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.
Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Timothy B. Mapstone, Jacob B. Archer, Christopher Wilson, Nicholas Theodore, Robert F. Spetzler and Mark C. Preul
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.
Eric M. Horn, Nicholas Theodore, Rachid Assina, Robert F. Spetzler, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Mark C. Preul
Venous stasis and intrathecal hypertension are believed to play a significant role in the hypoperfusion present in the spinal cord following injury. Lowering the intrathecal pressure via cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) drainage has been effective in treating spinal cord ischemia during aorta surgery. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether CSF drainage increases spinal cord perfusion and improves outcome after spinal injury in an animal model.
Anesthetized adult rabbits were subjected to a severe contusion spinal cord injury (SCI). Cerebrospinal fluid was then drained via a catheter to lower the intrathecal pressure by 10 mm Hg. Tissue perfusion was assessed at the site of injury, and values obtained before and after CSF drainage were compared. Two other cohorts of animals were subjected to SCI: 1 group subsequently underwent CSF drainage and the other did not. Results of histological analysis, motor evoked potential and motor function testing were compared between the 2 cohorts at 4 weeks postinjury.
Cerebrospinal fluid drainage led to no significant improvement in spinal cord tissue perfusion. Four weeks after injury, the animals that underwent CSF drainage demonstrated significantly smaller areas of tissue damage at the injury site. There were no differences in motor evoked potentials or motor score outcomes at 4 weeks postinjury.
Cerebrospinal fluid drainage effectively lowers intrathecal pressure and decreases the amount of tissue damage in an animal model of spinal cord injury. Further studies are needed to determine whether different draining regimens can improve motor or electrophysiological outcomes.
Nicholas C. Bambakidis, John Butler, Eric M. Horn, Xukui Wang, Mark C. Preul, Nicholas Theodore, Robert F. Spetzler and Volker K. H. Sonntag
✓ The development of an acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) inevitably leads to a complex cascade of ischemia and inflammation that results in significant scar tissue formation. The development of such scar tissue provides a severe impediment to neural regeneration and healing with restoration of function. A multimodal approach to treatment is required because SCIs occur with differing levels of severity and over different lengths of time. To achieve significant breakthroughs in outcomes, such approaches must combine both neuroprotective and neuroregenerative treatments. Novel techniques modulating endogenous stem cells demonstrate great promise in promoting neuroregeneration and restoring function.
Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Leonardo B. C. Brasiliense, Ryan K. Workman, Melanie C. Talley, Iman Feiz-Erfan, Nicholas Theodore, Robert F. Spetzler and Mark C. Preul
✓In 25 years, the Mongolian army of Genghis Khan conquered more of the known world than the Roman Empire accomplished in 400 years of conquest. The recent revised view is that Genghis Khan and his descendants brought about “pax Mongolica” by securing trade routes across Eurasia. After the initial shock of destruction by an unknown barbaric tribe, almost every country conquered by the Mongols was transformed by a rise in cultural communication, expanded trade, and advances in civilization. Medicine, including techniques related to surgery and neurological surgery, became one of the many areas of life and culture that the Mongolian Empire influenced.
Implications of his work for the understanding of cerebrovascular pathology and stroke
Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Cassius Reis, Melanie C. Talley, Nicholas Theodore, Peter Nakaji, Robert F. Spetzler and Mark C. Preul
✓ The history of apoplexy and descriptions of stroke symptoms date back to ancient times. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century, however, that the contributions of Rudolf Ludwig Karl Virchow, including his descriptions of the phenomena he called “embolism” and “thrombosis” as well as the origins of ischemia, changed the understanding of stroke. He suggested three main factors that conduce to venous thrombosis, which are now known as the Virchow triad. He also showed that portions of what he called a “thrombus” could detach and form an “embolus.” Thus, Virchow coined these terms to describe the pathogenesis of the disorder. It was also not until 1863 that Virchow recognized and differentiated almost all of the common types of intracranial malformations: telangiectatic venous malformations, arterial malformations, arteriovenous malformations, cystic angiomas (possibly what are now called hemangioblastomas), and transitional types of these lesions. This article is a review of the contributions of Rudolf Virchow to the current understanding of cerebrovascular pathology, and a summary of the life of this extraordinary personality in his many roles as physician, pathologist, anthropologist, ethnologist, and politician.