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Jeffrey P. Blount, Kent B. Remley, Samuel K. Yue and Donald L. Erickson

✓ Intrathecal morphine delivered by implanted pumps has been used in the treatment of pain caused by terminal cancer. Some authors supports its use in benign pain as well. The authors present three cases in which chronic infiltration of intraspinal narcotic medication was complicated by the formation of a granulomatous mass that became large enough to exert mass effect and induce neurological dysfunction.

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Jeffrey P. Blount and Scott Elton

Lipomas of the spinal cord are among the most fascinating lesions encountered by the pediatric neurosurgeon. An understanding of spinal lipomas may, however, be difficult because the terminology used to describe the accumulations of spinal fat is confusing, inconsistently applied, and at times contradictory. An anatomical characterization of lipomas may assist in understanding these lesions. Lipomas of the spinal cord are very rare and cause symptoms related to mass effect and secondary compressive myelopathy. Lipomas of the conus medullaris (or lipomyelomeningocele) are the most common form of fatty masses in the spine and can be divided into dorsal, caudal, and transitional forms. These lesions are a manifestation of occult spinal dysraphism and a common cause of the tethered cord syndrome (TCS). The natural history of untreated lipomyelomeningocele, although incompletely understood, appears to be progressive neurological deterioration with loss of bladder control. Timely, careful surgical intervention may prevent significant neurological deterioration and progressive disability in the majority of children harboring these lesions. In surgical intervention the surgeon seeks to disrupt the connection between the fibrofatty mass and underlying cord as well as to reestablish normal anatomical planes. Several intraoperative video segments illustrating lipomyelome-ningocele resection are included in this paper. Lipomas of the terminal filum (fatty filum) are truly occult and are also associated with TCS. Surgical treatment of filum lipomas carries significantly lower risk than that for lipomas of the conus medullaris. Again, the goal of surgery is to disrupt the connection between the abnormal fibrofatty tissue and the underlying spinal cord.

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R. Shane Tubbs, W. Jerry Oakes, Jeffrey P. Blount, Scott Elton, George Salter and Paul A. Grabb

Object. The proximal segment of the axillary nerve (ANp) is often difficult to identify without extensive dissection deep into the axilla. The present study was performed to find reliable surgical landmarks for this nerve.

Methods. Thirty dissections of human cadavers were performed to determine the relationships between the ANp and specific anatomical structures.

The authors found that the ANp is consistently located within an anatomical triangle constructed by lines passing between the coracobrachialis and pectoralis minor muscles and the axillary artery. In addition, the ANp was routinely found 4 cm distal to the coracoid process of the scapula.

Conclusions. These findings should assist the surgeon in locating the ANp during brachial plexus reconstruction.

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R. Shane Tubbs, Scott Elton, George Salter, Jeffrey P. Blount, Paul A. Grabb and W. Jerry Oakes

Object. There is a lack of reports in the literature that contain descriptions of superficial anatomical landmarks for the identification of the internally located frontal sinus. Neurosurgeons must often enter the cranium through the frontal bone and knowledge of the frontal sinus is essential to minimize complications.

Methods. Seventy adult cadaveric frontal sinuses were evaluated. Measurements included both the lateral and superior extent of the frontal sinus in reference to a midpupillary line, and the superior extent of the frontal sinus from the nasion. Frontal sinuses were found bilaterally in all specimens. The mean height of the frontal sinus superior to the nasion was 2.8 cm. In 71.4% and 74.3% of specimens the lateral extent of the frontal sinus was found to be medial to the left and right midpupillary line, respectively. Distances superior to a plane drawn through the supraorbital ridges at a midpupillary line included a mean of 2.5 mm for the left side and 1.8 mm for the right side.

Conclusions. Of 70 sinuses, none extended more than 5 mm lateral to a midpupillary line. At this same midpupillary line and at a plane drawn through the supraorbital ridges, the frontal sinus was never higher than 12 mm. Finally, in the midline the frontal sinus never reached more than 4 cm above the nasion. These measurements will assist surgeons who must manipulate the frontal bone.

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R. Shane Tubbs, John C. Wellons III, Jeffrey P. Blount and W. Jerry Oakes

✓ The authors describe the use of autogenetic posterior atlantooccipital (PAO) membrane for duraplasty following after posterior cranial fossa surgery. The PAO membrane is routinely exposed for procedures of the posterior cranial fossa and merely needs to be dissected free of the underlying dura mater. Recently this membrane was obtained in several pediatric patients following procedures of the posterior cranial fossa such as duraplasty in case of Chiari I malformation. No postoperative complications were found at 6-month follow-up examination. The advantages of this intervention include less manipulation of muscle and fascia than that involved in other procedures and, therefore, seemingly less postoperative pain and the negation of issues inherent with foreign-body graft sources. The authors believe this structure to be of use as a dural substitute in small dural openings of the posterior cranial fossa.

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R. Shane Tubbs, John C. Wellons III, Jason Banks, Jeffrey P. Blount and W. Jerry Oakes

Object. The medial tubercles of the atlas serve as the attachments of the transverse ligament and provide an important anchoring site for which no discussion of their fine anatomy is published in the literature. In this study the authors examine this anatomy along with its osseous relationships.

Methods. One hundred dry cadaveric atlantal tubercles were assessed for size and relationship to nearby anatomical osseous structures. In addition, eight cadaveric specimens were evaluated for their anatomy in this area.

All specimens exhibited atlantal tubercles for the attachment of the transverse portion of the cruciate ligament of the atlas. Right-sided tubercles tended to be of a larger caliber. Overall, right-sided vertical distances between these tubercles and the superior articular facets and inferior articular facets were greater, although distances from each tubercle to the lateral margin of the dental facets anteriorly were found to be constant, as were intertubercular distances. The mean angle formed between both tubercles and the dental facet was 75°.

Conclusions. The data derived in this study should be useful to the clinician for whom the craniocervical junction is a vital anatomical area.

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R. Shane Tubbs, John C. Wellons III, Jeffrey P. Blount, Paul A. Grabb and W. Jerry Oakes

Object. The quantitative analysis of odontoid process angulation has had scant attention in the Chiari I malformation population. In this study the authors sought to elucidate the correlation between posterior angulation of the odontoid process and patients with Chiari I malformation.

Methods. Magnetic resonance images of the craniocervical junction obtained in 100 children with Chiari I malformation and in 50 children with normal intracranial anatomy (controls) were analyzed. Specific attention was focused on measuring the degree of angulation of the odontoid process and assigning a score to the various degrees. Postoperative outcome following posterior cranial fossa decompression was then correlated to grades of angulation. Other measurements included midsagittal lengths of the foramen magnum and basiocciput, the authors' institutions' previously documented pB—C2 line (a line drawn perpendicular to one drawn between the basion and the posterior aspect of the C-2 body), level of the obex from a midpoint of the McRae line, and the extent of tonsillar herniation.

Higher grades of odontoid angulation (retroflexion) were found to be more frequently associated with syringomyelia and particularly holocord syringes. Higher grades of angulation were more common in female patients and were often found to have obices that were caudally displaced greater than three standard deviations below normal.

Conclusions. These results not only confirm prior reports of an increased incidence of a retroflexed odontoid process in Chiari I malformation but quantitatively define grades of inclination. Grades of angulation were not found to correlate with postoperative outcome. It is the authors' hopes that these data add to our current limited understanding of the mechanisms involved in hindbrain herniation.

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R. Shane Tubbs, Matthew D. Smyth, John C. Wellons III, Jeffrey P. Blount, Paul A. Grabb and W. Jerry Oakes

Object. To the best of the authors' knowledge, no quantitative analysis of the atlantoaxial interlaminar distance in flexion (ILD) in children exists in the medical literature. In this study they sought to determine the age-matched relationship between the posterior elements of the atlas and axis in children in cervical spine flexion, to be used as an adjunct to the atlantodental interval in common clinical use.

Methods. Lateral radiographs of the cervical spine in full flexion were analyzed in 74 children. The atlantoaxial ILD was defined as the distance between a midpoint of the anterior cortices of the atlantal and axial posterior arches.

The mean ILD for the entire group was 19 mm (range 8–30 mm). No significant difference was seen between male and female patients (p = 0.084). When stratified by age, the mean ILD was 12.3 ± 3 mm (15 cases) in children age 3 years or younger and 20.5 ± 4.7 mm (59 cases) in children age older than 3 years. Further stratification of the groups yielded a mean ILD of 10.4 ± 1.4 [eight cases]) in children age 1 to 2 years, and 14.4 ± 4.7 mm (seven cases) in children age 3 years. In children older than 3 years of age the mean ILD was consistently approximately 20 ± 5 mm regardless of age.

Conclusions. Rapid, safe, and accurate diagnosis of the cervical spine is essential in critical care. Knowledge of the distance between the posterior elements of the atlas and axis in flexion should enhance the clinicians' (those who clear cervical spines) ability to diagnose accurately atlantoaxial instability on lateral radiographs obtained in flexion.

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Matthew D. Smyth, R. Shane Tubbs, E. Martina Bebin, Paul A. Grabb and Jeffrey P. Blount

Object. The aim of this study was to define better the incidence of surgical complications and untoward side effects of chronic vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) in a population of children with medically refractory epilepsy.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the cases of 74 consecutive patients (41 male and 33 female) 18 years of age or younger (mean age 8.8 years, range 11 months–18 years) who had undergone implantation of a vagal stimulator between 1998 and 2001 with a minimum follow up of 1 year (mean 2.2 years). Of the 74 patients treated, seven (9.4%) had a complication ultimately resulting in removal of the stimulator. The rate of deep infections necessitating device removal was 3.5% (three of 74 patients who had undergone 85 implantation and/or revision procedures). An additional three superficial infections occurred in patients in whom the stimulators were not removed: one was treated with superficial operative debridement and antibiotic agents and the other two with oral antibiotics only. Another four stimulators (5.4%) were removed because of the absence of clinical benefit and device intolerance. Two devices were revised because of lead fracture (2.7%). Among the cohort, 11 battery changes have been performed thus far, although none less than 33 months after initial implantation. Several patients experienced stimulation-induced symptoms (hoarseness, cough, drooling, outbursts of laughter, shoulder abduction, dysphagia, or urinary retention) that did not require device removal. Ipsilateral vocal cord paralysis was identified in one patient. One patient died of aspiration pneumonia more than 30 days after device implantation.

Conclusions. Vagus nerve stimulation remains a viable option for improving seizure control in difficult to treat pediatric patients with epilepsy. Surgical complications such as hardware failure (2.7%) or deep infection (3.5%) occurred, resulting in device removal or revision. Occasional stimulation-induced symptoms such as hoarseness, dysphagia, or torticollis may be expected (5.4%).

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R. Shane Tubbs, John C. Wellons III, Jeffrey P. Blount, W. Jerry Oakes and Paul A. Grabb

✓ The authors report on the case of a patient evaluated for Valsalva maneuver—induced headache, dizziness, and ataxia. Neuroimaging revealed a Chiari I malformation without syringomyelia. A history of idiopathic hypertension was noted. After posterior fossa decompression, pathologically elevated blood pressure was absent, and at 24-month follow-up evaluation the patient remained normotensive. Although seemingly rare, this case illustrates that some patients with tonsillar ectopia may exhibit elevated blood pressure. Clinicians should consider hindbrain herniation a rare cause in idiopathic hypertension.