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## Letter to the Editor. Standardization of shunt valves: one size does not fit all

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## Editorial. Tethered to the past no more: the case for spinal column shortening

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## Editorial. Tethered to the past no more: the case for spinal column shortening

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## Spinal column shortening for secondary tethered cord syndrome: radiographic, clinical, patient-reported, and urodynamic short-term outcomes

### OBJECTIVE

Tethered cord syndrome (TCS) is a clinical and radiographic diagnosis of pathological stretching of the spinal cord leading to progressive loss of neurological function. The gold standard treatment for TCS is a tethered cord release. However, detethering involves significant risks of spinal cord injury and high rates of retethering. To mitigate these risks, the concept of spinal column shortening (SCS) to decrease spinal cord tension has become an alternative to detethering. In this study, the authors applied SCS to a pediatric and emerging adult population affected by secondary TCS.

### METHODS

A retrospective review of a prospective database at the authors’ tertiary pediatric institution was performed. The Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, patient- and parent-reported outcomes, and urodynamics were used to evaluate the outcomes of TCS treated with SCS.

### RESULTS

A total of 41 patients with secondary TCS were treated with SCS. The average age at the time of surgery was 15.9 years (range 5–55 years). Preoperative symptoms evaluated included pain (33 patients), weakness (30 patients), and bladder/bowel dysfunction (39 patients). The most common level of spinal column osteotomy was T12, with spinal fusion between T10 and L2. The mean follow-up time was 22.6 months (range 8–45 months). For patients with at least 12 months of follow-up, subjective clinical improvements were reported in 21/23 (91.3%) of those with preoperative pain (p < 0.01); in 16/24 (66.7%) of patients with weakness (p < 0.01), and in 15/29 (51.7%) of those with bladder/bowel dysfunction (p < 0.01). The median differences in initial and most recent Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory results were +5 for patient-reported scores (n = 19, p = 0.04) and +5 for parent-reported scores (n = 19, p = 0.08). Formal urodynamics performed at a median of 3.5 months after surgery documented stable to improved bladder function in 16/17 patients, with a median improvement in one classification category (n = 17, p = 0.01).

### CONCLUSIONS

SCS continues to represent a safe and efficacious alternative to traditional spinal cord untethering for TCS in children and emerging adults, as documented by objective formal urodynamics and patient- and parent-reported outcomes.

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## Development of best practices in the utilization and implementation of pediatric cervical spine traction: a modified Delphi study

### OBJECTIVE

Cervical traction in pediatric patients is an uncommon but invaluable technique in the management of cervical trauma and deformity. Despite its utility, little empirical evidence exists to guide its implementation, with most practitioners employing custom or modified adult protocols. Expert-based best practices may improve the care of children undergoing cervical traction. In this study, the authors aimed to build consensus and establish best practices for the use of pediatric cervical traction in order to enhance its utilization, safety, and efficacy.

### METHODS

A modified Delphi method was employed to try to identify areas of consensus regarding the utilization and implementation of pediatric cervical spine traction. A literature review of pediatric cervical traction was distributed electronically along with a survey of current practices to a group of 20 board-certified pediatric neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons with expertise in the pediatric cervical spine. Sixty statements were then formulated and distributed to the group. The results of the second survey were discussed during an in-person meeting leading to further consensus. Consensus was defined as ≥ 80% agreement on a 4-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree).

### RESULTS

After the initial round, consensus was achieved with 40 statements regarding the following topics: goals, indications, and contraindications of traction (12), pretraction imaging (6), practical application and initiation of various traction techniques (8), protocols in trauma and deformity patients (8), and management of traction-related complications (6). Following the second round, an additional 9 statements reached consensus related to goals/indications/contraindications of traction (4), related to initiation of traction (4), and related to complication management (1). All participants were willing to incorporate the consensus statements into their practice.

### CONCLUSIONS

In an attempt to improve and standardize the use of cervical traction in pediatric patients, the authors have identified 49 best-practice recommendations, which were generated by reaching consensus among a multidisciplinary group of pediatric spine experts using a modified Delphi technique. Further study is required to determine if implementation of these practices can lead to reduced complications and improved outcomes for children.

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## Standardization of cerebrospinal fluid shunt valves in pediatric hydrocephalus: an analysis of cost, operative time, length of stay, and shunt failure

### OBJECTIVE

CSF shunts are the most common procedures performed in the pediatric neurosurgical population. Despite attempts in multiple studies, a superior shunt valve has never been shown. Because of this, the authors aim was to examine the impact of shunt valve standardization at their institution to determine if there is a difference in surgical cost, operative time, or short-term postoperative shunt failure.

### METHODS

A retrospective analysis at the authors’ institution was performed for all new CSF diversion shunts, as well as shunt revisions requiring a new valve, or a new valve and at least a new proximal or distal catheter over a 1-year period (January 1, 2016, to December 31, 2016). After a period of transition, neurosurgeons were encouraged to use only one type of fixed-differential-pressure valve and one type of programmable valve when performing shunt surgeries. These patients who underwent “standardized” shunt surgery over a 1-year period (January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018) were then compared to patients in the prestandardization epoch. All patients were followed for a 12-month period after surgery. Demographic information, surgical cost, operative time, and postoperative shunt failure data were collected in all patients in the study.

### RESULTS

The authors analyzed 87 shunt surgeries in patients prior to standardization and 94 shunt surgeries in patients after standardization. The rate of violation of the standardized shunt valve policy after implementation was 5.3% (5 of 94 procedures). When comparing the prestandardization group to those who received the standardized valve, operative costs were less ($1821.04 vs$1333.75, p = 0.0034). There was no difference in operative times between groups (78 minutes vs 81 minutes, p = 0.5501). There was no difference in total number of shunt failures between the two groups at 12 months after surgery (p = 0.0859). The rate of postoperative infection was consistent with the literature at 8%.

### CONCLUSIONS

In accordance with quality improvement principles, the reduction of unexplained clinical variance invariably leads to a decrease in cost and, more importantly, increased value. In this study, the implementation of a standardized shunt valve decreased operative cost. There were no differences in postoperative shunt failures at 12 months after surgery and no differences in length of surgery. Standardizing shunt valves in the treatment of pediatric hydrocephalus seems to be cost-effective and safe.

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## A standardized protocol to reduce preoperative hypothermia in pediatric spinal fusion surgery: a quality improvement initiative

### OBJECTIVE

Hypothermia in adult surgical patients has been correlated with an increase in the occurrence of surgical site wound infections, increased bleeding, slower recovery from anesthetics, prolonged hospitalization, and increased healthcare costs. Pediatric surgical patients are at potentially increased risk for hypothermia because of their smaller body size, limited stores of subcutaneous fat, and less effective regulatory capacity. This risk is exacerbated during pediatric spinal surgery by lower preoperative temperature, increased surface exposure to cold during induction and positioning, and prolonged surgical procedure times. The purpose of this quality improvement initiative was to reduce the duration of hypothermia for pediatric patients undergoing spine surgery.

### METHODS

Demographic and clinical data were collected on 162 patients who underwent spinal deformity surgery between October 1, 2017, and July 31, 2019. Data points included patient age, gender, diagnosis, surgical procedure, and temperature readings throughout different phases of perioperative care. Temperatures were obtained upon arrival to the day of surgery, upon presentation to the operating room, during prone positioning, at incision, and at the end of the procedure. Twelve patients were analyzed prior to implementation of a protocol, while 150 patients composed the post-protocol group.

### RESULTS

Using descriptive statistics, the authors found that the average body temperature at the time of incision was 34.0°C prior to the adoption of a preoperative warming protocol, and 35.3°C following a preoperative warming protocol (p = 0.001). There were no complications, such as burns, hyperthermia, or arrhythmias, related to preoperative warming of patients.

### CONCLUSIONS

The placement of a warming blanket on the bed prior to patient arrival and actively targeting normothermia reduced the incidence and duration of hypothermia in pediatric patients undergoing spine surgery with no adverse events.

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