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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


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.


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.


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).


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


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.


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.


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.


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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Megan M. Lockwood, Gabriel A. Smith, Joseph Tanenbaum, Daniel Lubelski, Andreea Seicean, Jonathan Pace, Edward C. Benzel, Thomas E. Mroz and Michael P. Steinmetz


Screening for vertebral artery injury (VAI) following cervical spine fractures is routinely performed across trauma centers in North America. From 2002 to 2007, the total number of neck CT angiography (CTA) studies performed in the Medicare population after trauma increased from 9796 to 115,021. In the era of cost-effective medical care, the authors aimed to evaluate the utility of CTA screening in detecting VAI and reduce chances of posterior circulation strokes after traumatic cervical spine fractures.


A retrospective review of all patients presenting with cervical spine fractures to Northeast Ohio’s Level I trauma institution from 2002 to 2012 was performed.


There was a total of 1717 cervical spine fractures in patients presenting to Northeast Ohio’s Level I trauma institution between 2002 and 2012. CTA screening was performed in 732 patients, and 51 patients (0.7%) were found to have a VAI. Fracture patterns with increased odds of VAI were C-1 and C-2 combined fractures, transverse foramen fractures, and subluxation of adjacent vertebral levels. Ten posterior circulation strokes were identified in this patient population (0.6%) and found in only 4 of 51 cases of VAI (7.8%). High-risk fractures defined by Denver Criteria, VAI, and antiplatelet treatment of VAI were not independent predictors of stroke.


Cost-effective screening must be reevaluated in the setting of blunt cervical spine fractures on a case-by-case basis. Further prospective studies must be performed to elucidate the utility of screening for VAI and posterior circulation stroke prevention, if identified.

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Yumeng Li, Daniel Lubelski, Kalil G. Abdullah, Thomas E. Mroz and Michael P. Steinmetz


Bertolotti's syndrome consists of low-back pain caused by lumbosacral transitional vertebrae (LSTVs) and LSTV-associated biomechanical spinal changes. There is a lack of consensus regarding the cause, clinical significance, and treatment of this condition. The authors aim to characterize the clinical presentation of patients with Bertolotti's syndrome and describe a minimally invasive surgical treatment for this condition.


Seven patients who underwent minimally invasive paramedian tubular-based resection of the LSTV for Bertolotti's syndrome were identified over the course of 5 years. Diagnosis was based on patient history of chronic low-back pain, radiographic findings of LSTV, and pain relief on trigger-site injection with steroid and/or anesthetics. Electronic medical records were reviewed to identify demographics, operative data, and outcomes.


All patients presented with severe, chronic low-back pain lasting an average of 8 years that was resistant to nonoperative care. At presentation, 6 (86%) of 7 patients experienced radicular pain that was ipsilateral to the LSTV. Radiographic evidence showed a presence of LSTV in all patients on the left (43%), right (29%), or bilaterally (29%). Degenerative disc changes at the L4–5 level immediately above the anomalous LSTV were observed in 6 of 7 (86%) patients; these changes were not seen at the level below the LSTV. Following pseudo-joint injection, all patients experienced temporary relief of their symptoms. All patients underwent a minimally invasive, paramedian tubular-based approach for resection of the LSTV. Three (43%) of 7 patients reported complete resolution of low-back pain, 2 (29%) of 7 patients had reduced low-back pain, and 2 patients (29%) experienced initial relief but return of low-back pain at 1 and 4 years postoperatively. Three (50%) of the 6 patients with radicular pain had complete relief of this symptom. The median follow-up time was 12 months. No intraoperative complication was reported. Two (29%) of 7 patients developed postoperative complications including one with a wound hematoma and another with new L-5 radiculopathy that resolved 2 years after surgery.


Diagnosis of Bertolotti's syndrome should be considered with adequate patient history, imaging studies, and diagnostic injections. A minimally invasive surgical approach for resection of the LSTV is presented here for symptomatic treatment of select patients with Bertolotti's syndrome whose conditions are refractory to conventional therapy and who have pain that can be attributed to the LSTV. Several short-term complications were noted with this procedure, but overall this procedure is effective for treating symptoms related to Bertolotti's syndrome.