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Jeff Ehresman, Andrew Schilling, Zach Pennington, Chengcheng Gui, Xuguang Chen, Daniel Lubelski, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Majid Khan, Kristin J. Redmond and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) in patients with spinal metastasis can lead to destabilization and often carry a high risk profile. It is therefore important to have tools that enable providers to predict the occurrence of new VCFs. The most widely used tool for bone quality assessment, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is not often available at a patient’s initial presentation and has limited sensitivity. While the Spinal Instability Neoplastic Score (SINS) has been associated with VCFs, it does not take patients’ baseline bone quality into consideration. To address this, the authors sought to develop an MRI-based scoring system to estimate trabecular vertebral bone quality (VBQ) and to assess this system’s ability to predict the occurrence of new VCFs in patients with spinal metastasis.

METHODS

Cases of adult patients with a diagnosis of spinal metastasis, who had undergone stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to the spine or neurosurgical intervention at a single institution between 2012 and 2019, were retrospectively reviewed. The novel VBQ score was calculated for each patient by dividing the median signal intensity of the L1–4 vertebral bodies by the signal intensity of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify associations of demographic, clinical, and radiological data with new VCFs.

RESULTS

Among the 105 patients included in this study, 56 patients received a diagnosis of a new VCF and 49 did not. On univariable analysis, the factors associated with new VCFs were smoking status, steroid use longer than 3 months, the SINS, and the novel scoring system—the VBQ score. On multivariable analysis, only the SINS and VBQ score were significant predictors of new VCFs and, when combined, had a predictive accuracy of 89%.

CONCLUSIONS

As a measure of bone quality, the novel VBQ score significantly predicted the occurrence of new VCFs in patients with spinal metastases independent of the SINS. This suggests that baseline bone quality is a crucial factor that requires assessment when evaluating these patients’ conditions and that the VBQ score is a novel and simple MRI-based measure to accomplish this.

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Tushar Garg and Apurva Shrigiriwar

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Zach Pennington, Daniel Lubelski, Erick M. Westbroek, A. Karim Ahmed, Jeff Ehresman, Matthew L. Goodwin, Sheng-Fu Lo, Timothy F. Witham, Ali Bydon, Nicholas Theodore and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Postoperative C5 palsy affects 7%–12% of patients who undergo posterior cervical decompression for degenerative cervical spine pathologies. Minimal evidence exists regarding the natural history of expected recovery and variables that affect palsy recovery. The authors investigated pre- and postoperative variables that predict recovery and recovery time among patients with postoperative C5 palsy.

METHODS

The authors included patients who underwent posterior cervical decompression at a tertiary referral center between 2004 and 2018 and who experienced postoperative C5 palsy. All patients had preoperative MR images and full records, including operative note, postoperative course, and clinical presentation. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was used to evaluate both times to complete recovery and to new neurological baseline—defined by deltoid strength on manual motor testing of the affected side—as a function of clinical symptoms, surgical maneuvers, and the severity of postoperative deficits.

RESULTS

Seventy-seven patients were included, with an average age of 64 years. The mean follow-up period was 17.7 months. The mean postoperative C5 strength was grade 2.7/5, and the mean time to first motor examination with documented C5 palsy was 3.5 days. Sixteen patients (21%) had bilateral deficits, and 9 (12%) had new-onset biceps weakness; 36% of patients had undergone C4–5 foraminotomy of the affected root, and 17% had presented with radicular pain in the dermatome of the affected root. On univariable analysis, patients’ reporting of numbness or tingling (p = 0.02) and a baseline deficit (p < 0.001) were the only predictors of time to recovery. Patients with grade 4+/5 weakness had significantly shorter times to recovery than patients with grade 4/5 weakness (p = 0.001) or ≤ grade 3/5 weakness (p < 0.001). There was no difference between those with grade 4/5 weakness and those with ≤ grade 3/5 weakness. Patients with postoperative strength < grade 3/5 had a < 50% chance of achieving complete recovery.

CONCLUSIONS

The timing and odds of recovery following C5 palsy were best predicted by the magnitude of the postoperative deficit. The use of C4–5 foraminotomy did not predict the time to or likelihood of recovery.

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Daniel Lubelski, Andrew T. Healy, Prasath Mageswaran, Robb Colbrunn and Richard P. Schlenk

OBJECTIVE

Lateral mass fixation stabilizes the cervical spine while causing minimal morbidity and resulting in high fusion rates. Still, with 2 years of follow-up, approximately 6% of patients who have undergone posterior cervical fusion have worsening kyphosis or symptomatic adjacent-segment disease. Based on the length of the construct, the question of whether to extend the fixation system to undisrupted levels has not been answered for the cervical spine. The authors conducted a study to quantify the role of construct length and the terminal dorsal ligamentous complex in the adjacent-segment kinematics of the subaxial cervical spine.

METHODS

In vitro flexibility testing was performed using 6 human cadaveric specimens (C2–T8), with the upper thoracic rib cage and osseous and ligamentous integrity intact. An industrial robot was used to apply pure moments and to measure segmental motion at each level. The authors tested the intact state, followed by 9 postsurgical permutations of laminectomy and lateral mass fixation spanning C2 to C7.

RESULTS

Constructs spanning a single level exerted no significant effects on immediate adjacent-segment motion. The addition of a second immobilized segment, however, created significant changes in flexion-extension range of motion at the supradjacent level (+164%). Regardless of construct length, resection of the terminal dorsal ligaments did not greatly affect adjacent-level motion except at C2–3 and C7–T1 (increasing by +794% and +607%, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

Dorsal ligamentous support was found to contribute significant stability to the C2–3 and C7–T1 segments only. Construct length was found to play a significant role when fixating two or more segments. The addition of a fused segment to support an undisrupted cervical level is not suggested by the present data, except potentially at C2–3 and C7–T1. The study findings emphasize the importance of the C2–3 segment and its dorsal support.

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Ethan Cottrill, Zach Pennington, A. Karim Ahmed, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin, Alexander Perdomo-Pantoja, Erick M. Westbroek, Nicholas Theodore, Timothy Witham and Daniel Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Nonunion is a common complication of spinal fusion surgeries. Electrical stimulation technologies (ESTs)—namely, direct current stimulation (DCS), capacitive coupling stimulation (CCS), and inductive coupling stimulation (ICS)—have been suggested to improve fusion rates. However, the evidence to support their use is based solely on small trials. Here, the authors report the results of meta-analyses of the preclinical and clinical data from the literature to provide estimates of the overall effect of these therapies at large and in subgroups.

METHODS

A systematic review of the English-language literature was performed using PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases. The query of these databases was designed to include all preclinical and clinical studies examining ESTs for spinal fusion. The primary endpoint was the fusion rate at the last follow-up. Meta-analyses were performed using a Freeman-Tukey double arcsine transformation followed by random-effects modeling.

RESULTS

A total of 33 articles (17 preclinical, 16 clinical) were identified, of which 11 preclinical studies (257 animals) and 13 clinical studies (2144 patients) were included in the meta-analysis. Among preclinical studies, the mean fusion rates were higher among EST-treated animals (OR 4.79, p < 0.001). Clinical studies similarly showed ESTs to increase fusion rates (OR 2.26, p < 0.001). Of EST modalities, only DCS improved fusion rates in both preclinical (OR 5.64, p < 0.001) and clinical (OR 2.13, p = 0.03) populations; ICS improved fusion in clinical studies only (OR 2.45, p = 0.014). CCS was not effective at increasing fusion, although only one clinical study was identified. A subanalysis of the clinical studies found that ESTs increased fusion rates in the following populations: patients with difficult-to-fuse spines, those who smoke, and those who underwent multilevel fusions.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that electrical stimulation devices may produce clinically significant increases in arthrodesis rates among patients undergoing spinal fusion. They also found that the pro-arthrodesis effects seen in preclinical studies are also found in clinical populations, suggesting that findings in animal studies are translatable. Additional research is needed to analyze the cost-effectiveness of these devices.

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Daniel Lubelski, Roy Xiao, Debraj Mukherjee, William W. Ashley, Timothy Witham, Henry Brem, Judy Huang and Stacey Quintero Wolfe

OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgery seeks to attract the best and brightest medical students; however, there is often a lack of early exposure to the field, among other possible barriers. The authors sought to identify successful practices that can be implemented to improve medical student recruitment to neurosurgery.

METHODS

United States neurosurgery residency program directors were surveyed to determine the number of medical student rotators and medical students matching into a neurosurgery residency from their programs between 2010 and 2016. Program directors were asked about the ways their respective institutions integrated medical students into departmental clinical and research activities.

RESULTS

Complete responses were received from 30/110 institutions. Fifty-two percent of the institutions had neurosurgery didactic lectures for 1st- and 2nd-year medical students (MS1/2), and 87% had didactics for MS3/4. Seventy-seven percent of departments had a neurosurgery interest group, which was the most common method used to integrate medical students into the department. Other forms of outreach included formal mentorship programs (53%), lecture series (57%), and neurosurgery anatomy labs (40%). Seventy-three percent of programs provided research opportunities to medical students, and 57% indicated that the schools had a formal research requirement. On average, 3 medical students did a rotation in each neurosurgery department and 1 matched into neurosurgery each year. However, there was substantial variability among programs. Over the 2010–2016 period, the responding institutions matched as many as 4% of the graduating class into neurosurgery per year, whereas others matched 0%–1%. Departments that matched a greater (≥ 1% per year) number of medical students into neurosurgery were significantly more likely to have a neurosurgery interest group and formal research requirements. A greater percentage of high-matching programs had neurosurgery mentorship programs, lecture series, and cadaver training opportunities compared to the other institutions.

CONCLUSIONS

In recent decades, the number of applicants to neurosurgery has decreased. A major deterrent may be the delayed exposure of medical students to neurosurgery. Institutions with early preclinical exposure, active neurosurgery interest groups, research opportunities, and strong mentorship recruit and match more students into neurosurgery. Implementing such initiatives on a national level may increase the number of highly qualified medical students pursuing neurosurgery.

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Surgical management of giant presacral schwannoma: systematic review of published cases and meta-analysis

Presented at the 2019 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Zach Pennington, Erick M. Westbroek, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Giant presacral schwannomas are rare sacral tumors found in less than 1 of every 40,000 hospitalizations. Current management of these tumors is based solely upon case reports and small case series. In this paper the authors report the results of a systematic review of the available English literature on presacral schwannoma, focused on identifying the influence of tumor size, tumor morphology, surgical approach, and extent of resection (EOR) on recurrence-free survival and postoperative complications.

METHODS

The medical literature (PubMed and EMBASE) was queried for reports of surgically managed sacral schwannoma, either involving 2 or more contiguous vertebral levels or with a diameter ≥ 5 cm. Tumor size and morphology, surgical approach, EOR, intraoperative and postoperative complications, and survival data were recorded.

RESULTS

Seventy-six articles were included, covering 123 unique patients (mean age 44.1 ± 1.4 years, 50.4% male). The most common presenting symptoms were leg pain (28.7%), lower back pain (21.3%), and constipation (15.7%). Most surgeries used an open anterior-only (40.0%) or posterior-only (30%) approach. Postoperative complications occurred in 25.6% of patients and local recurrence was noted in 5.4%. En bloc resection significantly improved progression-free survival relative to subtotal resection (p = 0.03). No difference existed between en bloc and gross-total resection (GTR; p = 0.25) or among the surgical approaches (p = 0.66). Postoperative complications were more common following anterior versus posterior approaches (p = 0.04). Surgical blood loss was significantly correlated with operative duration and tumor volume on multiple linear regression (both p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Presacral schwannoma can reasonably be treated with either en bloc or piecemeal GTR. The approach should be dictated by lesion morphology, and recurrence is infrequent. Anterior approaches may increase the risk of postoperative complications.

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The effect of C2–3 disc angle on postoperative adverse events in cervical spondylotic myelopathy

Presented at the 2018 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Bryan S. Lee, Kevin M. Walsh, Daniel Lubelski, Konrad D. Knusel, Michael P. Steinmetz, Thomas E. Mroz, Richard P. Schlenk, Iain H. Kalfas and Edward C. Benzel

OBJECTIVE

Complete radiographic and clinical evaluations are essential in the surgical treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). Prior studies have correlated cervical sagittal imbalance and kyphosis with disability and worse health-related quality of life. However, little is known about C2–3 disc angle and its correlation with postoperative outcomes. The present study is the first to consider C2–3 disc angle as an additional radiographic predictor of postoperative adverse events.

METHODS

A retrospective chart review was performed to identify patients with CSM who underwent surgeries from 2010 to 2014. Data collected included demographics, baseline presenting factors, and postoperative outcomes. Cervical sagittal alignment variables were measured using the preoperative and postoperative radiographs. Univariable logistic regression analyses were used to explore the association between dependent and independent variables, and a multivariable logistic regression model was created using stepwise variable selection.

RESULTS

The authors identified 171 patients who had complete preoperative and postoperative radiographic and outcomes data. The overall rate of postoperative adverse events was 33% (57/171), and postoperative C2–3 disc angle, C2–7 sagittal vertical axis, and C2–7 Cobb angle were found to be significantly associated with adverse events. Inclusion of postoperative C2–3 disc angle in the analysis led to the best prediction of adverse events. The mean postoperative C2–3 disc angle for patients with any postoperative adverse event was 32.3° ± 17.2°, and the mean for those without any adverse event was 22.4° ± 11.1° (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS

In the present retrospective analysis of postoperative adverse events in patients with CSM, the authors found a significant association between C2–3 disc angle and postoperative adverse events. They propose that C2–3 disc angle be used as an additional parameter of cervical spinal sagittal alignment and predictor for operative outcomes.

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Daniel Lubelski, Suzanne Tharin, John J. Como, Michael P. Steinmetz, Heather Vallier and Timothy Moore

OBJECTIVE

Few studies have investigated the advantages of early spinal stabilization in the patient with polytrauma in terms of reduction of morbidity and mortality. Previous analyses have shown that early stabilization may reduce ICU stay, with no effect on complication rates.

METHODS

The authors prospectively observed 340 polytrauma patients with an Injury Severity Score (ISS) of greater than 16 at a single Level 1 trauma center who were treated in accordance with a protocol termed “early appropriate care,” which emphasizes operative treatment of various fractures within 36 hours of injury. Of these patients, 46 had upper thoracic and/or cervical spine injuries. The authors retrospectively compared patients treated according to protocol versus those who were not. Continuous variables were compared using independent t-tests and categorical variables using Fisher’s exact test. Logistic regression analysis was performed to account for baseline confounding factors.

RESULTS

Fourteen of 46 patients (30%) did not undergo surgery within 36 hours. These patients were significantly more likely to be older than those in the protocol group (53 vs 38 years, p = 0.008) and have greater body mass index (BMI; 33 vs 27, p = 0.02), and they were less likely to have a spinal cord injury (SCI) (82% did not have an SCI vs 44% in the protocol group, p = 0.04). In terms of outcomes, patients in the protocol-breach group had significantly more total ventilator days (13 vs 6 days, p = 0.02) and total ICU days (16 vs 9 days, p = 0.03). Infection rates were 14% in the protocol-breach group and 3% in the protocol group (p = 0.2) Total complications trended toward being statistically significantly more common in the protocol-breach group (57% vs 31%). After controlling for potential confounding variables by logistic regression (including age, sex, BMI, race, and SCI), total complications were significantly (p < 0.05) greater in the protocol-breach group (OR 29, 95% CI 1.9–1828). This indicates that the odds of developing “any complication” were 29 times greater if treatment was delayed more than 36 hours.

CONCLUSIONS

Early surgical stabilization in the polytrauma patient with a cervical or upper thoracic spine injury is associated with fewer complications and improved outcomes. Hospitals may consider the benefit of protocols that promote early stabilization in this patient population.

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Roy Xiao, Jacob A. Miller, Navin C. Sabharwal, Daniel Lubelski, Vincent J. Alentado, Andrew T. Healy, Thomas E. Mroz and Edward C. Benzel

OBJECTIVE

Improvements in imaging technology have steadily advanced surgical approaches. Within the field of spine surgery, assistance from the O-arm Multidimensional Surgical Imaging System has been established to yield superior accuracy of pedicle screw insertion compared with freehand and fluoroscopic approaches. Despite this evidence, no studies have investigated the clinical relevance associated with increased accuracy. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to investigate the clinical outcomes following thoracolumbar spinal fusion associated with O-arm–assisted navigation. The authors hypothesized that increased accuracy achieved with O-arm–assisted navigation decreases the rate of reoperation secondary to reduced hardware failure and screw misplacement.

METHODS

A consecutive retrospective review of all patients who underwent open thoracolumbar spinal fusion at a single tertiary-care institution between December 2012 and December 2014 was conducted. Outcomes assessed included operative time, length of hospital stay, and rates of readmission and reoperation. Mixed-effects Cox proportional hazards modeling, with surgeon as a random effect, was used to investigate the association between O-arm–assisted navigation and postoperative outcomes.

RESULTS

Among 1208 procedures, 614 were performed with O-arm–assisted navigation, 356 using freehand techniques, and 238 using fluoroscopic guidance. The most common indication for surgery was spondylolisthesis (56.2%), and most patients underwent a posterolateral fusion only (59.4%). Although O-arm procedures involved more vertebral levels compared with the combined freehand/fluoroscopy cohort (4.79 vs 4.26 vertebral levels; p < 0.01), no significant differences in operative time were observed (4.40 vs 4.30 hours; p = 0.38). Patients who underwent an O-arm procedure experienced shorter hospital stays (4.72 vs 5.43 days; p < 0.01). O-arm–assisted navigation trended toward predicting decreased risk of spine-related readmission (0.8% vs 2.2%, risk ratio [RR] 0.37; p = 0.05) and overall readmissions (4.9% vs 7.4%, RR 0.66; p = 0.07). The O-arm was significantly associated with decreased risk of reoperation for hardware failure (2.9% vs 5.9%, RR 0.50; p = 0.01), screw misplacement (1.6% vs 4.2%, RR 0.39; p < 0.01), and all-cause reoperation (5.2% vs 10.9%, RR 0.48; p < 0.01). Mixed-effects Cox proportional hazards modeling revealed that O-arm–assisted navigation was a significant predictor of decreased risk of reoperation (HR 0.49; p < 0.01). The protective effect of O-arm–assisted navigation against reoperation was durable in subset analysis of procedures involving < 5 vertebral levels (HR 0.44; p = 0.01) and ≥ 5 levels (HR 0.48; p = 0.03). Further subset analysis demonstrated that O-arm–assisted navigation predicted decreased risk of reoperation among patients undergoing posterolateral fusion only (HR 0.39; p < 0.01) and anterior lumbar interbody fusion (HR 0.22; p = 0.03), but not posterior/transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion.

CONCLUSIONS

To the authors' knowledge, the present study is the first to investigate clinical outcomes associated with O-arm–assisted navigation following thoracolumbar spinal fusion. O-arm–assisted navigation decreased the risk of reoperation to less than half the risk associated with freehand and fluoroscopic approaches. Future randomized controlled trials to corroborate the findings of the present study are warranted.