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Christopher P. Ames, G. Bryan Cornwall, Neil R. Crawford, Eric Nottmeier, Robert H. Chamberlain and Volker K. H. Sonntag

✓ In this article the authors review the history of anterior cervical plating for one- and two-level discectomy for degenerative disease and provide background justification for the design and testing of a cervical plate composed of a resorbable material. The design of the plate is discussed with special reference to modifications of its design and tools compared with metallic plates that are necessary because of the different mechanical properties of the less rigid material. The cadaveric and animal in vivo testing methodologies are described, and a novel testing method for reliably quantifying graft containment is also described. Data from a representative sample are presented. Advantages and disadvantages of resorbable plating are discussed.

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G. Bryan Cornwall, Christopher P. Ames, Neil R. Crawford, Robert H. Chamberlain, Anthony M. Rubino, Howard B. Seim III and A. Simon Turner

Object

An in vivo study was conducted in an ovine model to investigate the biomechanical changes after the animals underwent single-level anterior cervical discectomy followed by fusion in which autologous tricortical graft was used and implantation of cervical plates for which bioresorbable polymer screws and plates were used. The specific aims of the study were to evaluate whether implant failure or screw backout would occur over time and to measure the change in stiffness at the treated level at various postoperative time periods (3, 6, and 12 months).

Methods

A total of 58 x-ray films were evaluated over the 12-month survival period. No screw breakage or displacement was observed in any animal during the temporal radiographic analysis. Radiographically confirmed fusion appeared to be complete at all time periods longer than 6 months. The biomechanical testing demonstrated dramatic reductions in range of motion at the fusion level in the animals allowed to survive for 6 and 12 months, indicating complete fusion after 6 months.

Conclusions

The bioresorbable polymer cervical graft containment system appears to provide a safe and effective alternative for cervical fusion, and warrants further clinical evaluation for its use in single-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion without postoperative orthosis.

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Frank L. Acosta Jr., Cynthia T. Chin, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Christopher P. Ames, Philip R. Weinstein and Dean Chou

Establishing the diagnosis of cervical osteomyelitis in a timely fashion is critical to prevent catastrophic neurological injury. In the modern imaging era, magnetic resonance imaging in particular has facilitated the diagnosis of cervical osteomyelitis, even before the onset of neurological signs or symptoms. Nevertheless, despite advancements in diagnosis, disagreement remains regarding appropriate surgical treatment. The role of instrumentation and type of graft material after cervical decompression remain controversial. The authors describe the epidemiological features, pathogenesis, and diagnostic evaluation, and the surgical and nonsurgical interventions that can be used to treat osteomyelitis of the cervical spine. They also review the current debate about the role of instrumentation in preventing spinal deformity after surgical decompression for cervical osteomyelitis. Based on this review, the authors conclude that nonsurgical therapy is appropriate if neurological signs or symptoms, instability, deformity, or spinal cord compression are absent. Surgical decompression, debridement, stabilization, and deformity correction are the goals once the decision to perform surgery has been made. The roles of autogenous graft, instrumentation, and allograft have not been clearly delineated with Class I data, but the authors believe that spinal stability and decompression override creating an environment that can be completely sterilized by antibiotic drugs.

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Christopher P. Ames, Frank Acosta and Eric Nottmeier

✓ The authors describe the case of a traumatic C-1 ring fracture and transverse ligament injury in an otherwise healthy adult woman; the lesion was essentially untreated for 3 months and resulted in basilar invagination. On presentation 3 months postinjury, the patient complained of severe increasing suboccipital pain and a grinding sensation in her upper neck. Axial computerized tomography (CT) scans revealed a C-1 ring fracture, basilar invagination with the dens abutting the clivus, and significant lateral splaying of the C-1 lateral masses. Flexion—extension radiography demonstrated abnormal motion at the atlantoaxial junction. A unique surgical technique was used to address simultaneously the C1–2 instability, the displaced C-1 fracture, and basilar invagination without having to perform occipital fixation. The authors believe that an understanding of the mechanism of the cranial settling in this case (further splaying of the C-1 lateral masses and downward migration of the occipital condyles) permitted full reduction of the deformity; this was accomplished by performing a horizontal reduction of the C-1 lateral masses, using direct C-1 lateral mass screws, a rod compressor, and a cross-link. Postoperative CT scanning confirmed the success of reduction. The results in this report highlight a rare but important complication of untreated C-1 fracture and ligament disruption, and the authors describe a novel treatment technique with which to restore vertical alignment and preserve occipital C-1 motion. A variation of this technique may also be used to treat Type II transverse ligament injuries associated with C-1 ring fractures as an alternative to halo immobilization.

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Christopher P. Ames, Neil R. Crawford, Robert H. Chamberlain, Vivek Deshmukh, Belma Sadikovic and Volker K. H. Sonntag

Object. The authors tested the ability of a resorbable cannulated lag screw composed of a polylactide copolymer to repair Type II odontoid fractures. The resorbable screw was evaluated for its ability to restore strength and stiffness to the fractured odontoid process compared with traditional titanium screws.

Methods. Type II odontoid fractures were created in 14 human cadaveric C-2 vertebrae by applying a posterolaterally directed load and piston displacement was measured. Seven of these specimens were repaired using metal screws and seven were repaired using resorbable screws. Specimens were reinjured using the same mechanism as the initial fracture. Values of ultimate strength and stiffness during failure were statistically compared between metal and resorbable screws and between initial fracture and reinjury.

Conclusions. The stiffness and ultimate strength during initial fracture were significantly greater than those during reinjury in specimens repaired using resorbable screws or titanium screws (p < 0.001). The resorbable and titanium screws both restored 31% of the initial ultimate strength of the intact specimen (p = 0.95). The stiffness of the fractured odontoid process was restored to 15 and 23% of its initial value by repair with resorbable and metal screws, respectively (p = 0.07). The mode of failure in resorbable screws was usually breakage or bending, whereas that in metal screws was consistently cutout of the proximal shaft of the screw through the anterior C-2 vertebral body.

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Frank L. Acosta Jr., Henry E. Aryan, William R. Taylor and Christopher P. Ames

Object

Surgical intervention for thoracolumbar burst fractures is indicated for patients with neurological deficits and/or evidence of severe spinal instability. The goals of surgery are decompression, deformity correction, and stabilization. Nevertheless, the optimal surgical strategy to achieve these goals remains a subject of debate. Short-segment pedicle screw fixation is associated with a 20 to 50% incidence of pedicle screw failure and progressive spinal deformity. Initial biomechanical and clinical studies have shown that reinforcement of short-segment pedicle screw fixation with vertebroplasty improves spinal stability and decreases instrument failure rates. In this study, the authors describe their initial clinical experience with kyphoplasty used to augment short-segment pedicle screw fixation of traumatic lumbar burst fractures.

Methods

Five patients with traumatic burst fractures of the lumbar spine were included in this retrospective review of patients treated for this disorder at the University of California, San Diego and the University of California, San Francisco between 2002 and 2004. All patients underwent transpedicular kyphoplasty and short-segment pedicle screw fixation. The mean follow-up period was 10.6 months (range 6–18 months). All patients underwent short-segment pedicle screw fixation reinforced with polymethyl methacrylate kyphoplasty. The preoperative, postoperative, and follow-up plain x-ray films were evaluated. Radiographic analysis included measurements of kyphotic angulation, anterior vertebral body height, and evidence of bone fusion. Clinical evaluation was performed postoperatively and at follow-up review.

Conclusions

Based on the authors' initial experience, kyphoplasty supplementation may improve the long-term integrity of short-segment pedicle screw constructs and allow for improved rates of fusion and better clinical outcomes in patients with traumatic lumbar burst fractures.

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Frank L. Acosta Jr., Jeffrey Lotz and Christopher P. Ames

Low-back pain is the most common health problem for men and women between 20 and 50 years of age, resulting in 13 million doctor visits in the US annually, with significant costs to society in terms of lost time from work and direct and indirect medical expenses. Although the exact origin of most cases of low-back pain remains unknown, it is understood that degenerative damage to the intervertebral disc (IVD) plays a central role in the pathogenic mechanism leading to this disorder. Current treatment modalities for disc-related back pain (selective nerve root blocks, surgical discectomy and fusion) are costly procedures aimed only at alleviating symptoms. Consequently, there is growing interest in the development of novel technologies to repair or regenerate the degenerated IVD. Recently, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been found to possess the capacity to differentiate into nucleus pulposus–like cells capable of synthesizing a physiological, proteoglycan-rich extracellular matrix characteristic of healthy IVDs. In this article, the authors review the use of MSCs for repopulation of the degenerating IVD. Although important obstacles to the survival and proliferation of stem cells within the degenerating disc need to be overcome, the potential for MSC therapy to slow or reverse the degenerative process remains substantial.

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Biomechanical analysis of a newly designed bioabsorbable anterior cervical plate

Invited submission from the Joint Section Meeting on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, March 2005

Christopher P. Ames, Frank L. Acosta Jr., Robert H. Chamberlain, Adolfo Espinoza Larios and Neil R. Crawford

Object. The authors present a biomechanical analysis of a newly designed bioabsorbable anterior cervical plate (ACP) for the treatment of one-level cervical degenerative disc disease. They studied anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) in a human cadaveric model, comparing the stability of the cervical spine after placement of the bioabsorbable fusion plate, a bioabsorbable mesh, and a more traditional metallic ACP.

Methods. Seven human cadaveric specimens underwent a C6–7 fibular graft—assisted ACDF placement. A one-level resorbable ACP was then placed and secured with bioabsorbable screws. Flexibility testing was performed on both intact and instrumented specimens using a servohydraulic system to create flexion—extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation motions. After data analysis, three parameters were calculated: angular range of motion, lax zone, and stiff zone. The results were compared with those obtained in a previous study of a resorbable fusion mesh and with those acquired using metallic fusion ACPs. For all parameters studied, the resorbable plate consistently conferred greater stability than the resorbable mesh. Moreover, it offered comparable stability with that of metallic fusion ACPs.

Conclusions. Bioabsorbable plates provide better stability than resorbable mesh. Although the results of this study do not necessarily indicate that a resorbable plate confers equivalent stability to a metal plate, the resorbable ACP certainly yielded better results than the resorbable mesh. Bioabsorbable fusion ACPs should therefore be considered as alternatives to metal plates when a graft containment device is required.

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Kurtis I. Auguste, Cynthia Chin, Frank L. Acosta and Christopher P. Ames

Object

Expandable cylindrical cages (ECCs) have been utilized successfully to reconstruct the thoracic and lumbar spine. Their advantages include ease of insertion, reduced endplate trauma, direct application/maintenance of interbody distraction force, and one-step kyphosis correction. The authors present their experience with ECCs in the reconstruction of the cervical spine in patients with various pathological conditions.

Methods

Data obtained in 22 patients were reviewed retrospectively. A standard anterior cervical corpectomy was performed in all cases. Local vertebral body bone was harvested for use as graft material. Patients underwent pre- and postoperative assessment involving the visual analog scale (VAS), Nurick grading system for determining myelopathy disability, and radiographic studies to determine cervical kyphosis/lordosis and cage subsidence. Fusion was defined as the absence of motion on flexion–extension x-ray films.

Sixteen patients presented with spondylotic myelopathy, two with osteomyelitis, two with fracture, one with tumor metastasis, and one with severe stenosis. Fourteen patients underwent supplemental posterior spinal fusion, seven underwent single-level corpectomy, and 15 patients underwent multilevel corpectomy. No perioperative complications occurred. The mean follow-up period was 22 months. In 11 patients with preexisting kyphosis (mean deformity +19°), the mean correction was 22°. There was no statistically significant difference in subsidence between single- and multilevel corpectomy or between 360º fusion and anterior fusion alone. The VAS scores improved by 35%, and the Nurick grade improved by 31%. The fusion rate was 100%.

Conclusions

The preliminary results support the use of ECCs in the cervical spine in the treatment of patients with various disease processes. No significant subsidence was noted, and pain and functional scores improved in all cases. Expandable cylindrical cages appear to be well suited for cervical reconstruction and for correcting sagittal malalignment.

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Henry E. Aryan, Daniel C. Lu, Frank L. Acosta Jr. and Christopher P. Ames

Object

The treatment of vertebral osteomyelitis includes antibiotics with or without surgical intervention. The decision to place instrumentation into an infected spinal column remains controversial. The use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) in patients with osteomyelitis is also extremely controversial. The authors review their experience in performing corpectomy and fusion with titanium cages and rhBMP-2 in patients with vertebral instability and/or neurological compromise due to vertebral osteomyelitis.

Methods

Data obtained in 15 patients treated between 2001 and 2005 were included in this analysis. Nine patients presented primarily with axial pain and six with radiculopathy or myelopathy. Seven patients had an associated epidural abscess. The cervical spine was affected in six patients, the thoracic spine in five, and the lumbar spine in four. All patients underwent corpectomy of the involved vertebral bodies; the authors then performed spinal reconstruction, placing a titanium cage–plate system with morcellized allograft/autograft and rhBMP-2. In 10 patients, supplemental posterolateral screw–rod fixation was conducted.

A one-level corpectomy was performed in one patient, a two-level corpectomy in 13, and a six-level corpectomy in one. A morcellized allograft and rhBMP-2–filled titanium cage was used in 10 patients, and an autograft and rhBMP-2–filled cage in five patients. The most common pathogen was Staphylococcus aureus. All patients received intravenous antibiotics for at least 6 weeks postoperatively, and life-long antibiotic therapy was required in three patients with coccidiomycoses, candida, and tuberculosis osteomyelitis, respectively. There were no recurrent infections. Radiography demonstrated evidence of fusion in all patients at the last follow-up examination. The mean follow-up period was 20 months.

Conclusions

Corpectomy followed by titanium cage–plate reconstruction and the placement of rhBMP-2 may be a safe and effective treatment for selected patients with vertebral osteomyelitis. This surgical therapy does not appear, at least based on preliminary results, to lead to recurrent hardware infections. Based on the results obtained in this limited series, the authors found that rhBMP-2 can be used in the setting of active infection with excellent fusion rates and without complication. The morbidity associated with the autograft donor site is avoided when using cages. Antibiotic therapy tailored to the specific organism should be continued for at least 6 weeks after surgery, and life-long therapy is required in cases of fungal or tuberculosis infections.