient was followed until 1 year after the operation with a favorable clinical and radiological result.

LESSONS

Revision of a prior failed L5–S1 TLIF with an LALIF approach has technical challenges but may be advantageous for single position anterior column reconstruction under certain conditions.

Open access

Bilateral papilledema with vision loss due to post–COVID-19–induced thiamine deficiency: illustrative case

Kern H. Guppy, Yekaterina K. Axelrod, and Han Kim

BACKGROUND

Bilateral papilledema with vision loss is considered a neurosurgical emergency due to high intracranial pressure. However, it may not be the only cause of papilledema. The authors reported an association among coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), bilateral papilledema, blindness, and Wernicke’s encephalopathy (WE).

OBSERVATIONS

An 18-year-old woman presented to the neurosurgery service with rapid profound vision loss and bilateral papilledema. She had COVID-19 3 months earlier with subsequent loss of smell (anosmia) and taste (ageusia), which resulted in hyperemesis and a 43-lb weight loss. Examination revealed ataxia, horizontal nystagmus, and blindness. Magnetic resonance imaging and magnetic resonance venography of her brain were normal. Presumptive diagnosis of WE was made, and she was treated with intravenous thiamine with restoration of vision within 48 hours. Patient’s thiamine level was less than half the normal value.

LESSONS

Neurosurgeons should be aware of this unique correlation between papilledema and vision loss and its association with WE due to post–COVID-19 hyperemesis and weight loss from anosmia and ageusia.

Open access

Recovery from hemidiaphragmatic paralysis with improved respiratory function following cervical laminoplasty and foraminotomy: illustrative case

Kazushi Kitamura, Hideki Hayashi, Ryota Ishibashi, and Hiroki Toda

BACKGROUND

Hemidiaphragmatic paralysis can occasionally be caused by cervical canal and foraminal stenosis. Rarely is the effect of surgical decompression on hemidiaphragmatic paralyzed patient respiratory function recorded. This report details a case of postoperative respiratory function restoration in a patient with cervical spondylosis–related hemidiaphragmatic paralysis.

OBSERVATIONS

A 77-year-old woman suffered hemidiaphragmatic paralysis caused by cervical canal and foraminal stenosis. The phrenic nerve palsy was thought to be caused by compression of the cervical spinal cord and its nerve root. The patient received a C3 laminectomy, a C4–6 laminoplasty, and a left C3–4 and C4–5 posterior foraminotomy. After surgery, she improved her maximum inspiratory pressure and respiratory function.

LESSONS

Cervical canal and foraminal stenosis may cause hemidiaphragmatic paralysis due to radiculopathy-induced phrenic nerve palsy. Laminoplasty and posterior foraminotomy can restore respiratory dysfunction related to diaphragmatic paralysis by decompressing the ventral horn of the spinal cord and spinal nerve root.

Open access

Systemic sclerosis-associated compressive cervical calcinosis: intersection of degenerative spine instability, lesional spinal cord compression, and traumatic spinal cord injury. Illustrative case

Thu Lan Pham, Jingya Miao, Harminder Singh, Marco B. Lee, and Tene A. Cage

BACKGROUND

Tumoral calcinosis, mass-like calcium deposition into the soft tissues, is an uncommon manifestation of the systemic sclerosis subtype of scleroderma. When this process affects the spinal epidural space, it can cause canal narrowing and place the spinal cord at significant risk of injury.

OBSERVATIONS

Here a 62-year-old female with systemic sclerosis and no previous evidence of spinal cord compromise who developed acute spinal cord injury and quadriparesis after a mechanical fall is described. She was found to have a large dorsal epidural calcified mass compressing her cervical spinal cord. She underwent medical management for acute spinal cord compression as well as surgical management for acute spinal cord injury and degenerative spine disease. Her case illustrates a rare etiology of simultaneous degenerative spine instability and lesional spinal cord compression with acute spinal cord injury.

LESSONS

Tumor calcinosis leading to acute spinal cord injury in the setting of systemic sclerosis is an uncommon but critical entity to recognize in patients with scleroderma and may require the physician to use a combination of medical and surgical management strategies from each of these categories of spine pathology.

Open access

Coexisting ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament, intramedullary hemangioblastoma, and syringomyelia of the cervical spine: illustrative case

Chi-Ruei Li, Cheng-Ying Lee, Wen-Yu Cheng, Hsin-Ni Li, Chih-Hsiang Liao, and Chiung-Chyi Shen

BACKGROUND

Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) is a rare but potentially devastating cause of severe spinal cord compression and degenerative cervical myelopathy. Because OPLL is rarely accompanied by prominent syringomyelia, when both are observed, other causes of syringomyelia should be considered. Simultaneous presentation of OPLL and hemangioblastoma of the cervical spine is a rare encounter and has never been reported in the English-language literature.

OBSERVATIONS

The authors present a case of a 64-year-old man with muscle weakness of the right upper limb and worsening dysesthesia of the right thumb and index finger. Noncontrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the cervical spine from another institution revealed OPLL from the C2 to C6 levels with severe spinal cord compression and prominent syringomyelia. Repeated MRI with contrast showed an intramedullary tumor, about 11 mm in diameter, at the right posterior aspect of the C4 level. The authors performed laminectomies from C1 to C6 with posterolateral fusion and removed the C4 tumor. Pathohistological examination of the tumor demonstrated hemangioblastoma.

LESSONS

Careful evaluation of the preoperative imaging study is extremely important in surgical decision making. Although rare, concomitant cervical hemangioblastoma should be listed in the differential diagnosis when OPLL is accompanied with prominent syringomyelia.

Open access

Lumbar pedicle screw pseudoarthrosis salvage technique with moldable, bioabsorbable, calcium phosphate–based putty: illustrative case

Nathan Esplin, Shahed Elhamdani, Seung W. Jeong, Michael Moran, Brandon Rogowski, and Jonathan Pace

BACKGROUND

Pseudoarthrosis is a complication of spinal fixation. Risk factors include infection, larger constructs, significant medical comorbidities, and diabetes. The authors present a case report of dilated pedicle screw pseudoarthrosis salvaged with moldable, settable calcium phosphate–based putty.

OBSERVATIONS

The patient presented with back pain and radiculopathy in the setting of poorly controlled diabetes. He was taken to the operating room for laminectomy and fusion complicated by postoperative infection requiring incision and drainage. He returned to the clinic 6 months later with pseudoarthrosis of the L4 screws and adjacent segment degeneration. He was taken for revision with extension of fusion. The L4 tracts were significantly dilated. A moldable, bioabsorbable polymer-based putty containing calcium phosphate was used to augment the dilated tract after decortication back to bleeding bone, allowing good purchase of screws. The patient did well postoperatively.

LESSONS

There are several salvage options for clinically significant pseudoarthrosis after spinal fixation, including anterior or lateral constructs, extension, and revision of fusion. The authors were able to obtain good screw purchase with dilated screw tracts after addition of moldable, bioabsorbable polymer-based putty containing calcium phosphate. It appears that this may represent an effective salvage strategy for dilated pseudoarthropathy in select settings to support extension of fusion.