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Lindsay Tetreault, Jefferson R. Wilson, Mark R. N. Kotter, Aria Nouri, Pierre Côté, Branko Kopjar, Paul M. Arnold and Michael G. Fehlings

OBJECTIVE

The minimum clinically important difference (MCID) is defined as the minimum change in a measurement that a patient would identify as beneficial. Before undergoing surgery, patients are likely to inquire about the ultimate goals of the operation and of their chances of experiencing meaningful improvements. The objective of this study was to define significant predictors of achieving an MCID on the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) scale at 2 years following surgery for the treatment of degenerative cervical myelopathy (DCM).

METHODS

Seven hundred fifty-seven patients were prospectively enrolled in either the AOSpine North America or International study at 26 global sites. Fourteen patients had a perfect preoperative mJOA score of 18 and were excluded from this analysis (n = 743). Data were collected for each participating subject, including demographic information, symptomatology, medical history, causative pathology, and functional impairment. Univariate log-binominal regression analyses were conducted to evaluate the association between preoperative clinical factors and achieving an MCID on the mJOA scale. Modified Poisson regression using robust error variances was used to create the final multivariate model and compute the relative risk for each predictor.

RESULTS

The sample consisted of 463 men (62.31%) and 280 women (37.69%), with an average age of 56.48 ± 11.85 years. At 2 years following surgery, patients exhibited a mean change in functional status of 2.71 ± 2.89 points on the mJOA scale. Of the 687 patients with available follow-up data, 481 (70.01%) exhibited meaningful gains on the mJOA scale, whereas 206 (29.98%) failed to achieve an MCID. Based on univariate analysis, significant predictors of achieving the MCID on the mJOA scale were younger age; female sex; shorter duration of symptoms; nonsmoking status; a lower comorbidity score and absence of cardiovascular disease; and absence of upgoing plantar responses, lower-limb spasticity, and broad-based unstable gait. The final model included age (relative risk [RR] 0.924, p < 0.0001), smoking status (RR 0.837, p = 0.0043), broad-based unstable gait (RR 0.869, p = 0.0036), and duration of symptoms (RR 0.943, p = 0.0003).

CONCLUSIONS

In this large multinational prospective cohort, 70% of patients treated surgically for DCM exhibited a meaningful functional gain on the mJOA scale. The key predictors of achieving an MCID on the mJOA scale were younger age, shorter duration of symptoms, nonsmoking status, and lack of significant gait impairment.

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Shian Liu, Renaud Lafage, Justin S. Smith, Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Virginie C. Lafage, Vincent Challier, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Kris Radcliff, Paul M. Arnold, Jens R. Chapman, Frank J. Schwab, Eric M. Massicotte, S. Tim Yoon, Michael G. Fehlings and Christopher P. Ames

OBJECT

Cervical stenosis is a defining feature of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). Matsunaga et al. proposed that elements of stenosis are both static and dynamic, where the dynamic elements magnify the canal deformation of the static state. For the current study, the authors hypothesized that dynamic changes may be associated with myelopathy severity and neck disability. This goal of this study was to present novel methods of dynamic motion analysis in CSM.

METHODS

A post hoc analysis was performed of a prospective, multicenter database of patients with CSM from the AOSpine North American study. One hundred ten patients (34%) met inclusion criteria, which were symptomatic CSM, age over 18 years, baseline flexion/extension radiographs, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaires (modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association [mJOA] score, Neck Disability Index [NDI], the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey Physical Component Score [SF-36 PCS], and Nurick grade). The mean age was 56.9 ± 12 years, and 42% of patients were women (n = 46). Correlations with HRQOL measures were analyzed for regional (cervical lordosis and cervical sagittal vertical axis) and focal parameters (kyphosis and spondylolisthesis between adjacent vertebrae) in flexion and extension. Baseline dynamic parameters (flexion/extension cone relative to a fixed C-7, center of rotation [COR], and range of motion arc relative to the COR) were also analyzed for correlations with HRQOL measures.

RESULTS

At baseline, the mean HRQOL measures demonstrated disability and the mean radiographic parameters demonstrated sagittal malalignment. Among regional parameters, there was a significant correlation between decreased neck flexion (increased C2–7 angle in flexion) and worse Nurick grade (R = 0.189, p = 0.048), with no significant correlations in extension. Focal parameters, including increased C-7 sagittal translation overT-1 (slip), were significantly correlated with greater myelopathy severity (mJOA score, Flexion R = −0.377, p = 0.003; mJOA score, Extension R = −0.261, p = 0.027). Sagittal slip at C-2 and C-4 also correlated with worse HRQOL measures. Reduced flexion/extension motion cones, a more posterior COR, and smaller range of motion correlated with worse general health SF-36 PCS and Nurick grade.

CONCLUSIONS

Dynamic motion analysis may play an important role in understanding CSM. Focal parameters demonstrated a significant correlation with worse HRQOL measures, especially increased C-7 sagittal slip in flexion and extension. Novel methods of motion analysis demonstrating reduced motion cones correlated with worse myelopathy grades. More posterior COR and smaller range of motion were both correlated with worse general health scores (SF-36 PCS and Nurick grade). To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate correlation of dynamic motion and listhesis with disability and myelopathy in CSM.

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Dominic Maggio, Tamir T. Ailon, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Regis W. Haid Jr., Themistocles Protopsaltis, Eric Klineberg, Justin K. Scheer, Shay Bess, Paul M. Arnold, Jens Chapman, Michael G. Fehlings, Christopher Ames, AOSpine North America and International Spine Study Group

OBJECT

The associations among global spinal alignment, patient-reported disability, and surgical outcomes have increasingly gained attention. The assessment of global spinal alignment requires standing long-cassette anteroposterior and lateral radiographs; however, spine surgeons routinely rely only on short-segment imaging when evaluating seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. This may prohibit adequate surgical planning and may predispose surgeons to not recognize associated pathology in the thoracic spine and sagittal spinopelvic malalignment. The authors used a case-based survey questionnaire to evaluate if including long-cassette radiographs led to changes to respondents' operative plans as compared with their chosen plan when cases contained standard imaging of the involved lumbar spine only.

METHODS

A case-based survey was distributed to AOSpine International members that consisted of 15 cases of lumbar spine pathology and lumbar imaging only. The same 15 cases were then shuffled and presented a second time with additional long-cassette radiographs. Each case required participants to select a single operative plan with 5 choices ranging from least to most extensive. The cases included 5 “control” cases with normal global spinal alignment and 10 “test” cases with significant sagittal and/or coronal malalignment. Mean scores were determined for each question with higher scores representing more invasive and/or extensive operative plans.

RESULTS

Of 712 spine surgeons who started the survey, 316 (44%) completed the entire series, including 68% of surgeons with spine fellowship training and representation from more than 40 countries. For test cases, but not for control cases, there were significantly higher average surgical invasiveness scores for cases presented with long-cassette radiographs (4.2) as compared with those cases with lumbar imaging only (3.4; p = 0.002). The addition of long-cassette radiographs resulted in 82.1% of respondents recommending instrumentation up to the thoracic spine, a 23.2% increase as compared with the same cases presented with lumbar imaging only (p = 0.008).

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrates the importance of maintaining a low threshold for performing standing long-cassette imaging when assessing seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. Such imaging is necessary for the assessment of spinopelvic and global spinal alignment, which can be important in operative planning. Deformity, particularly positive sagittal malalignment, may go undetected unless one maintains a high index of suspicion and obtains long-cassette radiographs. It is recommended that spine surgeons recognize the prevalence and importance of such deformity when contemplating operative intervention.

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George M. Ghobrial, Christopher M. Maulucci, Mitchell Maltenfort, Richard T. Dalyai, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Michael G. Fehlings, John Street, Paul M. Arnold and James S. Harrop

Object

Thoracolumbar spine injuries are commonly encountered in patients with trauma, accounting for almost 90% of all spinal fractures. Thoracolumbar burst fractures comprise a high percentage of these traumatic fractures (45%), and approximately half of the patients with this injury pattern are neurologically intact. However, a debate over complication rates associated with operative versus nonoperative management of various thoracolumbar fracture morphologies is ongoing, particularly concerning those patients presenting without a neurological deficit.

Methods

A MEDLINE search for pertinent literature published between 1966 and December 2013 was conducted by 2 authors (G.G. and R.D.), who used 2 broad search terms to maximize the initial pool of manuscripts for screening. These terms were “operative lumbar spine adverse events” and “nonoperative lumbar spine adverse events.”

Results

In an advanced MEDLINE search of the term “operative lumbar spine adverse events” on January 8, 2014, 1459 results were obtained. In a search of “nonoperative lumbar spine adverse events,” 150 results were obtained. After a review of all abstracts for relevance to traumatic thoracolumbar spinal injuries, 62 abstracts were reviewed for the “operative” group and 21 abstracts were reviewed for the “nonoperative” group. A total of 14 manuscripts that met inclusion criteria for the operative group and 5 manuscripts that met criteria for the nonoperative group were included.

There were a total of 919 and 436 patients in the operative and nonoperative treatment groups, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups with respect to age, sex, and length of stay. The mean ages were 43.17 years in the operative and 34.68 years in the nonoperative groups. The majority of patients in both groups were Frankel Grade E (342 and 319 in operative and nonoperative groups, respectively). Among the studies that reported the data, the mean length of stay was 14 days in the operative group and 20.75 in the nonoperative group.

The incidence of all complications in the operative and nonoperative groups was 300 (32.6%) and 21 (4.8%), respectively (p = 0.1065). There was no significant difference between the 2 groups with respect to the incidence of pulmonary, thromboembolic, cardiac, and gastrointestinal complications. However, the incidence of infections (pneumonia, urinary tract infection, wound infection, and sepsis) was significantly higher in the operative group (p = 0.000875). The incidence of instrumentation failure and need for revision surgery was 4.35% (40 of 919), a significant morbidity, and an event unique to the operative category (p = 0.00396).

Conclusions

Due to the limited number of high-quality studies, conclusions related to complication rates of operative and nonoperative management of thoracolumbar traumatic injuries cannot be definitively made. Further prospective, randomized studies of operative versus nonoperative management of thoracolumbar and lumbar spine trauma, with standardized definitions of complications and matched patient cohorts, will aid in properly defining the risk-benefit ratio of surgery for thoracolumbar spine fractures.

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Jefferson R. Wilson, Paul M. Arnold, Anoushka Singh, Sukhvinder Kalsi-Ryan and Michael G. Fehlings

Object

While the majority of existing reports focus on complications sustained during the chronic stages after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI), the objective in the current study was to characterize and quantify acute inpatient complications. In addition, the authors sought to create a prediction model using clinical variables documented at hospital admission to predict acute complication development.

Methods

Analyses were based on data from the Surgical Timing in Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study (STASCIS) data registry, which contains prospective information on adult patients with cervical SCIs who were enrolled at 6 North American centers over a 7-year period. All patients who underwent a standardized American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) neurological examination within 24 hours of injury and whose follow-up information was available at the acute hospital discharge were included in the study. For purposes of classification, complications were divided into 5 major categories: 1) cardiopulmonary, 2) surgical, 3) thrombotic, 4) infectious, and 5) decubitus ulcer development. Univariate statistical analyses were performed to determine the relationship between complication occurrence and individual demographic, injury, and treatment variables. Multivariate logistic regression was subsequently performed to create a complication prediction model. Model discrimination was judged according to the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve.

Results

Complete complication information was available for 411 patients at the acute care discharge. One hundred sixty patients (38.9%) experienced 240 complications. The mean age among those who experienced at least one complication was 45.9 years, as compared with 43.5 years among those who did not have a complication (p = 0.18). In the univariate analysis, patients with complications were less likely to receive steroids at admission (p = 0.01), had a greater severity of neurological injury as indicated by the ASIA Impairment Scale (AIS) grade at presentation (p < 0.01), and a higher frequency of significant comorbidity (p = 0.04). In a multivariate logistic regression model, a severe initial AIS grade (p < 0.01), a high-energy injury mechanism (p = 0.07), an older age (p = 0.05), the absence of steroid administration (p = 0.02), and the presence of comorbid illness (p = 0.02) were associated with a greater likelihood of complication development during the period of acute hospitalization. The area under the curve value for the full model was 0.75, indicating acceptable predictive discrimination.

Conclusions

These results will help clinicians to identify patients with cervical SCIs at greatest risk for complication development and thus allowing for the institution of aggressive complication prevention measures.