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Edward C. Benzel and Perry A. Ball

Object. The authors conducted a study to assess the anatomical appropriateness of using the S-2 dorsal neuroforamina as a hook fixation point, and they present the results of their clinical experience of using a nonscrew alternative for the surgical management of low lumbar (L-4 or L-5) burst fractures.

Methods. The technique used involves lumbar laminar fixation, rod contouring (to preserve lordosis), S-1 sublaminar wire fixation, S-2 dorsal neuroforaminal hook fixation, cross-fixation, and distraction. Because the S-2 dorsal neuroforamina was used as a unique fixation point, anatomical data obtained in 10 cadavers supporting the technique's utility are provided. Surgery was performed in six patients by using this technique, and solid fusion was achieved in all.

Conclusions. The reestablished lordotic posture was preserved in all but one patient. From an anatomical perspective, the findings corroborate the use of the S-2 dorsal foramina as a hook fixation point.This technique provides a viable adjunct or alternative to sacral screw and ilial fixation techniques.

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Edward C. Benzel, Blaine L. Hart, Perry A. Ball, Nevan G. Baldwin, William W. Orrison and Mary C. Espinosa

✓ Because it is often difficult to diagnose accurately the structurally intact cervical spine after acute trauma, a series of patients was evaluated with magnetic resonance (MR) imaging to assess its efficacy for the evaluation and clearance of the cervical spine in a trauma victim in the early posttrauma period. Ultralow-field MR imaging was used to evaluate 174 posttraumatic patients in whom physical findings indicated the potential for spine injury or minor radiographic findings indicated injury. This series includes only those patients who did not appear to harbor disruption of spinal integrity on the basis of a routine x-ray film. None had clinically obvious injury.

Of the 174 patients, 62 (36%) had soft-tissue abnormalities identified by MR imaging, including disc interspace disruption in 27 patients (four with ventral and dorsal ligamentous injury, three with ventral ligamentous injury alone, 18 with dorsal ligamentous injury alone, and two without ventral or dorsal ligamentous injury). Isolated ligamentous injury was observed in 35 patients (eight with ventral and dorsal ligamentous injury, five with ventral ligamentous injury alone, and 22 with dorsal ligamentous injury alone). One patient underwent a surgical fusion procedure, 35 patients (including the one treated surgically) were placed in a cervical collar for at least 1 month, and 27 patients were placed in a thermoplastic Minerva jacket for at least 2 months. All had a satisfactory outcome without evidence of instability.

The T2-weighted sagittal images were most useful in defining acute soft-tissue injury; axial images were of minimal assistance. Posttraumatic soft-tissue cervical spine injuries and disc herniations (most likely preexisting the trauma) are more common than expected. A negative MR image should be considered as confirmation of a negative or “cleared” subaxial cervical spine. Diagnostic and patient management algorithms may be appropriately tailored by this information. Thus, MR imaging is useful for early acute posttrauma assessment in a very select group of patients.

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Edward C. Benzel, Blaine L. Hart, Perry A. Ball, Nevan G. Baldwin, William W. Orrison and Mary Espinosa

✓ Vertical C-2 body fractures are presented in 15 patients with clinical and imaging correlations that suggest the existence of a variety of mechanisms of injury. In these patients, clinical and imaging correlations were derived by: 1) defining the point of impact by clinical examination; 2) defining the point of impact by soft-tissue changes on cranial magnetic resonance (MR) imaging or computerized tomography (CT); 3) obtaining an accurate history of the mechanism of injury; and 4) spine imaging (x-ray studies, CT, and MR imaging) of the C-2 body fracture and surrounding bone and soft tissue.

The cases presented involve the region located between the dens and the pars interarticularis of the axis. Although these fractures are rarely reported, they are not uncommon. An elucidation of their pathological anatomy helps to further the understanding of the mechanistic etiology of upper cervical spine trauma.

A spectrum of mechanisms of injury causing upper cervical spine fractures was observed. The type of injury incurred is determined predominantly by the force vector applied during impact and the intrinsic strength and anatomy of C-2 and its surrounding spinal elements. From this clinical experience, two types of vertical C-2 body fractures are defined and presented: coronally oriented (Type 1) and sagittally oriented (Type 2). A third type of C-2 body fracture, the horizontal rostral C-2 fracture (Type 3), is added for completeness; this Type 3 fracture is the previously described Type III odontoid process fracture described by Anderson and D'Alonzo.

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Perry A. Ball, Edward C. Benzel and Nevan G. Baldwin

✓ The use of bone plate instrumentation with screw fixation has proved to be a useful adjunctive measure in anterior cervical spine fusion surgery. Proper fitting, positioning, and attachment of this instrumentation have been shown to be frequently suboptimal if done without radiographic guidance. The most commonly used method of radiographic assistance for placement of this instrumentation is fluoroscopy. While this gives satisfactory technical results, it is expensive and time-consuming, and exposes the patient and the operating room personnel to ionizing radiation. The authors present a simple technique to ensure screw placement and plate fitting using Kirschner wires and a single lateral radiograph. This technique saves time, reduces exposure to radiation, and has led to satisfactory results in over 20 operative cases.

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Edward C. Benzel, Perry A. Ball, Nevan G. Baldwin and Erich P. Marchand

✓ A new technique of universal spine instrumentation insertion for the management of thoracic and lumbar spine instability is presented and the results in 10 patients are described. The technique involves the sequential insertion of Texas Scottish Rite Hospital (TSRH) central-post hooks, followed by hook fixation to the rod; force is then applied with correction of deformity, if needed. This allows for methodical, safe, and rapid instrumentation insertion. The new TSRH central-post hook configuration permits manipulation of the hook/rod relationships to the advantage of the surgeon (and patient) by providing more room for both hook insertion and hook/rod fixation. This technique has reduced operative time, facilitated case of deformity correction, and provided uniformly acceptable early postsurgical results.