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Daniel H. Fulkerson, Ian K. White, Jacqueline M. Rees, Maraya M. Baumanis, Jodi L. Smith, Laurie L. Ackerman, Joel C. Boaz and Thomas G. Luerssen


Patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) with low presenting Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores have very high morbidity and mortality rates. Neurosurgeons may be faced with difficult decisions in managing the most severely injured (GCS scores of 3 or 4) patients. The situation may be considered hopeless, with little chance of a functional recovery. Long-term data are limited regarding the clinical outcome of children with severe head injury. The authors evaluate predictor variables and the clinical outcomes at discharge, 1 year, and long term (median 10.5 years) in a cohort of children with TBI presenting with postresuscitation GCS scores of 3 and 4.


A review of a prospectively collected trauma database was performed. Patients treated at Riley Hospital for Children (Indianapolis, Indiana) from 1988 to 2004 were reviewed. All children with initial GCS (modified for pediatric patients) scores of 3 or 4 were identified. Patients with a GCS score of 3 were compared with those with a GCS score of 4. The outcomes of all patients at the time of death or discharge and at 1-year and long-term follow-up were measured with a modified Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) that included a “normal” outcome. Long-term outcomes were evaluated by contacting surviving patients. Statistical "classification trees" were formed for survival and outcome, based on predictor variables.


Sixty-seven patients with a GCS score of 3 or 4 were identified in a database of 1636 patients (4.1%). Three of the presenting factors differed between the GCS 3 patients (n = 44) and the GCS 4 patients (n = 23): presence of hypoxia, single seizure, and open basilar cisterns on CT scan. The clinical outcomes were statistically similar between the 2 groups. In total, 48 (71.6%) of 67 patients died, remained vegetative, or were severely disabled by 1 year. Eight patients (11.9%) were normal at 1 year. Ten of the 22 patients with long-term follow-up were either normal or had a GOS score of 5.

Multiple clinical, historical, and radiological factors were analyzed for correlation with survival and clinical outcome. Classification trees were formed to stratify predictive factors. The pupillary response was the factor most predictive of both survival and outcome. Other factors that either positively or negatively correlated with survival included hypothermia, mechanism of injury (abuse), hypotension, major concurrent symptoms, and midline shift on CT scan. Other factors that either positively or negatively predicted long-term outcome included hypothermia, mechanism of injury, and the assessment of the fontanelle.


In this cohort of 67 TBI patients with a presenting GCS score of 3 or 4, 56.6% died within 1 year. However, approximately 15% of patients had a good outcome at 10 or more years. Factors that correlated with survival and outcome included the pupillary response, hypothermia, and mechanism. The authors discuss factors that may help surgeons make critical decisions regarding their most serious pediatric trauma patients.

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Loyola V. Gressot, Sudhakar Vadivelu, Steven W. Hwang, Daniel H. Fulkerson, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea


Cervical spondylolysis is a rare condition that results from a pars interarticularis defect. The C-6 level is the most frequently involved site in the cervical spine. Its clinical presentations range from incidental radiographic findings to neck pain and, rarely, neurological deficits. Although 150 patients with subaxial cervical spondylolysis have been reported, a mere 24 adult and pediatric patients with C-2 spondylolysis have been described. The long-term outcomes of very young children with bilateral C-2 spondylolysis are of great interest, yet only a few longitudinal studies exist.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 5 cases of bilateral C-2 spondylolysis at Texas Children's Hospital and Riley Children's Hospital; these were combined with 5 other cases in the literature, yielding a total of 10 patients. Data regarding the patients' age, sex, C2–3 angulation and displacement, associated spine anomalies, neurological deficits, treatment, and most recent follow-up were recorded.


The patients' ages ranged from 3 to 36 months (mean 12.9 months). There were 6 boys and 4 girls. The C2–3 angulation, displacement, and width of pars defect were measured when available. The mean C2–3 angulation was 9.5° (range 1–34°), the mean C2–3 displacement was 4.78 mm (range 1.1–10.8 mm), and the mean width of the pars defect was 4.16 mm (range 0.9–7 mm). One patient developed myelopathy and spinal cord injury. All 10 of the patients were treated initially with conservative therapy: 3 with close observation alone, 1 with a rigid cervical collar, 4 with a Minerva jacket, 1 with a sternal-occipital-mandibular immobilizer, and 1 with a halo vest. Three patients ultimately underwent surgery for internal fixation due to progressive instability or development of neurological symptoms. All patients were neurologically intact at the last follow-up (mean 44.3 months, range 14–120 months).


Based on the literature and the authors' own experience, they conclude that most very young children with C-2 spondylolysis remain neurologically intact and maintain stability in long-term follow-up despite the bony defect. This defect is often an asymptomatic incidental finding and may be managed conservatively. More aggressive therapy including surgery is indicated for those patients with a neurological deficit from spinal cord compromise secondary to stenosis and local C-2 kyphosis, progressive deformity, or worsening C2–3 instability.