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Christopher K. Kepler, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Eric Chen, Alpesh A. Patel, Henry Ahn, Ahmad Nassr, Christopher I. Shaffrey, James Harrop, Gregory D. Schroeder, Amit Agarwala, Marcel F. Dvorak, Daryl R. Fourney, Kirkham B. Wood, Vincent C. Traynelis, S. Tim Yoon, Michael G. Fehlings and Bizhan Aarabi


In this clinically based systematic review of cervical facet fractures, the authors’ aim was to determine the optimal clinical care for patients with isolated fractures of the cervical facets through a systematic review.


A systematic review of nonoperative and operative treatment methods of cervical facet fractures was performed. Reduction and stabilization treatments were compared, and analysis of postoperative outcomes was performed. MEDLINE and Scopus databases were used. This work was supported through support received from the Association for Collaborative Spine Research and AOSpine North America.


Eleven studies with 368 patients met the inclusion criteria. Forty-six patients had bilateral isolated cervical facet fractures and 322 had unilateral isolated cervical facet fractures. Closed reduction was successful in 56.4% (39 patients) and 63.8% (94 patients) of patients using a halo vest and Gardner-Wells tongs, respectively. Comparatively, open reduction was successful in 94.9% of patients (successful reduction of open to closed reduction OR 12.8 [95% CI 6.1–26.9], p < 0.0001); 183 patients underwent internal fixation, with an 87.2% success rate in maintaining anatomical alignment. When comparing the success of patients who underwent anterior versus posterior procedures, anterior approaches showed a 90.5% rate of maintenance of reduction, compared with a 75.6% rate for the posterior approach (anterior vs posterior OR 3.1 [95% CI 1.0–9.4], p = 0.05).


In comparison with nonoperative treatments, operative treatments provided a more successful outcome in terms of failure of treatment to maintain reduction for patients with cervical facet fractures. Operative treatment appears to provide superior results to the nonoperative treatments assessed.

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Danica R. Kindrachuk and Daryl R. Fourney


The Saskatchewan Spine Pathway (SSP) was introduced to improve quality and access to care for patients with low-back and leg pain in the province. There is very limited data regarding the efficacy of nonsurgeon triage of surgical referrals. The objective of this early implementation study was to determine how the SSP affects utilization of MRI and spine surgery.


The authors performed a retrospective analysis of 87 consecutive patients with low-back and leg pain who were initially referred to a spine surgeon but were instead redirected to the SSP clinic between May 1, 2011, and November 30, 2011. The SSP clinic triaged patients into 2 groups: Group A (nonsurgical management) and Group B (referred back to the spine surgeon). The SSP classification was modified from the classification proposed by Hall et al. Pain and disability were scored by pain-related visual analog scale, modified Oswestry Disability Index, and EuroQol-5D.


Sixty-two patients (Group A, 71.3%) were discharged after patient education, self-care advice, and/or referral for additional mechanical therapies. Although only 25 patients (Group B, 28.7%) were directed back to the surgeon, the final percentage (12.6%) offered surgery was similar to that of historic controls (15%). Total MRI utilization was significantly lower in Group A (25.8%) than Group B (92.0%) (p < 0.0001). Nonsurgeon triage captured all red flags detected by the surgeon. Patients in Group B were much more likely to have a leg-dominant pain (p = 0.0088) and had significantly higher Oswestry Disability Index (p = 0.0121) and EuroQol-5D mobility (p = 0.0484) scores.


The SSP significantly reduced MRI utilization and referrals seen by the surgeon for nonoperative care. Although this early implementation study suggests potential for cost savings, a more rigorous analysis of outcomes, costs, and patient satisfaction is required.

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Jeffrey S. Wilkinson, Martha A. Riesberry, Sumeer A. Mann and Daryl R. Fourney

Traumatic lateral spondyloptosis is mostly a lateral shearing injury that must be tremendous enough to completely disrupt the strong musculoligamentous and bony structures. This injury has only been described at single levels in the lumbar spine. Lateral expulsion of a vertebral body from the spinal column due to 2-level adjacent spondyloptosis has not been previously reported.

This 16-year-old girl was referred to our center for the management of an extremely unusual L2–5 fracture-dislocation. Motor deficits were incomplete and sacral sensation was spared. Three-dimensional reconstructed CT scans revealed a fracture involving the superior L-4 vertebral body and endplate. There was also complete disruption of the L4–5 disc space. The majority of the L-4 vertebral body was expelled to the right of the spinal column, with the collapse of L-3 and a small remnant of the L-4 superior endplate onto L-5. Surgical management involved decompression, reduction, reconstruction of L-4 with a cage, and L1–ilium stabilization and fusion. Only a few attachments of the psoas muscles had to be divided to roll the L-4 vertebral body out posterolaterally, similar to the method of complete en bloc spondylectomy used in oncology. Neurological recovery has thus far included the resumption of normal bladder and bowel function, as well as ambulation with the use of a right leg brace.

Perhaps this type of fracture has not been previously described because many patients would be expected to succumb to vascular or visceral injury. The authors believe this is the first case report of double lateral spondyloptosis at adjacent levels, resulting in expulsion of the vertebral body from the spinal column.

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Mark H. Bilsky, Ilya Laufer, Daryl R. Fourney, Michael Groff, Meic H. Schmidt, Peter Paul Varga, Frank D. Vrionis, Yoshiya Yamada, Peter C. Gerszten and Timothy R. Kuklo


The evolution of imaging techniques, along with highly effective radiation options has changed the way metastatic epidural tumors are treated. While high-grade epidural spinal cord compression (ESCC) frequently serves as an indication for surgical decompression, no consensus exists in the literature about the precise definition of this term. The advancement of the treatment paradigms in patients with metastatic tumors for the spine requires a clear grading scheme of ESCC. The degree of ESCC often serves as a major determinant in the decision to operate or irradiate. The purpose of this study was to determine the reliability and validity of a 6-point, MR imaging–based grading system for ESCC.


To determine the reliability of the grading scale, a survey was distributed to 7 spine surgeons who participate in the Spine Oncology Study Group. The MR images of 25 cervical or thoracic spinal tumors were distributed consisting of 1 sagittal image and 3 axial images at the identical level including T1-weighted, T2-weighted, and Gd-enhanced T1-weighted images. The survey was administered 3 times at 2-week intervals. The inter- and intrarater reliability was assessed.


The inter- and intrarater reliability ranged from good to excellent when surgeons were asked to rate the degree of spinal cord compression using T2-weighted axial images. The T2-weighted images were superior indicators of ESCC compared with T1-weighted images with and without Gd.


The ESCC scale provides a valid and reliable instrument that may be used to describe the degree of ESCC based on T2-weighted MR images. This scale accounts for recent advances in the treatment of spinal metastases and may be used to provide an ESCC classification scheme for multicenter clinical trial and outcome studies.

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Lissa Peeling, Evan Frangou, Stephen Hentschel, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Daryl R. Fourney

The treatment of complex thoracolumbar disorders occasionally requires combined anterior and posterior approaches. Traditionally, these are either sequentially staged to occur during the same anesthesia procedure or alternatively performed on separate days. A less common option is the simultaneous anterior-posterior approach. The authors discuss the rationale for this approach in selected cases and illustrate a number of modifications to previous descriptions of the procedure. By slightly altering the incision, the risk of wound breakdown and infection has been reduced. The use of newly available positioning devices has allowed easy incorporation of fluoroscopy to guide the placement of spinal instrumentation. The authors have also expanded the use of the approach beyond the original oncological indications to include trauma and infection.

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Gregory S. McLoughlin, Daniel M. Sciubba, S. Kaiser Ali, Justin G. Weinkauf and Daryl R. Fourney

The authors describe a patient who underwent orthotopic cardiac transplantation after an undifferentiated cardiac sarcoma was diagnosed. While receiving immunosuppressive therapy, the patient developed spinal column metastases and cauda equina syndrome requiring surgical decompression and stabilization. This occurred despite an exhaustive search for metastatic disease prior to the transplantation. To the authors' knowledge, this represents the first reported case of an undifferentiated cardiac sarcoma metastasis to the spine.

This previously healthy 18-year-old woman presented with a myocardial infarction. Investigations revealed a left atrial tumor, which was resected. Following local recurrence, the patient underwent extensive studies to rule out systemic disease. Orthotopic heart–lung transplantation was then performed. While receiving postoperative immunosuppressive therapy the patient presented with cauda equina syndrome secondary to metastatic tumor compression at the L-5 level.

Despite a comprehensive screening process to exclude metastatic disease prior to transplantation, spinal metastases occurred while this patient was receiving immunosuppressive therapy. This represents a previously unreported and clinically significant complication for undifferentiated cardiac sarcoma.

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Adam S. Wu and Daryl R. Fourney


Routine histopathological examination of discectomy specimens remains common practice in many hospitals, although it rarely detects unsuspected clinically significant disease. Controversy exists as to the effectiveness of this practice. The objectives of this study were to compare the authors’ experience with a review of the literature.


In a retrospective database analysis the authors identified all intervertebral disc specimens obtained during spinal procedures over an 8-year period (1996–2004). Cases of benign (nonneoplastic and noninfectious) indications for surgery were included in the study, whereas cases of nonbenign indications were excluded. The final pathological diagnoses were reviewed, and a chart review was performed to determine whether any unexpected findings affected subsequent patient care. A total of 1858 discectomy specimens were identified: 1775 of these were obtained in 1719 routine discectomy procedures. Unexpected histopathological findings were identified in four cases, and none was clinically significant.


Routine histopathological examination of disc specimens is not justified. The decision to send specimens for pathological examination should be determined on a case-by-case basis after consideration of the clinical presentation, results of laboratory and imaging studies, and intraoperative findings.

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Daryl R. Fourney, Laurence D. Rhines, Stephen J. Hentschel, John M. Skibber, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Kristin L. Weber, Dima Suki, Gary L. Gallia, Ira Garonzik and Ziya L. Gokaslan


En bloc resection with adequate margins is associated with the highest probability of long-term tumor control or cure in most cases of primary sacral malignancies. The authors present their experience with a systematic approach to these lesions. They provide a novel classification of surgical techniques based on the level of nerve root sacrifice and evaluate the functional and oncological outcomes.


Seventy-eight consecutive patients underwent 94 resections of sacral neoplasms at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston between August 1993 and June 2002. The records of 29 consecutive patients who underwent en bloc resection of primary sacral tumors were retrospectively reviewed. The median follow-up period was 55 months (range 1–103 months). Chordoma was the most frequent tumor type (16 cases). Midline sacral amputation was performed in 25 patients (eight low, four middle, seven high, and five total sacrectomies; one hemicorporectomy). Lateral sacrectomy was undertaken in four patients (two unilateral excisions of the sacroiliac joint and two hemisacrectomies). The surgical margins were wide in 19 cases, marginal in nine, and contaminated in one. The type of sacrectomy correlated with characteristic outcomes with respect to bladder, bowel, and ambulatory functions. Duration of hospital stay was related to the extent of sacrectomy (p = 0.003, Wilcoxon signed-rank test). The median Kaplan—Meier disease-free survival for patients with chordoma was 68 months (95% confidence interval 46–90 months).


Classification of en bloc sacral resection techniques by the level of nerve root transection is useful in predicting postoperative function and the potential for morbidity. Adequate surgical margins should not be compromised to preserve function when they are necessary to affect tumor control.

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Stephen J. Hentschel, Allen W. Burton, Daryl R. Fourney, Laurence D. Rhines and Ehud Mendel

Object. The purpose of this study was to examine a group of patients with cancer who underwent a vertebroplasty or a kyphoplasty for a vertebral body (VB) fracture, even though the procedure may have been considered contraindicated based on previous reports in the literature.

Methods. The electronic database maintained by the Departments of Neurosurgery and Anesthesiology—Pain Management at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center was searched for patients who underwent vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty between January 2001 and July 2003. The criteria defining a contraindicated procedure were based on a review of the literature. Group I consisted of patients who did not undergo a contraindicated vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, whereas Group II consisted of patients who underwent one of these procedures even though it may have been considered contraindicated.

There were 53 patients with fractures at 132 levels who met the criteria for the study. Of these, 17 patients with fractures at 18 levels (14% of total) were considered to have undergone a contraindicated vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty (Group II). There were 12 complications (11%) in the 114 levels in Group I and seven complications (39%) in the 18 levels in Group II (p = 0.03). The most common complication was cement extrusion from the anterior VB that did not involve the venous system. No patient required an open surgical procedure to remove extruded cement.

Conclusions. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty appear to be safe and effective in the setting of severe back pain caused by VB fracture that is unresponsive to other therapies, even in the presence of relative contraindications to the procedures.