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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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## 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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## PedsQL for prediction of postoperative patient-reported outcomes following Chiari decompression surgery

### OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study is to determine if the preoperative Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) score is predictive of short- and intermediate-term PedsQL outcomes following Chiari decompression surgery. The utility of preoperative patient-reported outcomes (PROs) in predicting pain, opioid consumption, and long-term PROs has been demonstrated in adult spine surgery. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, however, there is currently no widely accepted tool to predict short-, intermediate-, or long-term outcomes after pediatric Chiari decompression surgery.

### METHODS

A prospectively maintained database was retrospectively reviewed. Patients who had undergone first-time decompression for symptomatic Chiari malformation were identified and grouped according to their preoperative PedsQL scores: mild disability (score 80–100), moderate disability (score 60–79), and severe disability (score < 60). PedsQL scores at the 6-week, 3-month, and/or 6-month follow-ups were collected. Preoperative PedsQL subgroups were tested for an association with demographic and perioperative characteristics using one-way ANOVA or chi-square analysis. Preoperative PedsQL subgroups were tested for an association with improvements in short- and intermediate-term PedsQL scores using one-way ANOVA and a paired Wilcoxon signed-rank test controlling for statistically different demographic characteristics when appropriate.

### RESULTS

A total of 87 patients were included in this analysis. According to their preoperative PedsQL scores, 28% of patients had mild disability, 40% had moderate disability, and 32% had severe disability. There was a significant difference in the prevalence of comorbidities (p = 0.009) and the presenting symptoms of headaches (p = 0.032) and myelopathy (p = 0.047) among the subgroups; however, in terms of other demographic or operative factors, there was no significant difference. Patients with greater preoperative disability demonstrated statistically significantly lower PedsQL scores at all postoperative time points, except in terms of the parent-reported PedsQL at 6 months after surgery (p = 0.195). Patients with severe disability demonstrated statistically significantly greater improvements (compared to preoperative scores) in PedsQL scores at all time points after surgery, except in terms of the 6-week and 6-month PROs and the 6-month parent-reported outcomes (p = 0.068, 0.483, and 0.076, respectively).

### CONCLUSIONS

Patients with severe disability, as assessed by the PedsQL, had lower absolute PedsQL scores at all time points after surgery but greater improvement in short- and intermediate-term PROs. The authors conclude that the PedsQL is an efficient and accurate tool that can quickly assess patient disability in the preoperative period and predict both short- and intermediate-term surgical outcomes.