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Bowen Jiang, Zach Pennington, Alex Zhu, Stavros Matsoukas, A. Karim Ahmed, Jeff Ehresman, Smruti Mahapatra, Ethan Cottrill, Hailey Sheppell, Amir Manbachi, Neil Crawford and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Robotic spine surgery systems are increasingly used in the US market. As this technology gains traction, however, it is necessary to identify mechanisms that assess its effectiveness and allow for its continued improvement. One such mechanism is the development of a new 3D grading system that can serve as the foundation for error-based learning in robot systems. Herein the authors attempted 1) to define a system of providing accuracy data along all three pedicle screw placement axes, that is, cephalocaudal, mediolateral, and screw long axes; and 2) to use the grading system to evaluate the mean accuracy of thoracolumbar pedicle screws placed using a single commercially available robotic system.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed a prospectively maintained, IRB-approved database of patients at a single tertiary care center who had undergone instrumented fusion of the thoracic or lumbosacral spine using robotic assistance. Patients with preoperatively planned screw trajectories and postoperative CT studies were included in the final analysis. Screw accuracy was measured as the net deviation of the planned trajectory from the actual screw trajectory in the mediolateral, cephalocaudal, and screw long axes.

RESULTS

The authors identified 47 patients, 51% male, whose pedicles had been instrumented with a total of 254 screws (63 thoracic, 191 lumbosacral). The patients had a mean age of 61.1 years and a mean BMI of 30.0 kg/m2. The mean screw tip accuracies were 1.3 ± 1.3 mm, 1.2 ± 1.1 mm, and 2.6 ± 2.2 mm in the mediolateral, cephalocaudal, and screw long axes, respectively, for a net linear deviation of 3.6 ± 2.3 mm and net angular deviation of 3.6° ± 2.8°. According to the Gertzbein-Robbins grading system, 184 screws (72%) were classified as grade A and 70 screws (28%) as grade B. Placement of 100% of the screws was clinically acceptable.

CONCLUSIONS

The accuracy of the discussed robotic spine system is similar to that described for other surgical systems. Additionally, the authors outline a new method of grading screw placement accuracy that measures deviation in all three relevant axes. This grading system could provide the error signal necessary for unsupervised machine learning by robotic systems, which would in turn support continued improvement in instrumentation placement accuracy.

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Zach Pennington, Bowen Jiang, Erick M. Westbroek, Ethan Cottrill, Benjamin Greenberg, Philippe Gailloud, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ying Wei Lum and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Myelopathy selectively involving the lower extremities can occur secondary to spondylotic changes, tumor, vascular malformations, or thoracolumbar cord ischemia. Vascular causes of myelopathy are rarely described. An uncommon etiology within this category is diaphragmatic crus syndrome, in which compression of an intersegmental artery supplying the cord leads to myelopathy. The authors present the operative technique for treating this syndrome, describing their experience with 3 patients treated for acute-onset lower-extremity myelopathy secondary to hypoperfusion of the anterior spinal artery.

METHODS

All patients had compression of a lumbar intersegmental artery supplying the cord; the compression was caused by the diaphragmatic crus. Compression of the intersegmental artery was probably producing the patients’ symptoms by decreasing blood flow through the artery of Adamkiewicz, causing lumbosacral ischemia.

RESULTS

All patients underwent surgery to transect the offending diaphragmatic crus. Each patient experienced substantial symptom improvement, and 2 patients made a full neurological recovery before discharge.

CONCLUSIONS

Diaphragmatic crus syndrome is a rare or under-recognized cause of ischemic myelopathy. Patients present with episodic acute-on-chronic lower-extremity paraparesis, gait instability, and numbness. Angiography confirms compression of an intersegmental artery that gives rise to a dominant radiculomedullary artery. Transecting the offending diaphragmatic crus can produce complete resolution of neurological symptoms.

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Tyler S. Cole, Kaith K. Almefty, Jakub Godzik, Amy H. Muma, Randall J. Hlubek, Eduardo Martinez-del-Campo, Nicholas Theodore, U. Kumar Kakarla and Jay D. Turner

OBJECTIVE

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is the primary cause of adult spinal cord dysfunction. Diminished hand strength and reduced dexterity associated with CSM contribute to disability. Here, the authors investigated the impact of CSM severity on hand function using quantitative testing and evaluated the response to surgical intervention.

METHODS

Thirty-three patients undergoing surgical treatment of CSM were prospectively enrolled in the study. An occupational therapist conducted 3 functional hand tests: 1) palmar dynamometry to measure grip strength, 2) hydraulic pinch gauge test to measure pinch strength, and 3) 9-hole peg test (9-HPT) to evaluate upper extremity dexterity. Tests were performed preoperatively and 6–8 weeks postoperatively. Test results were expressed as 1) a percentile relative to age- and sex-stratified norms and 2) achievement of a minimum clinically important (MCI) difference. Patients were stratified into groups (mild, moderate, and severe myelopathy) based on their modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score. The severity of stenosis on preoperative MRI was graded by three independent physicians using the Kang classification.

RESULTS

The primary presenting symptoms were neck pain (33%), numbness (21%), imbalance (12%), and upper extremity weakness (12%). Among the 33 patients, 61% (20) underwent anterior approach decompression, with a mean (SD) of 2.9 (1.5) levels treated. At baseline, patients with moderate and low mJOA scores (indicating more severe myelopathy) had lower preoperative pinch (p < 0.001) and grip (p = 0.01) strength than those with high mJOA scores/mild myelopathy. Postoperative improvement was observed in all hand function domains except pinch strength in the nondominant hand, with MCI differences at 6 weeks ranging from 33% of patients in dominant-hand strength tests to 73% of patients in nondominant-hand dexterity tests. Patients with moderate baseline mJOA scores were more likely to have MCI improvement in dominant grip strength (58.3%) than those with low mJOA scores/severe myelopathy (30%) and high mJOA scores/mild myelopathy (9%, p = 0.04). Dexterity in the dominant hand as measured by the 9-HPT ranged from < 1 in patients with cord signal change to 15.9 in patients with subarachnoid effacement only (p = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS

Patients with CSM achieved significant improvement in strength and dexterity postoperatively. Baseline strength measures correlated best with the preoperative mJOA score; baseline dexterity correlated best with the severity of stenosis on MRI. The majority of patients experienced MCI improvements in dexterity. Baseline pinch strength correlated with postoperative mJOA MCI improvement, and patients with moderate baseline mJOA scores were the most likely to have improvement in dominant grip strength postoperatively.

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Ethan Cottrill, Zach Pennington, A. Karim Ahmed, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin, Alexander Perdomo-Pantoja, Erick M. Westbroek, Nicholas Theodore, Timothy Witham and Daniel Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Nonunion is a common complication of spinal fusion surgeries. Electrical stimulation technologies (ESTs)—namely, direct current stimulation (DCS), capacitive coupling stimulation (CCS), and inductive coupling stimulation (ICS)—have been suggested to improve fusion rates. However, the evidence to support their use is based solely on small trials. Here, the authors report the results of meta-analyses of the preclinical and clinical data from the literature to provide estimates of the overall effect of these therapies at large and in subgroups.

METHODS

A systematic review of the English-language literature was performed using PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases. The query of these databases was designed to include all preclinical and clinical studies examining ESTs for spinal fusion. The primary endpoint was the fusion rate at the last follow-up. Meta-analyses were performed using a Freeman-Tukey double arcsine transformation followed by random-effects modeling.

RESULTS

A total of 33 articles (17 preclinical, 16 clinical) were identified, of which 11 preclinical studies (257 animals) and 13 clinical studies (2144 patients) were included in the meta-analysis. Among preclinical studies, the mean fusion rates were higher among EST-treated animals (OR 4.79, p < 0.001). Clinical studies similarly showed ESTs to increase fusion rates (OR 2.26, p < 0.001). Of EST modalities, only DCS improved fusion rates in both preclinical (OR 5.64, p < 0.001) and clinical (OR 2.13, p = 0.03) populations; ICS improved fusion in clinical studies only (OR 2.45, p = 0.014). CCS was not effective at increasing fusion, although only one clinical study was identified. A subanalysis of the clinical studies found that ESTs increased fusion rates in the following populations: patients with difficult-to-fuse spines, those who smoke, and those who underwent multilevel fusions.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that electrical stimulation devices may produce clinically significant increases in arthrodesis rates among patients undergoing spinal fusion. They also found that the pro-arthrodesis effects seen in preclinical studies are also found in clinical populations, suggesting that findings in animal studies are translatable. Additional research is needed to analyze the cost-effectiveness of these devices.

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A. Karim Ahmed, Eduardo Martinez-del-Campo and Nicholas Theodore

The role of chief White House physician has traditionally been held by an individual with a background in a broad medical field, such as emergency medicine, family medicine, or internal medicine. Dr. Daniel Ruge, who served as the director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service for the Veterans Administration and was appointed during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, was the first neurosurgeon to become the chief White House physician. Aside from being the first neurosurgeon to serve in this capacity, Dr. Ruge also stands apart from others who have held this esteemed position because of how he handled Reagan’s care after an attempt was made on the then-president’s life. Instead of calling upon leading medical authorities of the time to care for the president, Dr. Ruge instead decided that Reagan should be treated as any trauma patient would be treated. Dr. Ruge’s actions after the assassination attempt on President Reagan resulted in the rapid, smooth recovery of the then-president. Daniel Ruge’s background, his high-profile roles and heavy responsibilities, and his critical decision-making are characteristics that make his role in the history of medicine and of neurosurgery unique.

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Nicholas Theodore, Paul M. Arnold and Ankit I. Mehta

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Corinna C. Zygourakis, A. Karim Ahmed, Samuel Kalb, Alex M. Zhu, Ali Bydon, Neil R. Crawford and Nicholas Theodore

The Excelsius GPS (Globus Medical, Inc.) was approved by the FDA in 2017. This novel robot allows for real-time intraoperative imaging, registration, and direct screw insertion through a rigid external arm—without the need for interspinous clamps or K-wires. The authors present one of the first operative cases utilizing the Excelsius GPS robotic system in spinal surgery. A 75-year-old man presented with severe lower back pain and left leg radiculopathy. He had previously undergone 3 decompressive surgeries from L3 to L5, with evidence of instability and loss of sagittal balance. Robotic assistance was utilized to perform a revision decompression with instrumented fusion from L3 to S1. The usage of robotic assistance in spinal surgery may be an invaluable resource in minimally invasive cases, minimizing the need for fluoroscopy, or in those with abnormal anatomical landmarks.

The video can be found here: https://youtu.be/yVI-sJWf9Iw.

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Corey T. Walker, M. Yashar S. Kalani, Mark E. Oppenlander, Jakub Godzik, Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Robert J. Standerfer and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

The authors report a novel paradigm for resection of the disc or dural complex to treat giant calcified transdural herniated thoracic discs, and they describe a technique for the repair of dural defects. These herniated thoracic discs are uncommon, complicated lesions that often require a multidisciplinary team for effective treatment. The intradural component must be removed to effectively decompress the spinal cord. The opening of the friable dura mater, which frequently adheres to the extradural component of the disc, can result in large defects and difficult-to-manage CSF leaks.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective study of the technique and outcomes in patients with a transdural herniated disc treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center within a 4-year period between 2012 and 2015.

RESULTS

During the study period, 7 patients (mean age 56.1 years) presented to the department of neurosurgery with clinical symptoms consistent with myeloradiculopathy. In all cases, 2-level corpectomies of the involved levels were combined with circumferential resection of the dura and complete decompression of the spinal cord. The dural defect was repaired with an onlay dural patch, and a large piece of AlloDerm (LifeCell Corp) graft was sewn to close the pleural defect. Every patient had a perioperative lumbar drain placed for CSF diversion. No patient suffered neurological decline related to the surgery, and 3 patients experienced clinically significant improvement in function. Two patients developed an early postoperative CSF leak that required operative revision to oversew the defects.

CONCLUSIONS

This novel technique for decompression of the spinal cord by dural resection for the removal of giant calcified transdural herniated thoracic discs is safe and results in excellent decompression of the spinal cord. The technique becomes necessary when primary repair of the dura is not possible, and it can be used in cases in which the resection of pathology includes the dura.

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Michael A. Mooney, Mark E. Oppenlander, U. Kumar Kakarla and Nicholas Theodore

Tumoral calcinosis is characterized by tumor-like deposition of calcium in periarticular soft tissue. Spinal involvement is rare, and perioperative diagnosis of tumoral calcinosis can be difficult because lesions may be confused with bony neoplasms. Symptoms of tumoral calcinosis result from bony involvement and/or direct compression of surrounding anatomical structures, for which treatment with surgical decompression can be highly successful. The craniovertebral junction is rarely affected by tumoral calcinosis, and patients with this condition may present with distinct symptoms. Herein, to their knowledge the authors present the first case of tumoral calcinosis affecting the craniovertebral junction in a patient who presented with severe dysphagia and required transoral decompression. Recognition of tumoral calcinosis by neurosurgeons is essential for facilitating diagnosis and treatment, and the transoral approach is an effective method for decompression in select patients.

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Mark P. Garrett, Richard W. Williamson, Michael A. Bohl, C. Roger Bird and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

For a diagnosis of brain death (BD), ancillary testing is performed if patient factors prohibit a complete clinical examination and apnea test. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) guidelines identify cerebral angiography (CA), cerebral scintigraphy, electroencephalography, and transcranial Doppler ultrasonography as accepted ancillary tests. CA is widely considered the gold standard of these, as it provides the most reliable assessment of intracranial blood flow. CT angiography (CTA) is a noninvasive and widely available study that is also capable of identifying absent or severely diminished intracranial blood flow, but it is not included among the AAN's accepted ancillary tests because of insufficient evidence demonstrating its reliability. The objective of this study was to assess the statistical performance of CTA in diagnosing BD, using clinical criteria alone or clinical criteria plus CA as the gold-standard comparisons.

METHODS

The authors prospectively enrolled 22 adult patients undergoing workup for BD. All patients had cranial imaging and clinical examination results consistent with BD. In patients who met the AAN clinical criteria for BD, the authors performed CA and CTA so that both tests could be compared with the gold-standard clinical criteria. In cases that required ancillary testing, CA was performed as a confirmatory study, and CTA was then performed to compare against clinical criteria plus CA. Radiographic data were evaluated by an independent neuroradiologist. Test characteristics for CTA were calculated.

RESULTS

Four patients could not complete the standard BD workup and were excluded from analysis. Of the remaining 18 patients, 16 met AAN criteria for BD, 9 of whom required ancillary testing with CA. Of the 16 patients, 2 who also required CA ancillary testing were found to have persistent intracranial flow and were not declared brain dead at that time. These patients also underwent CTA; the results were concordant with the CA results. Six patients who were diagnosed with BD on the basis of clinical criteria alone also underwent CA, with 100% sensitivity. For all 18 patients included in the study, CTA had a sensitivity of 75%, a specificity of 100%, a positive predictive value of 100%, and a negative predictive value of 33%.

CONCLUSIONS

Clinical examination with or without CA remains the gold standard in BD testing. Studies assessing the statistical performance of CTA in BD testing should compare CTA to these gold standards. The statistical performance of CTA in BD testing is comparable to several of the nationally accepted ancillary tests. These data add to the growing medical literature supporting the use of CTA as a reliable ancillary test in BD testing.