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Teriparatide treatment increases Hounsfield units in the lumbar spine out of proportion to DEXA changes

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

Anthony L. Mikula, Ross C. Puffer, Jeffery D. St. Jeor, James T. Bernatz, Jeremy L. Fogelson, A. Noelle Larson, Ahmad Nassr, Arjun S. Sebastian, Brett A. Freedman, Bradford L. Currier, Mohamad Bydon, Michael J. Yaszemski, Paul A. Anderson and Benjamin D. Elder


The authors sought to assess whether Hounsfield units (HU) increase following teriparatide treatment and to compare HU increases with changes in bone mineral density (BMD) as measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA).


A retrospective chart review was performed from 1997 to 2018 across all campuses at our institution. The authors identified patients who had been treated with at least 6 months of teriparatide and compared HU and BMD as measured on DEXA scans before and after treatment.


Fifty-two patients were identified for analysis (46 women and 6 men, average age 67 years) who underwent an average of 20.9 ± 6.5 months of teriparatide therapy. The mean ± standard deviation HU increase throughout the lumbar spine (L1–4) was from 109.8 ± 53 to 133.9 ± 61 HU (+22%, 95% CI 1.2–46, p value = 0.039). Based on DEXA results, lumbar spine BMD increased from 0.85 to 0.93 g/cm2 (+9%, p value = 0.044). Lumbar spine T-scores improved from −2.4 ± 1.5 to −1.7 ± 1.5 (p value = 0.03). Average femoral neck T-scores improved from −2.5 ± 1.1 to −2.3 ± 1.0 (p value = 0.31).


Teriparatide treatment increased both HU and BMD on DEXA in the lumbar spine, without a change in femoral BMD. The 22% improvement in HU surpassed the 9% improvement determined with DEXA. These results support some surgeons’ subjective sense that intraoperative bone quality following teriparatide treatment is better than indicated by DEXA results. To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study demonstrating an increase in HU with teriparatide treatment.

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Benjamin F. Mundell, Marcus J. Gates, Panagiotis Kerezoudis, Mohammed Ali Alvi, Brett A. Freedman, Ahmad Nassr, Samuel F. Hohmann and Mohamad Bydon


From 1994 to 2006 outpatient spinal surgery increased 5-fold. The perceived cost savings with outcomes comparable to or better than those achieved with inpatient admission for the same procedures are desirable in an era where health expenditures are scrutinized. The increase in outpatient spine surgery is also driven by the proliferation of ambulatory surgery centers. In this study, the authors hypothesized that the total savings in outpatient spine surgery is largely driven by patient selection and biases toward healthier patients.


A meta-analysis assessed patient selection factors and outcomes associated with outpatient spine procedures. Pooled odds ratios and mean differences were calculated using a Bayesian random-effects model. The authors extended this analysis in a novel way by using the results of the meta-analysis to examine cost data from an administrative database of academically affiliated hospitals. A Bayesian approach with priors informed by the meta-analysis was used to compare costs for inpatient and outpatient performance of anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) and lumbar laminectomy.


Sixteen studies with a total of 370,195 patients met the inclusion criteria. Outpatient procedures were associated with younger patient age (mean difference [MD] −2.34, 95% credible interval [CrI] −4.39 to −0.34) and no diabetes diagnosis (odds ratio [OR] 0.78, 95% CrI 0.54–0.97). Outpatient procedures were associated with a lower likelihood of reoperation (OR 0.42, 95% CrI 0.16–0.80), 30-day readmission (OR 0.39, 95% CrI 0.16–0.74), and complications (OR 0.29, 95% CrI 0.15–0.50) and with lower overall costs (MD −$121,392.72, 95% CrI −$216,824.81 to −$23,632.92). Additional analysis of the national administrative data revealed more modest cost savings than those found in the meta-analysis for outpatient spine surgeries relative to inpatient spine surgeries. Estimated cost savings for both younger patients ($555 for those age 30–35 years [95% CrI −$733 to −$374]) and older patients ($7290 for those age 65–70 years [95% CrI −$7380 to −$7190]) were less than the overall cost savings found in the meta-analysis.


Compared to inpatient spine surgery, outpatient spine surgery was associated with better short-term outcomes and an initial reduction in direct costs. A selection bias for outpatient procedures toward younger, healthier patients may confound these results. The additional analysis of the national database suggests that cost savings in the outpatient setting may be less than previously reported and a result of outpatient procedures being offered more frequently to younger and healthier individuals.

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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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Mozammil Hussain, Ahmad Nassr, Raghu N. Natarajan, Howard S. An and Gunnar B. J. Andersson


Biomechanical studies have shown that anterior cervical fusion construct stiffness and arthrodesis rates vary with different reconstruction techniques; however, the behavior of the adjacent segments in the setting of different procedures is poorly understood. This study was designed to investigate the adjacent-segment biomechanics after 3 different anterior cervical decompression and fusion techniques, including 3-level discectomy and fusion, 2-level corpectomy and fusion, and a corpectomy-discectomy hybrid technique. The authors hypothesized that biomechanical changes at the segments immediately superior and inferior to the multilevel fusion would be inversely proportional to the number of fused bone grafts and that these changes would be related to the type of fusion technique.


A previously validated 3D finite element model of an intact C3–T1 segment was used. Three C4–7 fusion models were built from this intact model by varying the number of bone grafts used to span the decompression: a 1-graft model (2-level corpectomy), a 2-graft model (C-5 corpectomy and C6–7 discectomy), and a 3-graft model (3-level discectomy). The corpectomy and discectomy models were also previously validated and compared well with the literature findings. Range of motion, disc stresses, and posterior facet loads at the segments superior (C3–4) and inferior (C7–T1) to the fusion construct were assessed.


Motion, disc stresses, and posterior facet loads generally increased at both of the adjacent segments in relation to the intact model. Greater biomechanical changes were noted in the superior C3–4 segment than in the inferior C7–T1 segment. Increasing the number of bone grafts from 1 to 2 and from 2 to 3 was associated with a lower magnitude of biomechanical changes at the adjacent segments.


At segments adjacent to the fusion level, biomechanical changes are not limited solely to the discs, but also propagate to the posterior facets. These changes in discs and posterior facets were found to be lower for discectomy than for corpectomy, thereby supporting the current study hypothesis of inverse relationship between the adjacent-segment variations and the number of fused bone grafts. Such changes may go on to influence the likelihood of adjacent-segment degeneration accordingly. Further studies are warranted to identify the causes and true impact of these observed changes.