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Joseph P. Antonios, Ghassan J. Farah, Daniel R. Cleary, Joel R. Martin, Joseph D. Ciacci and Martin H. Pham

Spinal cord injury (SCI) has been associated with a dismal prognosis—recovery is not expected, and the most standard interventions have been temporizing measures that do little to mitigate the extent of damage. While advances in surgical and medical techniques have certainly improved this outlook, limitations in functional recovery continue to impede clinically significant improvements. These limitations are dependent on evolving immunological mechanisms that shape the cellular environment at the site of SCI. In this review, we examine these mechanisms, identify relevant cellular components, and discuss emerging treatments in stem cell grafts and adjuvant immunosuppressants that target these pathways. As the field advances, we expect that stem cell grafts and these adjuvant treatments will significantly shift therapeutic approaches to acute SCI with the potential for more promising outcomes.

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Sanjay S. Dhall, Shekar N. Kurpad, R. John Hurlbert and Praveen V. Mummaneni

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Coleman P. Riordan, Armide Storey, David J. Cote, Edward R. Smith and R. Michael Scott

OBJECTIVE

There are limited data on the long-term outcomes for children undergoing surgical revascularization for moyamoya disease (MMD) in North America. The authors present a series of pediatric MMD patients who underwent a standard revascularization procedure, pial synangiosis, more than 20 years previously at a single institution by a single surgical team.

METHODS

This study is a retrospective review of all patients aged 21 years or younger treated for MMD at Boston Children’s Hospital who were operated on more than 20 years previously by the senior author (R.M.S.). Radiographic and operative reports, outpatient clinical records, and communications with patients and families were reviewed to document current clinical status, ability to perform daily activities, and concurrent or new medical conditions.

RESULTS

A total of 59 patients (38 female [64.4%], 21 male [35.6%]; median age at surgery 6.2 years [IQR 0.5–21 years]) were identified who were diagnosed with MMD and underwent surgical revascularization procedures more than 20 years previously. Clinically, all but 2 patients (96.6%) presented with the following symptoms alone or in combination: 43 (73%) presented with stroke, 22 (37%) with transient ischemic attack, 12 (20%) with seizures, 7 (12%) with headache, 3 (5%) with choreiform movements, and 2 (3%) with hemorrhage; MMD was incidentally detected in 2 patients (3%). Five patients had unilateral MMD at presentation, but 3 of these ultimately progressed to develop bilateral MMD after an average of 16 months; therefore, pial synangiosis was ultimately performed in a total of 116 hemispheres during the study period. Clinical follow-up was available at a median interval of 20.6 years (IQR 16.1–23.2 years). Modified Rankin Scale scores were stable or improved in 43 of 50 patients with evaluable data; 45 of 55 are currently independent. There were 6 patient deaths (10.2%; 3 due to intracranial hemorrhage, 2 due to tumor-related complications, and 1 due to pulmonary artery stenosis), 4 of whom had a history of previous cranial radiation. One patient (1.7%) experienced a late stroke. Synangiosis vessels remained patent on all available late MRI and MRA studies. Four patients reported uneventful pregnancies and vaginal deliveries years following their revascularization procedures.

CONCLUSIONS

Revascularization for MMD by pial synangiosis appears to confer protection from stroke for pediatric patients over long-term follow-up. A history of cranial radiation was present in 4 of the 6 patients who died and in the lone patient with late stroke. Most patients can expect productive, independent lives following revascularization surgery in the absence of significant preoperative neurological deficits and comorbidities.

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Orel A. Zaninovich, Mauricio J. Avila, Matthew Kay, Jennifer L. Becker, R. John Hurlbert and Nikolay L. Martirosyan

OBJECTIVE

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is an MRI tool that provides an objective, noninvasive, in vivo assessment of spinal cord injury (SCI). DTI is significantly better at visualizing microstructures than standard MRI sequences. In this imaging modality, the direction and amplitude of the diffusion of water molecules inside tissues is measured, and this diffusion can be measured using a variety of parameters. As a result, the potential clinical application of DTI has been studied in several spinal cord pathologies, including SCI. The aim of this study was to describe the current state of the potential clinical utility of DTI in patients with SCI and the challenges to its use as a tool in clinical practice.

METHODS

A search in the PubMed database was conducted for articles relating to the use of DTI in SCI. The citations of relevant articles were also searched for additional articles.

RESULTS

Among the most common DTI metrics are fractional anisotropy, mean diffusivity, axial diffusivity, and radial diffusivity. Changes in these metrics reflect changes in tissue integrity. Several DTI metrics and combinations thereof have demonstrated significant correlations with clinical function both in model species and in humans. Its applications encompass the full spectrum of the clinical assessment of SCI including diagnosis, prognosis, recovery, and efficacy of treatments in both the spinal cord and potentially the brain.

CONCLUSIONS

DTI and its metrics have great potential to become a powerful clinical tool in SCI. However, the current limitations of DTI preclude its use beyond research and into clinical practice. Further studies are needed to significantly improve and resolve these limitations as well as to determine reliable time-specific changes in multiple DTI metrics for this tool to be used accurately and reliably in the clinical setting.

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David J. Wallace, Naomi L. Sayre, T. Tyler Patterson, Susannah E. Nicholson, Donald Hilton and Ramesh Grandhi

In addition to standard management for the treatment of the acute phase of spinal cord injury (SCI), implementation of novel neuroprotective interventions offers the potential for significant reductions in morbidity and long-term health costs. A better understanding of the systemic changes after SCI could provide insight into mechanisms that lead to secondary injury. An emerging area of research involves the complex interplay of the gut microbiome and the CNS, i.e., a brain–gut axis, or perhaps more appropriately, a CNS–gut axis. This review summarizes the relevant literature relating to the gut microbiome and SCI. Experimental models in stroke and traumatic brain injury demonstrate the bidirectional communication of the CNS to the gut with postinjury dysbiosis, gastrointestinal-associated lymphoid tissue–mediated neuroinflammatory responses, and bacterial-metabolite neurotransmission. Similar findings are being elucidated in SCI as well. Experimental interventions in these areas have shown promise in improving functional outcomes in animal models. This commensal relationship between the human body and its microbiome, particularly the gut microbiome, represents an exciting frontier in experimental medicine.

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Michael C. Jin, Zachary A. Medress, Tej D. Azad, Vanessa M. Doulames and Anand Veeravagu

Recent advances in stem cell biology present significant opportunities to advance clinical applications of stem cell–based therapies for spinal cord injury (SCI). In this review, the authors critically analyze the basic science and translational evidence that supports the use of various stem cell sources, including induced pluripotent stem cells, oligodendrocyte precursor cells, and mesenchymal stem cells. They subsequently explore recent advances in stem cell biology and discuss ongoing clinical translation efforts, including combinatorial strategies utilizing scaffolds, biogels, and growth factors to augment stem cell survival, function, and engraftment. Finally, the authors discuss the evolution of stem cell therapies for SCI by providing an overview of completed (n = 18) and ongoing (n = 9) clinical trials.

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Surgery for nerve injury: current and future perspectives

JNSPG 75th Anniversary Invited Review Article

Rajiv Midha and Joey Grochmal

In this review article, the authors offer their perspective on nerve surgery for nerve injury, with a focus on recent evolution of management and the current surgical management. The authors provide a brief historical perspective to lay the foundations of the modern understanding of clinical nerve injury and its evolving management, especially over the last century. The shift from evaluation of the nerve injury using macroscopic techniques of exploration and external neurolysis to microscopic interrogation, interfascicular dissection, and internal neurolysis along with the use of intraoperative electrophysiology were important advances of the past 50 years. By the late 20th century, the advent and popularization of interfascicular nerve grafting techniques heralded a major advance in nerve reconstruction and allowed good outcomes to be achieved in a large percentage of nerve injury repair cases. In the past 2 decades, there has been a paradigm shift in surgical nerve repair, wherein surgeons are not only directing the repair at the injury zone, but also are deliberately performing distal-targeted nerve transfers as a preferred alternative in an attempt to restore function. The peripheral rewiring approach allows the surgeon to convert a very proximal injury with long regeneration distances and (often) uncertain outcomes to a distal injury and repair with a greater potential of regenerative success and functional recovery. Nerve transfers, originally performed as a salvage procedure for severe brachial plexus avulsion injuries, are now routinely done for various less severe brachial plexus injuries and many other proximal nerve injuries, with reliably good to even excellent results. The outcomes from nerve transfers for select clinical nerve injury are emphasized in this review. Extension of the rewiring paradigm with nerve transfers for CNS lesions such as spinal cord injury and stroke are showing great potential and promise. Cortical reeducation is required for success, and an emerging field of rehabilitation and restorative neurosciences is evident, which couples a nerve transfer procedure to robotically controlled limbs and mind-machine interfacing. The future for peripheral nerve repair has never been more exciting.

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Darryl Lau, Cecilia L. Dalle Ore, Phiroz E. Tarapore, Michael Huang, Geoffrey Manley, Vineeta Singh, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Michael Beattie, Jacqueline Bresnahan, Adam R. Ferguson, Jason F. Talbott, William Whetstone and Sanjay S. Dhall

OBJECTIVE

The elderly are a growing subpopulation within traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) patients. Studies have reported high morbidity and mortality rates in elderly patients who undergo surgery for SCI. In this study, the authors compare the perioperative outcomes of surgically managed elderly SCI patients with those of a younger cohort and those reported in the literature.

METHODS

Data on a consecutive series of adult traumatic SCI patients surgically managed at a single institution in the period from 2007 to 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. The cohort was divided into two groups based on age: younger than 70 years and 70 years or older. Assessed outcomes included complications, in-hospital mortality, intensive care unit (ICU) stay, hospital length of stay (LOS), disposition, and neurological status.

RESULTS

A total of 106 patients were included in the study: 83 young and 23 elderly. The two groups were similar in terms of imaging features (cord hemorrhage and fracture), operative technique, and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) grade. The elderly had a significantly higher proportion of cervical SCIs (95.7% vs 71.1%, p = 0.047). There were no significant differences between the young and the elderly in terms of the ICU stay (13.1 vs 13.3 days, respectively, p = 0.948) and hospital LOS (23.3 vs 21.7 days, p = 0.793). Elderly patients experienced significantly higher complication (73.9% vs 43.4%, p = 0.010) and mortality (13.0% vs 1.2%, p = 0.008) rates; in other words, the elderly patients had 1.7 times and 10.8 times the rate of complications and mortality, respectively, than the younger patients. No elderly patients were discharged home (0.0% vs 18.1%, p = 0.029). Discharge AIS grade and AIS grade change were similar between the groups.

CONCLUSIONS

Elderly patients had higher complication and mortality rates than those in younger patients and were less likely to be discharged home. However, it does seem that mortality rates have improved compared to those in prior historical reports.

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C. Michael Honey, Zurab Ivanishvili, Christopher R. Honey and Manraj K. S. Heran

OBJECTIVE

The location of the human spinothalamic tract (STT) in the anterolateral spinal cord has been known for more than a century. The exact nature of the neuronal fiber lamination within the STT, however, remains controversial. After correlating in vivo macrostimulation-induced pain/temperature sensation during percutaneous cervical cordotomy with simultaneous CT imaging of the electrode tip location, the authors present a modern description of the somatotopy of the human cervical STT.

METHODS

Twenty patients underwent CT-guided percutaneous cervical cordotomy to alleviate contralateral medication-refractory cancer pain. Patient responses to electrical stimulation (0.01–0.1 V, 50 Hz, 1 msec) were recorded and the electrode location for each response was documented with a contemporaneous CT scan. In a post hoc analysis of the data, the location for each patient’s response(s) was measured and drawn on a diagram of their cord. Positive responses were represented only when the lowest possible voltage (≤ 0.02 V) elicited a response. Negative responses were recorded if there was no clinical response at 0.1 V.

RESULTS

Clinically, patients did well with an average reduction in opiates of 75% at 1 week, and 67% were able to leave the palliative care unit. The size of the cervical cord varied between patients, with an average lateral extent (width) of 11 mm and a height of 9 mm. Responses from the lower limb were represented superficially (lateral) and posteriorly within the anterolateral cord. The area with responses from the upper limb was larger and surrounded those with responses from the lower limb primarily anteriorly and medially, but also posteriorly.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, the somatotopic organization of the human STT was elucidated for the first time using in vivo macrostimulation and contemporaneous CT imaging during cordotomy. In this cohort of patients, the STT from the lower-limb region was located superficially and posteriorly in the anterolateral quadrant of the cervical cord, with the STT from the upper-limb region surrounding it primarily anteriorly and medially (deep) but also posteriorly. The authors discuss how the previous methods of cordotomy may have biased the earlier versions of STT lamination. They suggest that an ideal spinal cord entry site for cordotomy of either the upper- or lower-limb pain fibers is halfway between the equator and anterior pole of the cord.