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Doniel Drazin, Miriam Nuño, Chirag G. Patil, Kimberly Yan, John C. Liu and Frank L. Acosta Jr.

OBJECTIVE

The objective of this study was to determine factors associated with admission to the hospital through the emergency room (ER) for patients with a primary diagnosis of low-back pain (LBP). The authors further evaluated the impact of ER admission and patient characteristics on mortality, discharge disposition, and hospital length of stay.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective analysis of patients with LBP discharged from hospitals according to the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) between 1998 and 2007. Univariate comparisons of patient characteristics according to the type of admission (ER versus non-ER) were conducted. Multivariate analysis evaluated factors associated with an ER admission, risk of mortality, and nonroutine discharge.

RESULTS

According to the NIS, approximately 183,151 patients with a primary diagnosis of LBP were discharged from US hospitals between 1998 and 2007. During this period, an average of 65% of these patients were admitted through the ER, with a significant increase from 1998 (54%) to 2005 (71%). Multivariate analysis revealed that uninsured patients (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.7–2.6, p < 0.0001) and African American patients (OR 1.5, 95% CI 1.2–1.7, p < 0.0001) were significantly more likely to be admitted through the ER than private insurance patients or Caucasian patients, respectively. Additionally, a moderate but statistically significant increase in the likelihood of ER admission was noted for patients with more preexisting comorbidities (OR 1.1, 95% CI 1.0–1.2, p < 0.001). An 11% incremental increase in the odds of admission through the ER was observed with each year increment (OR 1.1, 95% CI 1.0–1.2, p < 0.001). Highest income patients ($45,000+) were more likely to be admitted through the ER (OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.1–1.6, p = 0.007) than the lowest income cohort. While ER admission did not impact the risk of mortality (OR 0.95, 95% CI 0.60–1.51, p = 0.84), it increased the odds of a nonroutine discharge (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.26–1.53, p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS

A significant majority of patients discharged from hospitals in the US from 1998 to 2007 with a primary diagnosis of LBP were admitted through the ER, with more patients being admitted via this route each year. These patients were less likely to be discharged directly home compared with patients with LBP who were not admitted through the ER. Uninsured and African American patients with LBP were more likely to be admitted through the ER than their counterparts, as were patients with more preexisting health problems. Interestingly, patients with LBP at the highest income levels were more likely to be admitted through hospital ERs. The findings suggest that socioeconomic factors may play a role in the utilization of ER resources by patients with LBP, which in turn appears to impact at least the short-term outcome of these patients.

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Anthony D'Oro, Mark J. Spoonamore, Jeremiah R. Cohen, Frank L. Acosta, Patrick C. Hsieh, John C. Liu, Thomas C. Chen, Zorica Buser and Jeffrey C. Wang

OBJECT

The objective of this study was to compare the incidence of degeneration and need for subsequent fusion surgery between patients who were treated nonsurgically and patients treated with fusion after a diagnosis of thoracic-or lumbar-level fracture without degenerative disease.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective study of Orthopedic United Healthcare patients diagnosed with thoracic or lumbar fracture. Patients were filtered into thoracic and lumbar fracture groups using diagnostic codes and then assigned to one of 2 treatment subgroups (fusion surgery or no surgery) on the basis of procedural codes. Disc degeneration and follow-up surgery were recorded. Chi-square statistical analysis was used.

RESULTS

Of 3699 patients diagnosed with a thoracic fracture, 117 (3.2%) underwent thoracic fusion and 3215 (86.9%) were treated nonsurgically. Within 3 years, 147 (4.6%) patients from the nonsurgical subgroup and fewer than 11 (0.9%–8.5%) from the fusion subgroup were diagnosed with thoracic disc degeneration. From the nonsurgical subgroup, 11 (0.3%) patients underwent a thoracic surgery related to disc degeneration compared with zero from the fusion group (p > 0.05). Of 5016 patients diagnosed with lumbar fracture, 150 (3.0%) underwent fusion and 4371 (87.1%) had no surgery. Within 3 years, 503 patients (11.5%) from the nonsurgical subgroup and 35 (23.3%) from the fusion subgroup were diagnosed with lumbar disc degeneration (p < 0.05). From the nonsurgical subgroup, 42 (1.0%) went on to have surgery related to disc degeneration, compared with fewer than 11 (0.7%–6.7%) from the fusion subgroup (values not precise due to privacy limitations).

CONCLUSIONS

Fusion surgery for thoracic fracture does not appear to increase the likelihood of undergoing future surgery. In the lumbar region, initial fusion surgery appears to increase the incidence of disc degeneration and could potentially necessitate future surgeries.

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Martin H. Pham, Vivek A. Mehta, Neil N. Patel, Andre M. Jakoi, Patrick C. Hsieh, John C. Liu, Jeffrey C. Wang and Frank L. Acosta

The Dynesys dynamic stabilization system is an alternative to rigid instrumentation and fusion for the treatment of lumbar degenerative disease. Although many outcomes studies have shown good results, currently lacking is a comprehensive report on complications associated with this system, especially in terms of how it compares with reported complication rates of fusion. For the present study, the authors reviewed the literature to find all studies involving the Dynesys dynamic stabilization system that reported complications or adverse events. Twenty-one studies were included for a total of 1166 patients with a mean age of 55.5 years (range 39–71 years) and a mean follow-up period of 33.7 months (range 12.0–81.6 months). Analysis of these studies demonstrated a surgical-site infection rate of 4.3%, pedicle screw loosening rate of 11.7%, pedicle screw fracture rate of 1.6%, and adjacent-segment disease (ASD) rate of 7.0%. Of studies reporting revision surgeries, 11.3% of patients underwent a reoperation. Of patients who developed ASD, 40.6% underwent a reoperation for treatment. The Dynesys dynamic stabilization system appears to have a fairly similar complication-rate profile compared with published literature on lumbar fusion, and is associated with a slightly lower incidence of ASD.

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Frank L. Acosta Jr., Christopher Ames, Patrick C. Hsieh and Ian M. McCarthy

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Justin K. Scheer, Jessica A. Tang, Justin S. Smith, Frank L. Acosta Jr., Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Benjamin Blondel, Shay Bess, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Vedat Deviren, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Christopher P. Ames and the International Spine Study Group

This paper is a narrative review of normal cervical alignment, methods for quantifying alignment, and how alignment is associated with cervical deformity, myelopathy, and adjacent-segment disease (ASD), with discussions of health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Popular methods currently used to quantify cervical alignment are discussed including cervical lordosis, sagittal vertical axis, and horizontal gaze with the chin-brow to vertical angle. Cervical deformity is examined in detail as deformities localized to the cervical spine affect, and are affected by, other parameters of the spine in preserving global sagittal alignment. An evolving trend is defining cervical sagittal alignment. Evidence from a few recent studies suggests correlations between radiographic parameters in the cervical spine and HRQOL. Analysis of the cervical regional alignment with respect to overall spinal pelvic alignment is critical. The article details mechanisms by which cervical kyphotic deformity potentially leads to ASD and discusses previous studies that suggest how postoperative sagittal malalignment may promote ASD. Further clinical studies are needed to explore the relationship of cervical malalignment and the development of ASD. Sagittal alignment of the cervical spine may play a substantial role in the development of cervical myelopathy as cervical deformity can lead to spinal cord compression and cord tension. Surgical correction of cervical myelopathy should always take into consideration cervical sagittal alignment, as decompression alone may not decrease cord tension induced by kyphosis. Awareness of the development of postlaminectomy kyphosis is critical as it relates to cervical myelopathy. The future direction of cervical deformity correction should include a comprehensive approach in assessing global cervicalpelvic relationships. Just as understanding pelvic incidence as it relates to lumbar lordosis was crucial in building our knowledge of thoracolumbar deformities, T-1 incidence and cervical sagittal balance can further our understanding of cervical deformities. Other important parameters that account for the cervical-pelvic relationship are surveyed in detail, and it is recognized that all such parameters need to be validated in studies that correlate HRQOL outcomes following cervical deformity correction.

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Dueng-Yuan Hueng, Ming-Ying Liu and Hsin-I Ma

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Heiko Koller, Michael Mayer, Juliane Zenner, Herbert Resch, Alfred Niederberger, Johann Fierlbeck, Wolfgang Hitzl and Frank L. Acosta Jr.

Object

In thoracolumbar deformity surgery, anterior-only approaches are used for reconstruction of anterior column failures. It is generally advised that vertebral body replacements (VBRs) should be preloaded by compression. However, little is known regarding the impact of different techniques for generation of preloads and which surgical principle is best for restoration of lordosis. Therefore, the authors analyzed the effect of different surgical techniques to restore spinal alignment and lordosis as well as the ability to generate axial preloads on VBRs in anterior column reconstructions.

Methods

The authors performed a laboratory study using 7 fresh-frozen specimens (from T-3 to S-1) to assess the ability for lordosis reconstruction of 5 techniques and their potential for increasing preloads on a modified distractable VBR in a 1-level thoracolumbar corpectomy. The testing protocol was as follows: 1) Radiographs of specimens were obtained. 2) A 1-level corpectomy was performed. 3) In alternating order, lordosis was applied using 1 of the 5 techniques. Then, preloads during insertion and after relaxation using the modified distractable VBR were assessed using a miniature load-cell incorporated in the modified distractable VBR. The modified distractable VBR was inserted into the corpectomy defect after lordosis was applied using 1) a lamina spreader; 2) the modified distractable VBR only; 3) the ArcoFix System (an angular stable plate system enabling in situ reduction); 4) a lordosizer (a customized instrument enabling reduction while replicating the intervertebral center of rotation [COR] according to the COR method); and 5) a lordosizer and top-loading screws ([LZ+TLS], distraction with the lordosizer applied on a 5.5-mm rod linked to 2 top-loading pedicle screws inserted laterally into the vertebra). Changes in the regional kyphosis angle were assessed radiographically using the Cobb method.

Results

The bone mineral density of specimens was 0.72 ± 22.6 g/cm2. The maximum regional kyphosis angle reconstructed among the 5 techniques averaged 9.7°−16.1°, and maximum axial preloads averaged 123.7–179.7 N. Concerning correction, in decreasing order the LZ+TLS, lordosizer, and ArcoFix System outperformed the lamina spreader and modified distractable VBR. The order of median values for insertion peak load, from highest to lowest, were lordosizer, LZ+TLS, and ArcoFix, which outperformed the lamina spreader and modified distractable VBR. In decreasing order, the axial preload was highest with the lordosizer and LZ+TLS, which both outperformed the lamina spreader and the modified distractable VBR. The technique enabling the greatest lordosis achieved the highest preloads. With the ArcoFix System and LZ+TLS, compression loads could be applied and were 247.8 and 190.6 N, respectively, which is significantly higher than the insertion peak load and axial preload (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Including the ability for replication of the COR in instruments designed for anterior column reconstructions, the ability for lordosis restoration of the anterior column and axial preloads can increase, which in turn might foster fusion.

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Frank L. Acosta Jr., Jamal McClendon Jr., Brian A. O'Shaughnessy, Heiko Koller, Chris J. Neal, Oliver Meier, Christopher P. Ames, Tyler R. Koski and Stephen L. Ondra

Object

As the population continues to age, relatively older geriatric patients will present more frequently with complex spinal deformities that may require surgical intervention. To the authors' knowledge, no study has analyzed factors predictive of complications after major spinal deformity surgery in the very elderly (75 years and older). The authors' objective was to determine the rate of minor and major complications and predictive factors in patients 75 years of age and older who underwent major spinal deformity surgery requiring a minimum 5-level arthrodesis procedure.

Methods

Twenty-one patients who were 75 years of age or older and underwent thoracic and/or lumbar fixation and arthrodesis across 5 or more levels for spinal deformity were analyzed retrospectively. The medical and surgical records were reviewed in detail. Age, diagnosis, comorbidities, operative data, hospital data, major and minor complications, and deaths were recorded. Factors predictive of perioperative complications were identified by logistic regression analysis.

Results

The mean patient age was 77 years old (range 75–83 years). There were 14 women and 7 men. The mean follow-up was 41.2 months (range 24–81 months). Fifteen patients (71%) had at least 1 comorbidity. A mean of 10.5 levels were fused (range 5–15 levels). Thirteen patients (62%) had at least 1 perioperative complication, and 8 (38%) had at least one major complication for a total of 17 complications. There were no perioperative deaths. Increasing age was predictive of any perioperative complication (p = 0.03). However, major complications were not predicted by age or comorbidities as a whole. In a subset analysis of comorbidities, only hypertension was predictive of a major complication (OR 10, 95% CI 1.3–78; p = 0.02). Long-term postoperative complications occurred in 11 patients (52%), and revision fusion surgery was necessary in 3 (14%).

Conclusions

Patients 75 years and older undergoing major spinal deformity surgery have an overall perioperative complication rate of 62%, with older age increasing the likelihood of a complication, and a long-term postoperative complication rate of 52%. Patients in this age group with a history of hypertension are 10 times more likely to incur a major perioperative complication. However, the mortality risk for these patients is not increased.

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Doniel Drazin, Ali Shirzadi, Jack Rosner, Paula Eboli, Michael Safee, Eli M. Baron, John C. Liu and Frank L. Acosta Jr.

Object

The elderly population (age > 60 years) is the fastest-growing age group in the US. Spinal deformity is a major problem affecting the elderly and, therefore, the demand for surgery for spinal deformity is becoming increasingly prevalent in elderly patients. Much of the literature on surgery for adult deformity focuses on patients who are younger than 60 years, and therefore there is limited information about the complications and outcomes of surgery in the elderly population.

In this study, the authors undertook a review of the literature on spinal deformity surgery in patients older than 60 years. The authors discuss their analysis with a focus on outcomes, complications, discrepancies between individual studies, and strategies for complication avoidance.

Methods

A systematic review of the MEDLINE and PubMed databases was performed to identify articles published from 1950 to the present using the following key words: “adult scoliosis surgery” and “adult spine deformity surgery.” Exclusion criteria included patient age younger than 60 years. Data on major Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores, visual analog scale (VAS) scores, patient-reported outcomes, and complications were recorded.

Results

Twenty-two articles were obtained and are included in this review. The mean age was 74.2 years, and the mean follow-up period was 3 years. The mean preoperative ODI was 48.6, and the mean postoperative reduction in ODI was 24.1. The mean preoperative VAS score was 7.7 with a mean postoperative decrease of 5.2. There were 311 reported complications for 815 patients (38%) and 5 deaths for 659 patients (< 1%).

Conclusions

Elderly patient outcomes were inconsistent in the published studies. Overall, most elderly patients obtained favorable outcomes with low operative mortality following surgery for adult spinal deformity.

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David J. Moller, Nicholas P. Slimack, Frank L. Acosta Jr., Tyler R. Koski, Richard G. Fessler and John C. Liu

Object

Recently, the minimally invasive, lateral retroperitoneal, transpsoas approach to the thoracolumbar spinal column has been described by various authors. This is known as the minimally invasive lateral lumbar interbody fusion. The purpose of this study is to elucidate the approach-related morbidity associated with the minimally invasive transpsoas approach to the lumbar spine. To date, there have been only a couple of reports regarding the morbidity of the transpsoas muscle approach.

Methods

A nonrandomized, prospective study utilizing a self-reported patient questionnaire was conducted between January 2006 and June 2008 at Northwestern University. Data were collected in 53 patients with a follow-up period ranging from 6 months to 3.5 years. Only 2 patients were lost to follow-up.

Results

Thirty-six percent (19 of 53) of patients reported subjective hip flexor weakness, 25% (13 of 53) anterior thigh numbness, and 23% (12 of 53) anterior thigh pain. However, 84% of the 19 patients reported complete resolution of their subjective hip flexor weakness by 6 months, and most experienced improved strength by 8 weeks. Of those reporting anterior thigh numbness and pain, 69% and 75% improved to their baseline function by the 6-month follow-up evaluations, respectively. All patients with self-reported subjective hip flexor weakness underwent examinations during subsequent clinic visits after surgery; however, these examinations did not confirm a motor deficit less than Grade 5. Subset analysis showed that the L3–4 and L4–5 levels were most often affected.

Conclusions

The minimally invasive, transpsoas muscle approach to the lumbar spine has a number of advantages. The data show that a percentage of the patients undergoing the transpsoas approach will have temporary sensory and motor symptoms related to this approach. The majority of the symptoms are thought to be related to psoas muscle inflammation and/or stretch injury to the genitofemoral nerve due to the surgical corridor traversed during the operation. No major injuries to the lumbar plexus were encountered. It is important to educate patients prior to surgery of the possibility of these largely transient symptoms.