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Paul Klimo Jr., Nelson Astur, Kyle Gabrick, William C. Warner Jr. and Michael S. Muhlbauer

Object

Many methods to stabilize and fuse the craniocervical junction have been described. One of the early designs was a contoured (Luque) rod fixated with wires, the so-called Hartshill-Ransford loop. In this study, the authors report their 20-year experience with this surgical technique in children.

Methods

The authors reviewed the medical records of patients 18 years of age or younger who underwent dorsal occipitocervical fusion procedures between March 1992 and March 2012 at Le Bonheur Children's Hospital using a contoured rod and wire construct. Data on basic patient characteristics, causes of instability, neurological function at presentation and at last follow-up, details of surgery, complications, and radiographic outcome were collected.

Results

Twenty patients (11 male) were identified, with a mean age of 5.5 years (range 1–18 years) and a median follow-up of 43.5 months. Fourteen patients had atlantooccipital dislocation, 2 patients had atlantoaxial fracture–dissociations, 2 had Down syndrome with occipitocervical and atlantoaxial instability, 1 had an epithelioid sarcoma from the clivus to C-2, and 1 had an anomalous atlas with resultant occipitocervical instability. Surgical stabilization extended from the occiput to C-1 in 3 patients, C-2 in 6, C-3 in 8, and to C-4 in 3. Bone morphogenetic protein was used in 2 patients. Two patients were placed in a halo orthosis; the rest were kept in a hard collar for 6–8 weeks. All patients were neurologically stable after surgery. One patient with a dural tear experienced wound dehiscence with CSF leakage and required reoperation. Eighteen patients went on to achieve fusion within 6 months of surgery; 1 patient was initially lost to follow-up, but recent imaging demonstrated a solid fusion. There were no early hardware or bone failures requiring hardware removal, but radiographs obtained 8 years after surgery showed that 1 patient had an asymptomatic fractured rod. There were no instances of symptomatic junctional degeneration, and no patient was found to have increasing lordosis over the fused segments. Five (31%) of the 16 trauma patients required a shunt for hydrocephalus.

Conclusions

Despite the proliferation of screw-fixation techniques for craniocervical instability in children, the contoured rod–wire construct remains an effective, less expensive, and technically easier alternative that has been in use for almost 30 years. It confers immediate stability, and therefore most patients will not need to be placed in a halo device postoperatively. A secondary observation in our series was the high (30%) rate of hydrocephalus requiring a shunt in patients with traumatic instability.

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Paul Klimo Jr., Clinton J. Thompson, Brian T. Ragel and Frederick A. Boop

Object

Infection is a serious and costly complication of CSF shunt implantation. Antibiotic-impregnated shunts (AISs) were introduced almost 10 years ago, but reports on their ability to decrease the infection rate have been mixed. The authors conducted a meta-analysis assessing the extent to which AISs reduce the rate of shunt infection compared with standard shunts (SSs). They also examined cost savings to determine the degree to which AISs could decrease infection-related hospital expenses.

Methods

After conducting a comprehensive search of multiple electronic databases to identify studies that evaluated shunt type and used shunt-related infection as the primary outcome, 2 reviewers independently evaluated study quality based on preestablished criteria and extracted data. A random effects meta-analysis of eligible studies was then performed. For studies that demonstrated a positive effect with the AIS, a cost-savings analysis was conducted by calculating the number of implanted shunts needed to prevent a shunt infection, assuming an additional cost of $400 per AIS system and $50,000 to treat a shunt infection.

Results

Thirteen prospective or retrospective controlled cohort studies provided Level III evidence, and 1 prospective randomized study provided Level II evidence. “Shunt infection” was generally uniformly defined among the studies, but the availability and detail of baseline demographic data for the control (SS) and treatment (AIS) groups within each study were variable. There were 390 infections (7.0%) in 5582 procedures in the control group and 120 infections (3.5%) in 3467 operations in the treatment group, yielding a pooled absolute risk reduction (ARR) and relative risk reduction (RRR) of 3.5% and 50%, respectively. The meta-analysis revealed the AIS to be statistically protective in all studies (risk ratio = 0.46, 95% CI 0.33–0.63) and in single-institution studies (risk ratio = 0.38, 95% CI 0.25–0.58). There was some evidence of heterogeneity when studies were analyzed together (p = 0.093), but this heterogeneity was reduced when the studies were analyzed separately as single institution versus multiinstitutional (p > 0.10 for both groups). Seven studies showed the AIS to be statistically protective against infection with an ARR and RRR ranging from 1.7% to 14.2% and 34% to 84%, respectively. The number of shunt operations requiring an AIS to prevent 1 shunt infection ranged from 7 to 59. Assuming 200 shunt cases per year, the annual savings for converting from SSs to AISs ranged from $90,000 to over $1.3 million.

Conclusions

While the authors recognized the inherent limitations in the quality and quantity of data available in the literature, this meta-analysis revealed a significant protective benefit with AIS systems, which translated into substantial hospital savings despite the added cost of an AIS. Using previously developed guidelines on treatment, the authors strongly encourage the use of AISs in all patients with hydrocephalus who require a shunt, particularly those at greatest risk for infection.

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Paul Klimo Jr., Valerie Coon and Douglas Brockmeyer

Os odontoideum was first described in the late 1880s and still remains a mystery in many respects. The genesis of os odontoideum is thought to be prior bone injury to the odontoid, but a developmental cause probably also exists. The spectrum of presentation is striking and ranges from patients who are asymptomatic or have only neck pain to those with acute quadriplegia, chronic myelopathy, or even sudden death. By definition, the presence of an os odontoideum renders the C1–2 region unstable, even under physiological loads in some patients. The consequences of this instability are exemplified by numerous cases in the literature in which a patient with os odontoideum has suffered a spinal cord injury after minor trauma. Although there is little debate that patients with os odontoideum and clinical or radiographic evidence of neurological injury or spinal cord compression should undergo surgery, the dispute continues regarding the care of asymptomatic patients whose os odontoideum is discovered incidentally. The authors' clinical experience leads them to believe that certain subgroups of asymptomatic patients should be strongly considered for surgery. These subgroups include those who are young, have anatomy favorable for surgical intervention, and show evidence of instability on flexion-extension cervical spine x-rays. This recommendation is bolstered by the fact that surgical fusion of the C1–2 region has evolved greatly and can now be done with considerable safety and success. When atlantoaxial instrumentation is used, fusion rates for os odontoideum should approach 100%.

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Paul Klimo Jr., Anne Matthews, Sean M. Lew, Marike Zwienenberg-Lee and Bruce A. Kaufman

Object

Various surgical interventions have been described to evacuate chronic subdural collections (CSCs) of infancy. These include transfontanel percutaneous aspiration, subdural drains, placement of bur hole(s) with or without a subdural drain, and shunting. Shunt placement typically provides good long-term success (resolution of the subdural fluid), but comes with well-known early and late complications. Recently, the authors have used a mini–osteoplastic craniotomy technique with the goal of definitively treating these children with a single surgery while avoiding the many issues associated with a shunt. They describe their procedure and compare it with the traditional bur hole technique.

Methods

In this single-institution retrospective study, the authors evaluated 26 cases involving patients who underwent treatment for CSC. Preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative data were reviewed, including radiographic findings (density of the subdural fluid and ventricular and subarachnoid space size), neurological examination findings, and intraoperative fluid description. The primary outcome was treatment failure, defined as the patient requiring any subsequent surgical intervention after the index procedure (minicraniotomy or bur hole placement).

Results

Fifteen patients (10 male and 5 female; median age 5.1 months) collectively underwent 27 minicraniotomy procedures (each procedure representing a hemisphere that was treated). In the bur hole group, there were 11 patients (6 male and 5 female; median age 4.6 months) with 18 hemispheres treated. Both groups had subdural drains placed. The average follow-up for each treatment group was just over 7 months. Treatment failure occurred in 2 patients (13%) in the minicraniotomy group compared with 5 patients (45%) in the bur hole group (p = 0.09). Furthermore, the 2 patients who had treatment failure in the minicraniotomy group required 1 subsequent surgery each, whereas the 5 in the bur hole group needed a total of 9 subsequent surgeries. Eventually, 80% of the patients in the minicraniotomy group and 70% of those in the bur hole group had resolution of the subdural collections on the last imaging study.

Conclusions

The minicraniotomy technique may be a superior technique for the treatment of CSCs in infants compared with bur hole evacuation. The minicraniotomy provides greater visualization of the subdural space and allows more aggressive evacuation of the fluid, better irrigation of the space, the ability to fenestrate any accessible membranes safely, and continued egress of fluid into the subgaleal space. Although this preliminary report has obvious limitations, evaluation of this technique may be worthy of a prospective, multiinstitutional collaborative effort.

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Mark Van Poppel, Paul Klimo Jr., Mariko Dewire, Robert A. Sanford, Frederick Boop, Alberto Broniscer, Karen Wright and Amar J. Gajjar

Object

Brain tumors in infants are often large, high grade, and vascular, making complete resection difficult and placing children at risk for neurological complications and excessive blood loss. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy may reduce tumor vascularity and volume, which can facilitate resection. The authors evaluated how an ongoing institutional prospective chemotherapy trial would affect patients who did not have a gross-total resection (GTR) immediately and who therefore required further surgical intervention to achieve definitive tumor resection.

Methods

Thirteen infants (4 girls and 9 boys) who were enrolled in an institutional protocol in which they were treated with multiagent chemotherapy (methotrexate, vincristine, cisplatin, and cyclophosphamide with vinblastine for high-risk patients) subsequently underwent second-look surgery. The primary outcome was extent of resection achieved in postchemotherapy surgery. Secondary outcomes included intraoperative blood loss, radiographic response to the chemotherapy, complications during chemotherapy, and survival.

Results

Three infants underwent biopsy, 9 underwent subtotal resection, and 1 patient did not undergo surgery prior to chemotherapy. On subsequent second-look surgery, 11 of 13 patients had a GTR, 1 had a near-total resection, and 1 had a subtotal resection. In each case, a marked reduction in tumor vascularity was observed intraoperatively. The average blood loss was 19% of estimated blood volume, and 6 (46%) of 13 patients required a blood transfusion. Radiographically, chemotherapy induced a reduction in tumor volume in 9 (69%) of 13 patients. Emergency surgery was required in 2 patients during chemotherapy, 1 for intratumoral hemorrhage and 1 for worsening peritumoral edema. The average follow-up period for this cohort was 16.5 months, and at last follow-up, 4 patients (31%) had died, 1 patient had progressive metastatic spinal disease, and the rest had either no evidence of disease or stable disease.

Conclusions

A GTR of pediatric brain tumors is one of the most important predictors of outcome. The application of the authors' neoadjuvant induction chemotherapy protocol in a variety of tumor types resulted in devascularization of all tumors and volume regression in the majority, and subsequently facilitated resection, with acceptable intraoperative blood loss. Intracranial complications may occur during chemotherapy, ranging from incidental and asymptomatic to life threatening, necessitating close monitoring of these children.

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Paul Klimo Jr., Brian T. Ragel, William H. Scott Jr. and Randall McCafferty

Object

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is the current US military conflict against terrorist elements in Afghanistan. Deepening US involvement in this conflict and increasing coalition casualties prompted the establishment of continuous neurosurgical assets at Craig Joint Theater Hospital (CJTH) at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in September 2007. As part of the military's medical mission, children with battlefield-related injuries and, on a selective case-by-case basis, non–war-related pathological conditions are treated at CJTH.

Methods

A prospectively maintained record was created in which all rotating neurosurgeons at CJTH recorded their personal procedures. From this record, the authors were able to extract all cases involving patients 18 years of age or younger. Variables recorded included: age, sex, and category of patient (for example, local national, enemy combatant), date, indication and description of the neurosurgical procedure, mechanism of injury, and in-hospital morbidity and mortality data.

Results

From September 2007 to October 2009, 296 neurosurgical procedures were performed at CJTH. Fifty-seven (19%) were performed in 43 pediatric patients (16 girls and 27 boys) with an average age of 7.5 years (range 11 days–18 years). Thirty-one of the 57 procedures (54%) were for battlefield-related trauma and 26 for humanitarian reasons (46%). The vast majority of cases were cranial (49/57, 86%) compared with spinal (7/54, 13%), with one peripheral nerve case. Craniotomies or craniectomies for penetrating brain injuries were the most common procedures. There were 5 complications (11.6%) and 4 in-hospital deaths (9.3%).

Conclusions

As in previous military conflicts, children are the unfortunate victims of the current Afghanistan campaign. Extremely limited pediatric neurosurgical service and care is rendered under challenging conditions and Air Force neurosurgeons provide valuable, life-saving pediatric treatment for both war-related injuries and humanitarian needs. As the conflict in Afghanistan continues, military neurosurgeons will continue to care for injured children to the best of their abilities.

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Paul Klimo Jr., Brian T. Ragel, Michael Rosner, Wayne Gluf and Randall McCafferty

Object

Penetrating spinal injury (PSI), although an infrequent injury in the civilian population, is not an infrequent injury in military conflicts. Throughout military history, the role of surgery in the treatment of PSI has been controversial. The US is currently involved in 2 military campaigns, the hallmark of both being the widespread use of various explosive devices. The authors reviewed the evidence for or against the use of decompressive laminectomy to treat PSI to provide a triservice (US Army, Navy, and Air Force) consensus and treatment recommendations for military neurosurgeons and spine surgeons.

Methods

A US National Library of Medicine PubMed database search that identified all literature dealing with acute management of PSI from military conflicts and civilian urban trauma centers in the post–Vietnam War period was undertaken.

Results

Nineteen retrospective case series (11 military and 8 civilian) met the study criteria. Eleven military articles covered a 20-year time span that included 782 patients who suffered either gunshot or blast-related projectile wounds. Four papers included sufficient data that analyzed the effectiveness of surgery compared with nonoperative management, 6 papers concluded that surgery was of no benefit, 2 papers indicated that surgery did have a role, and 3 papers made no comment. Eight civilian articles covered a 9-year time span that included 653 patients with spinal gunshot wounds. Two articles lacked any comparative data because of treatment bias. Two papers concluded that decompressive laminectomy had a beneficial role, 1 paper favored the removal of intracanal bullets between T-12 and L-4, and 5 papers indicated that surgery was of no benefit.

Conclusions

Based on the authors' military and civilian PubMed literature search, most of the evidence suggests that decompressive laminectomy does not improve neurological function in patients with PSI. However, there are serious methodological shortcomings in both literature groups. For this and other reasons, neurosurgeons from the US Air Force, Army, and Navy collectively believe that decompression should still be considered for any patient with an incomplete neurological injury and continued spinal canal compromise, ideally within 24–48 hours of injury; the patient should be stabilized concurrently if it is believed that the spinal injury is unstable. The authors recognize the highly controversial nature of this topic and hope that this literature review and the proposed treatment recommendations will be a valuable resource for deployed neurosurgeons. Ultimately, the deployed neurosurgeon must make the final treatment decision based on his or her opinion of the literature, individual abilities, and facility resources available.

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Paul Klimo Jr. and Brian T. Ragel

ιˆητρός γάρ αˆνήρ πολλω∼ν αˆντάξιος αˆ´λλων ιˆούς τ´ εˆκτάμνειν εˆπί τ´ ηˆ´πια φάρμακα πάσσειν.

For a physician has the worth of many other warriors, both for the excision of arrows and for the administration of soothing drugs. Homer, Iliad XI.514–515

Ever since armed conflict has been used as a means to settle disputes among men, there have been those who have been tasked to mend the wounds that ravage a soldier's body from the weapons of war. The Iliad portrays the pivotal 10th year of the legendary Trojan War, during which a schism in the Greek leadership prolongs the extended siege of the city of Troy. In the midst of this martial epic come the lines quoted above, quietly attesting to the value of the military physician, even under the crude conditions of the Greek Dark Age. They are uttered by Idomeneus, one of the foremost Greeks, when he is enjoining one of his comrades, Nestor, to rescue the injured Greek physician Machaon and take him back from the line to treat his wounds. He is afraid that Machaon will be captured by the Trojans, a loss far greater than that of any other single warrior.

Duty to country has helped shape the careers of many neurosurgeons, including iconic US figures such as Harvey Cushing and Donald Matson. This issue of Neurosurgical Focus celebrates the rich history of military neurosurgery from the wars of yesterday to the conflicts of today. We have been humbled by the tremendous response to this topic. The 25 articles within this issue will provide the reader with both a broad and an in-depth look at the many facets of military neurosurgery. We have attempted to group articles based on their predominant topic. We also encourage our audience to read other recently published articles.1 –4

The first 8 articles relate to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lead article, written by Randy Bell and colleagues from the National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, discusses what is arguably one of the most important contributions by military neurosurgeons from these 2 conflicts: the rapid and aggressive use of decompressive craniectomies. This is followed by articles on decompressive craniectomy techniques by Ragel and colleagues and cranioplasty outcomes by Stephens and colleagues. After reading these articles, the reader will come away with an appreciation of the often complex nature of wartime penetrating and closed-head injuries and the remarkable recovery that many injured soldiers make with time.

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Brian T. Ragel, Paul Klimo Jr., Robert J. Kowalski, Randall R. McCafferty, Jeannette M. Liu, Derek A. Taggard, David Garrett Jr. and Sidney B. Brevard

Object

“Operation Enduring Freedom” is the US war effort in Afghanistan in its global war on terror. One US military neurosurgeon is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide care for both battlefield injuries and humanitarian work. Here, the authors analyze a 24-month neurosurgical caseload experience in Afghanistan.

Methods

Operative logs were analyzed between October 2007 and September 2009. Operative cases were divided into minor procedures (for example, placement of an intracranial pressure monitor) and major procedures (for example, craniotomy) for both battle injuries and humanitarian work. Battle injuries were defined as injuries sustained by soldiers while in the line of duty or injuries to Afghan civilians from weapons of war. Humanitarian work consisted of providing medical care to Afghans.

Results

Six neurosurgeons covering a 24-month period performed 115 minor procedures and 210 major surgical procedures cases. Operations for battlefield injuries included 106 craniotomies, 25 spine surgeries, and 18 miscellaneous surgeries. Humanitarian work included 32 craniotomies (23 for trauma, 3 for tumor, 6 for other reasons, such as cyst fenestration), 27 spine surgeries (12 for degenerative conditions, 9 for trauma, 4 for myelomeningocele closure, and 2 for the treatment of infection), and 2 miscellaneous surgeries.

Conclusions

Military neurosurgeons have provided surgical care at rates of 71% (149/210) for battlefield injuries and 29% (61/210) for humanitarian work. Of the operations for battle trauma, 50% (106/210) were cranial and 11% (25/210) spinal surgeries. Fifteen percent (32/210) and 13% (27/210) of operations were for humanitarian cranial and spine procedures, respectively. Overall, military neurosurgeons in Afghanistan are performing life-saving cranial and spine stabilization procedures for battlefield trauma and acting as general neurosurgeons for the Afghan community.

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Brian T. Ragel, Paul Klimo Jr., Jonathan E. Martin, Richard J. Teff, Hans E. Bakken and Rocco A. Armonda

Object

Decompressive craniectomy (DC) with dural expansion is a life-saving neurosurgical procedure performed for recalcitrant intracranial hypertension due to trauma, stroke, and a multitude of other etiologies. Illustratively, we describe technique and lessons learned using DC for battlefield trauma.

Methods

Neurosurgical operative logs from service (October 2007 to September 2009) in Afghanistan that detail DC cases for trauma were analyzed. Illustrative examples of frontotemporoparietal and bifrontal DC that depict battlefield experience performing these procedures are presented with attention drawn to the L.G. Kempe hemispherectomy incision, brainstem decompression techniques, and dural onlay substitutes.

Results

Ninety craniotomies were performed for trauma over the time period analyzed. Of these, 28 (31%) were DCs. Of the 28 DCs, 24 (86%) were frontotemporoparietal DCs, 7 (25%) were bifrontal DCs, and 2 (7%) were suboccipital DCs. Decompressive craniectomies were performed for 19 penetrating head injuries (13 gunshot wounds and 6 explosions) and 9 severe closed head injuries (6 war-related explosions and 3 others).

Conclusions

Thirty-one percent of craniotomies performed for trauma were DCs. Battlefield neurosurgeons use DC to allow for safe transfer of neurologically ill patients to tertiary military hospitals, which can be located 8–18 hours from a war zone. The authors recommend the L.G. Kempe incision for blood supply preservation, large craniectomies to prevent brain strangulation over bone edges, minimal brain debridement, adequate brainstem decompression, and dural onlay substitutes for dural closure.