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Nitin Agarwal, Diego D. Luy, Joanne M. Bonaminio, Chris A. Philips, Kathryn A. Dattomo, Robert F. Heary, Charles L. Branch Jr., Jon H. Robertson, Michael W. Groff and Regis W. Haid Jr.

OBJECTIVE

The Neurosurgery Research & Education Foundation (NREF), previously known as the Research Foundation of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), was established in 1980 to encourage and facilitate innovation through financial support to young neurosurgeons in the process of honing their competencies in neurosciences and neurological surgery. This article provides a historical overview of NREF, its mission, and charitable contributions and the ever-expanding avenues for neurosurgeons, neurosurgical residents and fellows, and medical students to supplement clinical training and to further neurosurgical research advances.

METHODS

Data were collected from the historical archives of the AANS and NREF website. Available data included tabulated revenue, geographic and institutional records of funding, changes in funding for fellowships and awards, advertising methods, and sources of funding.

RESULTS

Since 1984, NREF has invested more than $23 million into the future of neurosurgery. To date, NREF has provided more than 500 fellowship opportunities which have funded neurosurgeons’ education and research efforts at all stages of training and practice.

CONCLUSIONS

NREF is designed to serve as the vehicle through which the neurosurgical community fosters the continued excellence in the care of patients with neurosurgical diseases.

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Anna MacDowall, Robert F. Heary, Marek Holy, Lars Lindhagen and Claes Olerud

OBJECTIVE

The long-term efficacy of posterior foraminotomy compared with anterior cervical decompression and fusion (ACDF) for the treatment of degenerative disc disease with radiculopathy has not been previously investigated in a population-based cohort.

METHODS

All patients in the national Swedish Spine Register (Swespine) from January 1, 2006, until November 15, 2017, with cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy were assessed. Using propensity score matching, patients treated with posterior foraminotomy were compared with those undergoing ACDF. The primary outcome measure was the Neck Disability Index (NDI), a patient-reported outcome score ranging from 0% to 100%, with higher scores indicating greater disability. A minimal clinically important difference was defined as > 15%. Secondary outcomes were assessed with additional patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs).

RESULTS

A total of 4368 patients (2136/2232 women/men) met the inclusion criteria. Posterior foraminotomy was performed in 647 patients, and 3721 patients underwent ACDF. After meticulous propensity score matching, 570 patients with a mean age of 54 years remained in each group. Both groups had substantial decreases in their NDI scores; however, after 5 years, the difference was not significant (2.3%, 95% CI −4.1% to 8.4%; p = 0.48) between the groups. There were no significant differences between the groups in EQ-5D or visual analog scale (VAS) for neck and arm scores. The secondary surgeries on the index level due to restenosis were more frequent in the foraminotomy group (6/100 patients vs 1/100), but on the adjacent segments there was no difference between groups (2/100).

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with cervical degenerative disc disease and radiculopathy, both groups demonstrated clinical improvements at the 5-year follow-up that were comparable and did not achieve a clinically important difference from one another, even though the reoperation rate favored the ACDF group. This study design obtains population-based results, which are generalizable.

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Robert F. Heary, Paul A. Anderson and Paul M. Arnold

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Daniel S. Yanni, Aurora S. Cruz, Alexander Y. Halim, Amandip S. Gill, Michael G. Muhonen, Robert F. Heary and Ira M. Goldstein

Pediatric spinal trauma can present a surgeon with difficult management decisions given the rarity of these cases, pediatric anatomy, and a growing spine. The need to stabilize a traumatically unstable pediatric spine can be an operative challenge given the lack of instrumentation available. The authors present a surgical technique and an illustrative case that may offer a novel, less disruptive method of stabilization. A 2-year-old girl presented after an assault with an L1–2 fracture subluxation with lateral listhesis and fractured jumped facets exhibited on CT scans. CT also showed intact growth plates at the vertebral body, pedicles, and posterior elements. MRI showed severe ligamentous injury, conus medullaris compression, and an epidural hematoma. Neurologically, the patient moved both lower extremities asymmetrically. Given the severity of the deformity and neurological examination and disruption of the stabilizing structures, the authors made the decision to surgically decompress the L-1 and L-2 segments with bilateral laminotomies, evacuate the epidural hematoma, and reduce the deformity with sublaminar stabilization using braided polyester cables bilaterally, thus preserving the growth plates. They also performed a posterolateral onlay fusion at L-1 and L-2 using autograft and allograft placed due to the facet disruption. At the 42-month follow-up, imaging showed fusion of L-1 and L-2 with good alignment, and the hardware was subsequently explanted. The patient was neurologically symmetric in strength, ambulating, and had preserved alignment. Her bones and spinal canal continued to grow in relation to the other levels.

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Neginder Saini, Mohammad Zaidi, Maureen T. Barry and Robert F. Heary

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is a widely performed surgical treatment for various lumbar spine pathologies. The authors present the first reports of virtually identical cases of complications with integrated screws in stand-alone interbody cages. Two patients presented with the onset of S-1 radiculopathy due to screw misplacements following an ALIF procedure. In both cases, an integrated screw from the cage penetrated the dorsal aspect of the S-1 cortical margin of the vertebra, extended into the neural foramen, and injured the traversing left S-1 nerve roots. Advanced neuroimaging findings indicated nerve root impingement by the protruding screw tip. After substantial delays, radiculopathic symptoms were treated with removal of the offending instrumentation, aggressive posterior decompression of the bony and ligamentous structures, and posterolateral fusion surgery with pedicle screw fixation. Postoperative radiographic findings demonstrated decompression of the symptomatic nerve roots via removal of the extruded screw tips from the neural foramina.

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Robert F. Heary, Paul A. Anderson and Paul M. Arnold

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Nitin Agarwal, Robert F. Heary and Prateek Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle screw fixation is a technique widely used to treat conditions ranging from spine deformity to fracture stabilization. Pedicle screws have been used traditionally in the lumbar spine; however, they are now being used with increasing frequency in the thoracic spine as a more favorable alternative to hooks, wires, or cables. Although safety concerns, such as the incidence of adjacent-segment disease (ASD) after cervical and lumbar fusions, have been reported, such issues in the thoracic spine have yet to be addressed thoroughly. Here, the authors review the literature on ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation and report their own experience specifically involving the use of pedicle screws in the thoracic spine.

METHODS

Select references from online databases, such as PubMed (provided by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health), were used to survey the literature concerning ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation. To include the authors’ experience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database was performed to determine the incidence of complications over a 13-year period in 123 consecutive adult patients who underwent thoracic pedicle screw fixation. Children, pregnant or lactating women, and prisoners were excluded from the review. By comparing preoperative and postoperative radiographic images, the occurrence of thoracic ASD and disease within the surgical construct was determined.

RESULTS

Definitive radiographic fusion was detected in 115 (93.5%) patients. Seven incidences of instrumentation failure and 8 lucencies surrounding the screws were observed. One patient was observed to have ASD of the thoracic spine. The mean follow-up duration was 50 months.

CONCLUSIONS

This long-term radiographic evaluation revealed the use of pedicle screws for thoracic fixation to be an effective stabilization modality. In particular, ASD seems to be less of a problem in the relatively immobile thoracic spine than in the more mobile cervical and lumbar spines.

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Devesh Jalan, Neginder Saini, Mohammad Zaidi, Alexandra Pallottie, Stella Elkabes and Robert F. Heary

OBJECTIVE

In acute traumatic brain injury, decompressive craniectomy is a common treatment that involves the removal of bone from the cranium to relieve intracranial pressure. The present study investigated whether neurological function following a severe spinal cord injury improves after utilizing either a durotomy to decompress the intradural space and/or a duraplasty to maintain proper flow of cerebrospinal fluid.

METHODS

Sixty-four adult female rats (n = 64) were randomly assigned to receive either a 3- or 5-level decompressive laminectomy (Groups A and B), laminectomy + durotomy (Groups C and D), or laminectomy + duraplasty with graft (Group E and F) at 24 hours following a severe thoracic contusion injury (200 kilodynes). Duraplasty involved the use of DuraSeal, a hydrogel dural sealant. Uninjured and injured control groups were included (Groups G, H). Hindlimb locomotor function was assessed by open field locomotor testing (BBB) and CatWalk gait analysis at 35 days postinjury. Bladder function was analyzed and bladder wall thickness was assessed histologically. At 35 days postinjury, mechanical and thermal allodynia were assessed by the Von Frey hair filament and hotplate paw withdrawal tests, respectively. Thereafter, the spinal cords were dissected, examined for gross anomalies at the injury site, and harvested for histological analyses to assess lesion volumes and white matter sparing. ANOVA was used for statistical analyses.

RESULTS

There was no significant improvement in motor function recovery in any treatment groups compared with injured controls. CatWalk gait analysis indicated a significant decrease in interlimb coordination in Groups B, C, and D (p < 0.05) and swing speed in Groups A, B, and D. Increased mechanical pain sensitivity was observed in Groups A, C, and F (p < 0.05). Rats in Group C also developed thermal pain hypersensitivity. Examination of spinal cords demonstrated increased lesion volumes in Groups C and F and increased white matter sparing in Group E (p < 0.05). The return of bladder automaticity was similar in all groups. Examination of the injury site during tissue harvest revealed that, in some instances, expansion of the hydrogel dural sealant caused compression of the spinal cord.

CONCLUSIONS

Surgical decompression provided no benefit in terms of neurological improvement in the setting of a severe thoracic spinal cord contusion injury in rats at 24 hours postinjury. Decompressive laminectomy and durotomy did not improve motor function recovery, and rats in both of these treatment modalities developed neuropathic pain. Performing a durotomy also led to increased lesion volumes. Placement of DuraSeal was shown to cause compression in some rats in the duraplasty treatment groups. Decompressive duraplasty of 3 levels does not affect functional outcomes after injury but did increase white matter sparing. Decompressive duraplasty of 5 levels led to neuropathic pain development and increased lesion volumes. Further comparison of dural repair techniques is necessary.