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Erica F. Bisson, Gregory F. Jost, Ronald I. Apfelbaum and Meic H. Schmidt

Object

The use of minimally invasive noninstrumented fusions has increased as thoracoscopic approaches to the spine have evolved. The addition of instrumentation is infrequent, in part because of the lack of a minimally invasive implant system. The authors describe a technique for thoracoscopic plating after discectomy and report early clinical outcomes.

Methods

After a standard endoscopic discectomy and partial corpectomy and before exposure of the ventral thecal sac, the authors implanted a polyaxial screw and clamping element under fluoroscopic guidance. Reconstruction involves placement of autograft in the defect and subsequent placement of the remainder of the screw/plate construct with 2 screws per vertebral level.

Results

Twenty-five patients underwent thoracoscopic and thoracoscopy-assisted discectomies and fusion in which the aforementioned plate system was used. Of 19 patients presenting with pain, 10 had 6-month clinical follow-up with a greater than 50% reduction in visual analog scale score, which continued to improve up to 2 years postoperatively. There were 3 cases of pneumonia, 3 CSF leaks, 1 chyle leak, and 1 death due to a massive pulmonary embolus on the 1st postoperative day.

Conclusions

The authors conclude that thoracoscopic discectomy and plate-instrumented fusion can be achieved with acceptable results and morbidity. Further studies should evaluate the role of instrumented fusions after thoracoscopic discectomy in larger groups of patients and during a longer follow-up period.

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Mandy J. Binning, Michael T. Walsh, Ronald I. Apfelbaum, Steven S. Chin and William T. Couldwell

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Andrew T. Dailey, David Hart, Michael A. Finn, Meic H. Schmidt and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Object

Fractures of the odontoid process are the most common fractures of the cervical spine in patients over the age of 70 years. The incidence of fracture nonunion in this population has been estimated to be 20-fold greater than that in patients under the age of 50 years if surgical stabilization is not used. Anterior and posterior approaches have both been advocated, with excellent results reported, but surgeons should understand the drawbacks of the various techniques before employing them in clinical practice.

Methods

A retrospective review was undertaken to identify patients who had direct fixation of an odontoid fracture at a single institution from 1991 to 2006. Patients were followed up using flexion-extension radiographs, and stability was evaluated as bone union, fibrous union, or nonunion. Patients with bone or fibrous union were classified as stable. In addition, the incidence of procedure- and nonprocedure-related complications was extracted from the medical record.

Results

Of the 57 patients over age 70 who underwent placement of an odontoid screw, 42 underwent follow-up from 3 to 62 months (mean 15 months). Stability was confirmed in 81% of these patients. In patients with fixation using 2 screws, 96% demonstrated stability on radiographs at final follow-up. Only 56% of patients with fixation using a single screw demonstrated stability on radiographs. In the immediate postoperative period, 25% of patients required a feeding tube and 19% had aspiration pneumonia that required antibiotic treatment.

Conclusions

Direct fixation of Type II odontoid fractures showed stability rates > 80% in this challenging population. Significantly higher stabilization rates were achieved when 2 screws were placed. The anterior approach was associated with a relatively high dysphagia rate, and patients must be counseled about this risk before surgery.

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Virany Huynh Hillard, Daniel R. Fassett, Michael A. Finn and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Object

An iliac crest autograft is the gold standard for bone grafting in posterior atlantoaxial arthrodesis but can be associated with significant donor-site morbidity. Conversely, an allograft has historically performed suboptimally for atlantoaxial arthrodesis as an onlay graft. The authors have modified a bone grafting technique to allow placement of a bicortical iliac crest allograft in an interpositional manner, and they evaluated it as an alternative to an autograft in posterior atlantoaxial arthrodesis.

Methods

The records of 89 consecutive patients in whom C1–2 arthrodesis was performed between 2001 and 2005 were reviewed.

Results

Forty-seven patients underwent 48 atlantoaxial arthrodeses with an allograft (mean follow-up 16.1 months, range 0–49 months), and 42 patients underwent autograft bone grafting (mean follow-up 17.6 months, range 0–61.0 months). The operative time was 50 minutes shorter in the allograft (mean 184 minutes, range 106–328 minutes) than in the autograft procedure (mean 234 minutes, range 154–358 minutes), and the estimated blood loss was 50% lower in the allograft group than in the autograft group (mean 103 ml [range 30–200 ml] vs mean 206 ml [range 50–400 ml], respectively). Bone incorporation was initially slower in the allograft than in the autograft group but equalized by 12 months postprocedure. The respective fusion rates after 24 months were 96.7 and 88.9% for autografts and allografts. Complications at the donor site occurred in 16.7% of the autograft patients, including 1 pelvic fracture, 1 retained sponge, 1 infection, 2 hernias requiring repair, 2 hematomas, and persistent pain.

Conclusions

The authors describe a technique for interpositional bone grafting between C-1 and C-2 that allows for the use of an allograft with excellent fusion results. This technique reduced the operative time and blood loss and eliminated donor-site morbidity.

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Daniel R. Fassett, Ronald I. Apfelbaum and John A. Hipp

Object

Fusion assessment after cervical arthrodesis can be subjective. Measures such as bridging bone quantification or extent of (limited) motion on dynamic studies are common but difficult to interpret and fraught with biases. We compared manual measurement and computer-assisted techniques in assessing fusion after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).

Methods

One hundred patients who underwent ACDF (512 intervertebral levels) were randomly selected for this radiographic review (follow-up 3–36 months). Two assessment techniques were performed by different observers, with each blinded to the results of the other. The manual spinous process displacement measurement technique was used to calculate motion between the spinous processes under magnification on a digital imaging workstation. Computer-assisted measurements of intervertebral angular motion were made using Quantitative Motion Analysis (QMA) software. Fusion criteria were arbitrarily set at 1 mm of motion for the manual technique and 1.5° of angular motion for the QMA technique.

Results

The manual measurement technique revealed fusion in 61.7% (316 of 512) of the interspaces assessed, and QMA revealed fusion in 64.3% (329 of 512). These two assessment techniques agreed in 87.5% of cases, with a correlation coefficient of 0.68 between the two data sets. In cases in which the two techniques did not agree, QMA revealed fusion and the manual measurement revealed nonfusion in 64% of the disagreements; 98% of the disagreements occurred when motion was < 2 mm or 2°.

Conclusions

Although osseous fusion after arthrodesis remains difficult to assess, new computer-assisted techniques may remove the subjectivity generally associated with assessing fusion.

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Amin Amini, Ronald I. Apfelbaum and Meic H. Schmidt

✓The thoracic duct along with the cisterna chyli is a major lymphatic pathway near the anterior thoracolumbar spine. Despite the fragile nature of the lymphatic system and its proximity to the spinal column, chylorrhea is rarely encountered by spine surgeons. The authors present a unique case of chylorrhea associated with a left thoracoscopic, trans-diaphragmatic discectomy and fusion for a T12–L1 herniated disc. The anomalous location of the thoracic duct at the left lateral vertebral column contributes to this unusual complication.

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William T. Couldwell, Peter Kan, James K. Liu and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

✓ Meningiomas are the most common tumors affecting the cavernous sinus (CS). Despite advances in microsurgery and radiosurgery, treatment of CS meningiomas remains difficult and controversial. As in cases of other meningiomas, the goal of treatment for CS meningioma is long-term growth control and preservation of neural function. Gross-total resection, the ideal treatment for meningioma, is not always possible to obtain in patients with CS meningiomas with an acceptable level of morbidity. Therefore, microsurgery and radiosurgery have recently been advocated as a combined therapy to achieve good control of tumor growth and favorable functional outcome. The authors describe a technique in which tumor volume can be reduced to a minimal residual amount, while preserving cranial nerve function. This enables the smallest field to be treated radiosurgically. The optic nerve is decompressed, and the tumor mass is reduced to provide at least a 5-mm interpositional distance between the optic nerve and the residual lesion. Direct decompression of the CS, with opening of the lateral and superior sinus walls, and piecemeal removal of the tumor in “safe” locations are performed to facilitate an improvement in cranial nerve function. The authors describe the use of this technique in a series of patients and demonstrate improvement of cranial nerve function in a subset of these patients.

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Masashi Neo

Object. In this, the first of two articles regarding C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, the authors assessed the rate of fusion, surgery-related complications, and lessons learned after C1–2 transarticular screw fixation in an adult patient series.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed 191 consecutive patients (107 women and 84 men; mean age 49.7 years, range 17–90 years) in whom at least one C1–2 transarticular screw was placed. Overall 353 transarticular screws were placed for trauma (85 patients), rheumatoid arthritis (63 patients), congenital anomaly (26 patients), os odontoideum (four patients), neoplasm (eight patients), and chronic cervical instability (five patients). Among these, 67 transarticular screws were placed in 36 patients as part of an occipitocervical construct. Seventeen patients had undergone 24 posterior C1–2 fusion attempts prior to referral. The mean follow-up period was 15.2 months (range 0.1–106.3 months).

Fusion was achieved in 98% of cases followed to commencement of fusion or for at least 24 months. The mean duration until fusion was 9.5 months (range 3–48 months). Complications occurred in 32 patients. Most were minor; however, five patients suffered vertebral artery (VA) injury. One bilateral VA injury resulted in patient death. The others did not result in any permanent neurological sequelae.

Conclusions. Based on this series, the authors have learned important lessons that can improve outcomes and safety. These include techniques to improve screw-related patient positioning, development of optimal instrumentation, improved screw materials and design, and defining the role for stereotactic navigation. Atlantoaxial transarticular screw fixation is highly effective in achieving fusion, and the complication rate is low when performed by properly trained surgeons.

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Chad D. Cole, James K. Liu and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Since the earliest recorded history of medicine, physicians have been challenged by the difficulty in relieving the great pain experienced by individuals suffering from trigeminal neuralgia (TN). The nature of the pain and the events that incite it have been well described, but effective treatments with acceptable levels of side effects remained elusive until the latter part of the 20th century. As a result, many theories about the origins of TN have been proposed, along with numerous treatment modalities. The pathophysiological causes of TN remain incompletely understood, but the medical and surgical treatment techniques currently used offer effective ways to relieve this extremely painful condition. In this historical review the authors discuss the initial descriptions of tic douloureux, Fothergill disease, and TN, along with various therapeutic interventions and their refinements.

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Wayne M. Gluf, Meic H. Schmidt and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Object. In this, the first of two articles regarding C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, the authors assessed the rate of fusion, surgery-related complications, and lessons learned after C1–2 transarticular screw fixation in an adult patient series.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed 191 consecutive patients (107 women and 84 men; mean age 49.7 years, range 17–90 years) in whom at least one C1–2 transarticular screw was placed. Overall 353 transarticular screws were placed for trauma (85 patients), rheumatoid arthritis (63 patients), congenital anomaly (26 patients), os odontoideum (four patients), neoplasm (eight patients), and chronic cervical instability (five patients). Among these, 67 transarticular screws were placed in 36 patients as part of an occipitocervical construct. Seventeen patients had undergone 24 posterior C1–2 fusion attempts prior to referral. The mean follow-up period was 15.2 months (range 0.1–106.3 months).

Fusion was achieved in 98% of cases followed to commencement of fusion or for at least 24 months. The mean duration until fusion was 9.5 months (range 3–48 months). Complications occurred in 32 patients. Most were minor; however, five patients suffered vertebral artery (VA) injury. One bilateral VA injury resulted in patient death. The others did not result in any permanent neurological sequelae.

Conclusions. Based on this series, the authors have learned important lessons that can improve outcomes and safety. These include techniques to improve screw-related patient positioning, development of optimal instrumentation, improved screw materials and design, and defining the role for stereotactic navigation. Atlantoaxial transarticular screw fixation is highly effective in achieving fusion, and the complication rate is low when performed by properly trained surgeons.