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Randall Schultz Jr., Andrew Steven, Aaron Wessell, Nancy Fischbein, Charles A. Sansur, Dheeraj Gandhi, David Ibrahimi and Prashant Raghavan

OBJECTIVE

Dorsal arachnoid webs (DAWs) and spinal cord herniation (SCH) are uncommon abnormalities affecting the thoracic spinal cord that can result in syringomyelia and significant neurological morbidity if left untreated. Differentiating these 2 entities on the basis of clinical presentation and radiological findings remains challenging but is of vital importance in planning a surgical approach. The authors examined the differences between DAWs and idiopathic SCH on MRI and CT myelography to improve diagnostic confidence prior to surgery.

METHODS

Review of the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) database between 2005 and 2015 identified 6 patients with DAW and 5 with SCH. Clinical data including demographic information, presenting symptoms and neurological signs, and surgical reports were collected from the electronic medical records. Ten of the 11 patients underwent MRI. CT myelography was performed in 3 patients with DAW and in 1 patient with SCH. Imaging studies were analyzed by 2 board-certified neuroradiologists for the following features: 1) location of the deformity; 2) presence or absence of cord signal abnormality or syringomyelia; 3) visible arachnoid web; 4) presence of a dural defect; 5) nature of dorsal cord indentation (abrupt “scalpel sign” vs “C”-shaped); 6) focal ventral cord kink; 7) presence of the nuclear trail sign (endplate irregularity, sclerosis, and/or disc-space calcification that could suggest a migratory path of a herniated disc); and 8) visualization of a complete plane of CSF ventral to the deformity.

RESULTS

The scalpel sign was positive in all patients with DAW. The dorsal indentation was C-shaped in 5 of 6 patients with SCH. The ventral subarachnoid space was preserved in all patients with DAW and interrupted in cases of SCH. In no patient was a web or a dural defect identified.

CONCLUSIONS

DAW and SCH can be reliably distinguished on imaging by scrutinizing the nature of the dorsal indentation and the integrity of the ventral subarachnoid space at the level of the cord deformity.

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Charles A. Sansur, Nicholas M. Caffes, David M. Ibrahimi, Nathan L. Pratt, Evan M. Lewis, Ashley A. Murgatroyd and Bryan W. Cunningham

OBJECTIVE

Optimal strategies for fixation in the osteoporotic lumbar spine remain a clinical issue. Classic transpedicular fixation in the osteoporotic spine is frequently plagued with construct instability, often due to inadequate cortical screw–bone purchase. A cortical bone trajectory maximizes bony purchase and has been reported to provide increased screw pullout strength. The aim of the current investigation was to evaluate the biomechanical efficacy of cortical spinal fixation as a surgical alternative to transpedicular fixation in the osteoporotic lumbar spine under physiological loading.

METHODS

Eight fresh-frozen human spinopelvic specimens with low mean bone mineral densities (T score less than or equal to –2.5) underwent initial destabilization, consisting of laminectomy and bilateral facetectomies (L2–3 and L4–5), followed by pedicle or cortical reconstructions randomized between levels. The surgical constructs then underwent fatigue testing followed by tensile load to failure pullout testing to quantify screw pullout force.

RESULTS

When stratifying the pullout data with fixation technique and operative vertebral level, cortical screw fixation exhibited a marked increase in mean load at failure in the lower vertebral segments (p = 0.188, 625.6 ± 233.4 N vs 450.7 ± 204.3 N at L-4 and p = 0.219, 640.9 ± 207.4 N vs 519.3 ± 132.1 N at L-5) while transpedicular screw fixation demonstrated higher failure loads in the superior vertebral elements (p = 0.024, 783.0 ± 516.1 N vs 338.4 ± 168.2 N at L-2 and p = 0.220, 723.0 ± 492.9 N vs 469.8 ± 252.0 N at L-3). Although smaller in diameter and length, cortical fixation resulted in failures that were not significantly different from larger pedicle screws (p > 0.05, 449.4 ± 265.3 N and 541.2 ± 135.1 N vs 616.0 ± 384.5 N and 484.0 ± 137.1 N, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

Cortical screw fixation exhibits a marked increase in mean load at failure in the lower vertebral segments and may offer a viable alternative to traditional pedicle screw fixation, particularly for stabilization of lower lumbar vertebral elements with definitive osteoporosis.

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Timothy Chryssikos, Kenneth M. Crandall and Charles A. Sansur

Heterotopic bone formation within the spinal canal is a known complication of bone morphogenetic protein–2 (BMP-2) and presents a clinical and surgical challenge. Imaging modalities are routinely used for operative planning in this setting. Here, the authors present the case of a 59-year-old woman with cauda equina syndrome following intraoperative BMP-2 administration. Plain film myelographic studies showed a region of severe stenosis that was underappreciated on CT myelography due to a heterotopic bony lesion mimicking the dorsal aspect of a circumferentially patent thecal sac. When evaluating spinal stenosis under these circumstances, it is important to carefully consider plain myelographic images in addition to postmyelography CT images as the latter may underestimate the true degree of stenosis due to the potentially similar radiographic appearances of evolving BMP-2–induced heterotopic bone and intrathecal contrast. Alternatively, comparison of sequentially acquired noncontrast CT scans with CT myelographic images may also assist in distinguishing BMP-2–induced heterotopic bony lesions from the thecal sac. Further studies are needed to elucidate the roles of the available imaging techniques in this setting and to characterize the connection between the radiographic and histological appearances of BMP-2–induced heterotopic bone.

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Christopher M. Maulucci, Charles A. Sansur, Vaneet Singh, Alexandra Cholewczynski, Snehal S. Shetye, Kirk McGilvray and Christian M. Puttlitz

OBJECT

Nerve root decompression to relieve pain and radiculopathy remains one of the main goals of fusion-promoting procedures in the subaxial cervical spine. The use of allograft facet spacers has been suggested as a potential alternative for performing foraminotomies to increase the space available for the cervical nerve roots while providing segmental stiffening. Therefore, the goal of this cadaveric biomechanical study was to determine the acute changes in kinetics and foraminal area after the insertion of cortical bone facet spacers into the subaxial cervical spine.

METHODS

Allograft spacers (2 mm in height) were placed bilaterally into cadaveric cervical spine specimens (C2-T1, age of donors 57.5 ± 9.5 years, n = 7) at 1 (C4–5) and 3 (C3–6) levels with and without laminectomies and posterior lateral mass screw fixation. Standard stereophotogrammetry under pure moment loading was used to assess spinal kinetics. In addition, the authors performed 3D principal component analysis of CT scans to determine changes in foraminal cross-sectional area (FCSA) available for the spinal nerve roots.

RESULTS

Generally, the introduction of 2-mm-height facet spacers to the cervical spine produced mild, statistically insignificant reductions in motion with particular exceptions at the levels of implantation. No significant adjacent-level motion effects in any bending plane were observed. The addition of the posterior instrumentation (PI) to the intact spines resulted in statistically significant reductions in motion at all cervical levels and bending planes. The same kinetic results were obtained when PI was added to spines that also had facet spacers at 3 levels and spines that had been destabilized by en bloc laminectomy. The addition of 2-mm facet spacers at C3–4, C4–5, and C5–6 did produce statistically significant increases in FCSA at those levels.

CONCLUSIONS

The addition of allograft cervical facet spacers should be considered a potential option to accomplish indirect foraminal decompression as measured in this cadaveric biomechanical study. However, 2-mm spacers without supplemental instrumentation do not provide significantly increased spinal segmental stability.

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Narlin Beaty, Justin Slavin, Cara Diaz, Kyle Zeleznick, David Ibrahimi and Charles A. Sansur

Object

Gunshot wounds (GSWs) to the cervical spine have been examined in a limited number of case series, and operative management of this traumatic disease has been sparsely discussed. The current literature supports and the authors hypothesize that patients without neurological deficit need neither surgical fusion nor decompression. Patients with GSWs and neurological deficits, however, pose a greater management challenge. The authors have compiled the experience of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland, over the past 12 years, creating the largest series of such injuries, with a total number of 40 civilian patients needing neurosurgical evaluation. The current analysis examines presenting bone injury, surgical indication, presenting neurological examination, and neurological outcome. In this study, the authors characterize the incidence, severity, and recovery potential of cervical GSWs. The rate of unstable fractures requiring surgical intervention is documented. A detailed discussion of surgical indications with a treatment algorithm for cervical instability is offered.

Methods

A total of 144 cervical GSWs were retrospectively reviewed. Of these injuries, 40 had documented neurological deficits. No neurosurgical consultation was requested for patients without deficit. Epidemiological and clinical information was collected on patients with neurological deficit, including age, sex, timing, indication, type of surgery, initial examination after resuscitation, follow-up examination, and imaging data.

Results

Twenty-eight patients (70%) presented with complete neurological deficits and 12 patients (30%) presented with incomplete injuries. Fourteen (35%) of the 40 patients underwent neurosurgical intervention. Twelve patients (30%) required intervention for cervical instability. Seven patients required internal fixation involving 4 anterior fusions, 2 posterior fusions, and 1 combined approach. Five patients were managed with halo immobilization. Two patients underwent decompression alone for neurological deterioration and persistent compressive injury, both of whom experienced marked neurological recovery. Follow-up was obtained in 92% of cases. Three patients undergoing stabilization converted at least 1 American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale (AIS) grade and the remaining operative cases experienced small ASIA motor score improvement. Eighteen patients underwent inpatient MRI. No patient suffered complications or neurological deterioration related to retained metal. Three of 28 patients presenting with AIS Grade A improved to Grade B. For those 12 patients with incomplete injury, 1 improved from AIS Grade C to D, and 3 improved from Grade D to E.

Conclusions

Spinal cord injury from GSWs often results in severe neurological deficits. In this series, 30% of these patients with deficits required intervention for instability. This is the first series that thoroughly documents AIS improvement in this patient population. Adherence to the proposed treatment algorithm may optimize neurological outcome and spine stability.

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Akil P. Patel, Michael T. Koltz, Charles A. Sansur, Mangla Gulati and D. Kojo Hamilton

Object

Patients requiring neurosurgical intervention are known to be at increased risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and attendant morbidity and mortality. Pulmonary embolism (PE) is the most catastrophic sequela of DVT and is the direct cause of death in 16% of all in-hospital mortalities. Protocols for DVT screening and early detection, as well as treatment paradigms to prevent PE in the acute postoperative period, are needed in neurosurgery. The authors analyzed the effectiveness of weekly lower-extremity venous duplex ultrasonography (LEVDU) in patients requiring surgical intervention for cranial or spinal pathology for detection of DVT and prevention of PE.

Methods

Data obtained in 1277 consecutive patients admitted to a major tertiary care center requiring neurosurgical intervention were retrospectively reviewed. All patients underwent admission (within 1 week of neurosurgical intervention) LEVDU as well as weekly LEVDU surveillance if the initial study was normal. Additional LEVDU was ordered in any patient in whom DVT was suspected on daily clinical physical examination or in patients in whom chest CT angiography confirmed a pulmonary embolus. An electronic database was created and statistical analyses performed.

Results

The overall incidence of acute DVT was 2.8% (36 patients). Of these cases of DVT, a statistically significant greater number (86%) were discovered on admission (within 1–7 days after admission) screening LEVDU (p < 0.05), whereas fewer were documented 8–14 days after admission (2.8%) or after 14 days (11.2%) postadmission. Additionally, for acute DVT detection in the present population, there were no underlying statistically significant risk factors regarding baseline physical examination, age, ambulatory status, or type of surgery.

The overall incidence of acute symptomatic PE was 0.3% and the mortality rate was 0%.

Conclusions

Performed within 1 week of admission in patients who will undergo neurosurgical intervention, LEVDU is effective in screening for acute DVT and initiating treatment to prevent PE, thereby decreasing the overall mortality rate. Routine LEVDU beyond this time point may not be needed to detect DVT and prevent PE unless a change in the patient's physical examination status is detected.

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John D. Heiss, Kendall Snyder, Matthew M. Peterson, Nicholas J. Patronas, John A. Butman, René K. Smith, Hetty L. DeVroom, Charles A. Sansur, Eric Eskioglu, William A. Kammerer and Edward H. Oldfield

Object

The pathogenesis of syringomyelia in patients with an associated spinal lesion is incompletely understood. The authors hypothesized that in primary spinal syringomyelia, a subarachnoid block effectively shortens the length of the spinal subarachnoid space (SAS), reducing compliance and the ability of the spinal theca to dampen the subarachnoid CSF pressure waves produced by brain expansion during cardiac systole. This creates exaggerated spinal subarachnoid pressure waves during every heartbeat that act on the spinal cord above the block to drive CSF into the spinal cord and create a syrinx. After a syrinx is formed, enlarged subarachnoid pressure waves compress the external surface of the spinal cord, propel the syrinx fluid, and promote syrinx progression.

Methods

To elucidate the pathophysiology, the authors prospectively studied 36 adult patients with spinal lesions obstructing the spinal SAS. Testing before surgery included clinical examination; evaluation of anatomy on T1-weighted MRI; measurement of lumbar and cervical subarachnoid mean and pulse pressures at rest, during Valsalva maneuver, during jugular compression, and after removal of CSF (CSF compliance measurement); and evaluation with CT myelography. During surgery, pressure measurements from the SAS above the level of the lesion and the lumbar intrathecal space below the lesion were obtained, and cardiac-gated ultrasonography was performed. One week after surgery, CT myelography was repeated. Three months after surgery, clinical examination, T1-weighted MRI, and CSF pressure recordings (cervical and lumbar) were repeated. Clinical examination and MRI studies were repeated annually thereafter. Findings in patients were compared with those obtained in a group of 18 healthy individuals who had already undergone T1-weighted MRI, cine MRI, and cervical and lumbar subarachnoid pressure testing.

Results

In syringomyelia patients compared with healthy volunteers, cervical subarachnoid pulse pressure was increased (2.7 ± 1.2 vs 1.6 ± 0.6 mm Hg, respectively; p = 0.004), pressure transmission to the thecal sac below the block was reduced, and spinal CSF compliance was decreased. Intraoperative ultrasonography confirmed that pulse pressure waves compressed the outer surface of the spinal cord superior to regions of obstruction of the subarachnoid space.

Conclusions

These findings are consistent with the theory that a spinal subarachnoid block increases spinal subarachnoid pulse pressure above the block, producing a pressure differential across the obstructed segment of the SAS, which results in syrinx formation and progression. These findings are similar to the results of the authors' previous studies that examined the pathophysiology of syringomyelia associated with obstruction of the SAS at the foramen magnum in the Chiari Type I malformation and indicate that a common mechanism, rather than different, separate mechanisms, underlies syrinx formation in these two entities. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT00011245.