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Luis M. Tumialán and Nicholas Theodore

Traumatic cervical spondyloptosis is a rare clinical entity typically associated with complete neurological deficit. The inherent mechanics of this fracture-dislocation pattern contorts the vertebral arteries in such a way that it may result in dissection or compromised flow through those vessels. Thus, intimal injury or thrombus from stasis of flow may result. Reduction of the spondyloptosis restores flow to the vertebral arteries, but it also may mobilize thrombus or propagate an intimal dissection within the previously contorted vessel.

The authors review their experience in the care of a 43-year-old man who sustained C4–5 spondyloptosis while riding an all-terrain vehicle. On arrival, the patient demonstrated no motor function below C-4 but had sensation to the nipple line (American Spinal Injury Association Spinal Cord Injury Classification B). The patient's cranial nerve examination was unremarkable. Computed tomography of the cervical spine demonstrated complete spondyloptosis at C4–5. The patient was immediately placed in cervical traction and taken to the operating room for open reduction of the fracture dislocation, decompression of the spinal cord, and stabilization with an interbody graft and cervical plate. Preoperative cervical traction was successful in only partial reduction of the fracture dislocation. Open reduction was achieved with exposure of the C-4 and C-5 bodies and sequential distraction. After anatomical alignment was achieved, an interbody graft was placed and a cervical plate secured. A subsequent decline in the patient's level of consciousness prompted CT of the head, which showed evidence of a basilar artery thrombosis. A CT angiographic study demonstrated patency of the vertebral arteries, but a mid–basilar artery thrombosis. The patient progressed to brain death 24 hours after reduction of the fracture dislocation.

The degree of contortion of the vertebral arteries in cervical spondyloptosis in the upper cervical spine may result in stasis of flow with subsequent formation of thrombus or intimal injury. After anatomical reduction, restoration of flow within the vertebral arteries may mobilize the thrombus or propagate an intimal dissection and result in subsequent embolic events. Endovascular evaluation may be warranted immediately after anatomical reduction of a high cervical spondyloptosis for evaluation of the vertebral arteries and possible thrombus dissolution or retrieval.

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Felipe C. Albuquerque, Yin C. Hu, Shervin R. Dashti, Adib A. Abla, Justin C. Clark, Brian Alkire, Nicholas Theodore and Cameron G. McDougall

Object

Chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine is a known cause of craniocervical arterial dissections. In this paper, the authors describe the patterns of arterial injury after chiropractic manipulation and their management in the modern endovascular era.

Methods

A prospectively maintained endovascular database was reviewed to identify patients presenting with craniocervical arterial dissections after chiropractic manipulation. Factors assessed included time to symptomatic presentation, location of the injured arterial segment, neurological symptoms, endovascular treatment, surgical treatment, clinical outcome, and radiographic follow-up.

Results

Thirteen patients (8 women and 5 men, mean age 44 years, range 30–73 years) presented with neurological deficits, head and neck pain, or both, typically within hours or days of chiropractic manipulation. Arterial dissections were identified along the entire course of the vertebral artery, including the origin through the V4 segment. Three patients had vertebral artery dissections that continued rostrally to involve the basilar artery. Two patients had dissections of the internal carotid artery (ICA): 1 involved the cervical ICA and 1 involved the petrocavernous ICA. Stenting was performed in 5 cases, and thrombolysis of the basilar artery was performed in 1 case. Three patients underwent emergency cerebellar decompression because of impending herniation. Six patients were treated with medication alone, including either anticoagulation or antiplatelet therapy. Clinical follow-up was obtained in all patients (mean 19 months). Three patients had permanent neurological deficits, and 1 died of a massive cerebellar stroke. The remaining 9 patients recovered completely. Of the 12 patients who survived, radiographic follow-up was obtained in all but 1 of the most recently treated patients (mean 12 months). All stents were widely patent at follow-up.

Conclusions

Chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine can produce dissections involving the cervical and cranial segments of the vertebral and carotid arteries. These injuries can be severe, requiring endovascular stenting and cranial surgery. In this patient series, a significant percentage (31%, 4/13) of patients were left permanently disabled or died as a result of their arterial injuries.

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M. Yashar S. Kalani, Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Andrew S. Little, Udaya K. Kakarla and Nicholas Theodore

The authors describe a rare case of tumoral calcinosis (TC) of the thoracic spine in a 13-year-old boy with thoracic scoliosis. The patient presented with a 2-year history of back pain. He had no personal or family history of bone disease, deformity, or malignancy. Magnetic resonance imaging revealed a heterogeneously enhancing mass involving the T-7 vertebral body and the left pedicle. Computed tomography findings suggested that the mass was calcified and that this had resulted in scalloping of the vertebral body. The lesion was resected completely by using a left T-7 costotransversectomy and corpectomy. The deformity was corrected with placement of a vertebral body cage and pedicle screw fixation from T-5 to T-9. Pathological analysis of the mass demonstrated dystrophic calcification with marked hypercellularity and immunostaining consistent with TC. This represents the third reported case of vertebral TC in the pediatric population. Pediatric neurosurgeons should be familiar with lesions such as TC, which may be encountered in the elderly and in hemodialysis-dependent populations, and may not always require aggressive resection.

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Udaya K. Kakarla, M. Yashar S. Kalani, Giriraj K. Sharma, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Nicholas Theodore

Object

Coccidioides immitis is a dimorphous fungus endemic in the southwestern US and northern Mexico. While its primary presentation is pulmonary, it can have devastating neurological sequelae.

Methods

The authors provide a retrospective review with long-term follow-up between 1986 and 2008 at a single institution.

Results

The authors identified 27 patients between 13 and 81 years old (mean 41.4 years) with spinal coccidioides who were treated surgically at the Barrow Neurological Institute between 1986 and 2008. There were 24 males (89%) and 3 females (11%). Eleven patients (41%) had cervical spine involvement, 15 (56%) had thoracic involvement, 7 (26%) had lumbar involvement, and 2 (7%) had sacral involvement. All 27 patients presented with localized or radiating pain. Nine patients (33%) had myelopathic symptoms at presentation, 5 (19%) had radiculopathy, 4 (15%) had fever, and 12 (44%) had progressive kyphosis. The disease was most frequently seen among African American patients (14 patients [52%]), followed by Caucasians (5 patients [19%]), Asians (3 patients [11%]), and Hispanics (3 patients [11%]). Ten patients (37%) required multiple operations at the same level. Follow-up was available in 19 patients (70%) (mean 9.8 months, range 1–39 months). Sixteen (84%) of these 19 patients improved from their preoperative baseline states, 1 (5%) was stable on examination, 1 patient's condition (5%) deteriorated compared with the preoperative examination, and 1 patient (5%) died in the postoperative period.

Conclusions

Although spinal involvement of coccidioidomycosis is relatively uncommon, a high index of suspicion and aggressive therapy are warranted to prevent devastating neurological injury, and lifelong antifungal therapy is often warranted.

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Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Jeanne S. Feuerstein, Nicholas Theodore, Daniel D. Cavalcanti, Robert F. Spetzler and Mark C. Preul

The authors present a review of spinal cord blood supply, discussing the anatomy of the vascular system and physiological aspects of blood flow regulation in normal and injured spinal cords. Unique anatomical functional properties of vessels and blood supply determine the susceptibility of the spinal cord to damage, especially ischemia. Spinal cord injury (SCI), for example, complicating thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair is associated with ischemic trauma. The rate of this devastating complication has been decreased significantly by instituting physiological methods of protection. Traumatic SCI causes complex changes in spinal cord blood flow, which are closely related to the severity of injury. Manipulating physiological parameters such as mean arterial blood pressure and intrathecal pressure may be beneficial for patients with an SCI. Studying the physiopathological processes of the spinal cord under vascular compromise remains challenging because of its central role in almost all of the body's hemodynamic and neurofunctional processes.

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David A. Wilson, David J. Fusco and Nicholas Theodore

Iatrogenic vascular injury is a rare but potentially devastating complication of cervical spine instrumentation. The authors report on a patient who developed an anterior spinal artery pseudoaneurysm associated with delayed subarachnoid hemorrhage after undergoing odontoid screw placement 14 months earlier. This 86-year-old man presented with spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage (Fisher Grade 4) and full motor strength on neurological examination. Imaging demonstrated pseudarthrosis of the odontoid process, extension of the odontoid screw beyond the posterior cortex of the dens, and a pseudoaneurysm arising from an adjacent branch of the anterior spinal artery. Due to the aneurysm's location and lack of active extravasation, endovascular treatment was not attempted. Posterior C1–2 fusion was performed to treat radiographic and clinical instability of the C1–2 joint. Postoperatively, the patient's motor function remained intact. Almost all cases of vascular injury related to cervical spine instrumentation are recognized at surgery. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report of delayed vascular injury following an uncomplicated cervical fixation. This case further suggests that the risk of this phenomenon may be elevated in cases of failed fusion.

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Daniel D. Cavalcanti, Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Ketan Verma, Sam Safavi-Abbasi, Randall W. Porter, Nicholas Theodore, Volker K. H. Sonntag, Curtis A. Dickman and Robert F. Spetzler

Object

Schwannomas occupying the craniocervical junction (CCJ) are rare and usually originate from the jugular foramen, hypoglossal nerves, and C-1 and C-2 nerves. Although they may have different origins, they may share the same symptoms, surgical approaches, and complications. An extension of these lesions along the posterior fossa cisterns, foramina, and spinal canal—usually involving various cranial nerves (CNs) and the vertebral and cerebellar arteries—poses a surgical challenge. The primary goals of both surgical and radiosurgical management of schwannomas in the CCJ are the preservation and restoration of function of the lower CNs, and of hearing and facial nerve function. The origins of schwannomas in the CCJ and their clinical presentation, surgical management, adjuvant stereotactic radiosurgery, and outcomes in 36 patients treated at Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) are presented.

Methods

Between 1989 and 2009, 36 patients (mean age 43.6 years, range 17–68 years) with craniocervical schwannomas underwent surgical resection at BNI. The records were reviewed retrospectively regarding clinical presentation, radiographic assessment, surgical approaches, adjuvant therapies, and follow-up outcomes.

Results

Headache or neck pain was present in 72.2% of patients. Cranial nerve impairments, mainly involving the vagus nerve, were present in 14 patients (38.9%). Motor deficits were found in 27.8% of the patients. Sixteen tumors were intra- and extradural, 15 were intradural, and 5 were extradural. Gross-total resection was achieved in 25 patients (69.4%). Adjunctive radiosurgery was used in the management of residual tumor in 8 patients; tumor control was ultimately obtained in all cases.

Conclusions

Surgical removal, which is the treatment of choice, is curative when schwannomas in the CCJ are excised completely. The far-lateral approach and its variations are our preferred approaches for managing these lesions. Most common complications involve deficits of the lower CNs, and their early recognition and rehabilitation are needed. Stereotactic radiosurgery, an important tool for the management of these tumors as adjuvant therapy, can help decrease morbidity rates.

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Samuel Kalb, Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Luis Perez-Orribo, M. Yashar S. Kalani and Nicholas Theodore

Object

Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) is a rare disease that results in progressive myeloradiculopathy related to pathological ossification of the ligament from unknown causes. Although it has long been considered a disease of Asian origin, this disorder is increasingly being recognized in European and North American populations. Herein the authors present demographic, radiographic, and comorbidity data from white patients with diagnosed OPLL as well as the outcomes of surgically treated patients.

Methods

Between 1999 and 2010, OPLL was diagnosed in 36 white patients at Barrow Neurological Institute. Patients were divided into 2 groups: a group of 33 patients with cervical OPLL and a group of 3 patients with thoracic or lumbar OPLL. Fifteen of these patients who had received operative treatment were analyzed separately. Imaging analysis focused on signal changes in the spinal cord, mass occupying ratio, signs of dural penetration, spinal levels involved, and subtype of OPLL. Surgical techniques included anterior cervical decompression and fusion with corpectomy, posterior laminectomy with fusion, posterior open-door laminoplasty, and anterior corpectomy combined with posterior laminectomy and fusion. Comorbidities, cigarette smoking, and previous spine surgeries were considered. Neurological function was assessed using a modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association Scale (mJOAS).

Results

A high-intensity signal on T2-weighted MR imaging and a history of cervical spine surgery correlated with worse mJOAS scores. Furthermore, mJOAS scores decreased as the occupying rate of the OPLL mass in the spinal canal increased. On radiographic analysis, the proportion of signs of dural penetration correlated with the OPLL subtype. A high mass occupying ratio of the OPLL was directly associated with the presence of dural penetration and high-intensity signal. In the surgical group, the rate of neurological improvement associated with an anterior approach was 58% compared with 31% for a posterior laminectomy. No complications were associated with any of the 4 types of surgical procedures. In 3 cases, symptoms had worsened at the last follow-up, with only a single case of disease progression. Laminoplasty was the only technique associated with a worse clinical outcome. There were no statistical differences (p > 0.05) between the type of surgical procedure or radiographic presentation and postoperative outcome. There was also no difference between the choice of surgical procedure performed and the number of spinal levels involved with OPLL.

Conclusions

Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament can no longer be viewed as a disease of the Asian population exclusively. Since OPLL among white populations is being diagnosed more frequently, surgeons must be aware of the most appropriate surgical option. The outcomes of the various surgical treatments among the different populations with OPLL appear similar. Compared with other procedures, however, anterior decompression led to the best neurological outcomes.

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Francisco A. Ponce, Brendan D. Killory, Scott D. Wait, Nicholas Theodore and Curtis A. Dickman

Object

Thoracoscopy may be used in place of thoracotomy to resect intrathoracic neoplasms such as paraspinal neurogenic tumors. Although these tumors are rare, they account for the majority of tumors arising in the posterior mediastinum.

Methods

A database was maintained of all patients undergoing thoracoscopic surgery for tumors. The authors analyzed the presenting symptoms, pathological diagnoses, and outcomes of 26 patients (7 males and 19 females, mean age 37.2 years) who were treated for intrathoracic tumors via thoracoscopy between January 1995 and May 2009. Fourteen patients were diagnosed incidentally (54%). Five patients (19%) presented with dyspnea or shortness of breath, 4 (15%) with pain, 1 (4%) with pneumonia, 1 (4%) with hoarseness, and 1 (4%) with Horner syndrome.

Results

Pathology demonstrated schwannomas in 20 patients (77%). Other diagnoses included ganglioneurofibroma, paraganglioma, epithelioid angiosarcoma, benign hemangioma, benign granular cell tumor, and infectious granuloma. One patient required conversion to open thoracotomy due to pleural scarring to the tumor. One underwent initial laminectomy due to intraspinal extension of the tumor. Gross-total resection was obtained in 25 cases (96%). The remaining patient underwent biopsy followed by radiation therapy. The mean surgical time was 2.5 hours, and the mean blood loss was 243 ml. The mean duration of chest tube insertion was 1.3 days, and the mean length of hospital stay was 3.0 days. Cases that were treated in the second half of the cohort were more often diagnosed incidentally, performed in less time, and had less blood loss than those in the first half of the cohort. There was 1 case of permanent treatment-related morbidity (mild Horner syndrome). All previously employed patients were able to return to work (mean clinical follow-up 43 months). There were no recurrences (mean imaging follow-up 54 months).

Conclusions

Endoscopic transthoracic approaches can reduce approach-related soft-tissue morbidity and facilitate recovery by preserving the normal tissues of the chest wall, by avoiding rib retraction and muscle transection, and by reducing postoperative pain. This less invasive approach thus shortens hospital stay and recovery time.

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Ali A. Baaj, Phillip M. Reyes, Ali S. Yaqoobi, Juan S. Uribe, Fernando L. Vale, Nicholas Theodore, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Neil R. Crawford

Object

Unstable fractures at the thoracolumbar junction often require extended, posterior, segmental pedicular fixation. Some surgeons have reported good clinical outcomes with short-segment constructs if additional pedicle screws are inserted at the fractured level. The goal of this study was to quantify the biomechanical advantage of the index-level screw in a fracture model.

Methods

Six human cadaveric T10–L4 specimens were tested. A 3-column injury at L-1 was simulated, and 4 posterior constructs were tested as follows: one-above-one-below (short construct) with/without index-level screws, and two-above-two-below (long construct) with/without index-level screws. Pure moments were applied quasistatically while 3D motion was measured optoelectronically. The range of motion (ROM) and lax zone across T12–L2 were measured during flexion, extension, left and right lateral bending, and left and right axial rotation.

Results

All constructs significantly reduced the ROM and lax zone in the fractured specimens. With or without index-level screws, the long-segment constructs provided better immobilization than the short-segment constructs during all loading modes. Adding an index-level screw to the short-segment construct significantly improved stability during flexion and lateral bending; there was no significant improvement in stability when an index-level screw was added to the long-segment construct. Overall, bilateral index-level screws decreased the ROM of the 1-level construct by 25% but decreased the ROM of the 2-level construct by only 3%.

Conclusions

In a fracture model, adding index-level pedicle screws to short-segment constructs improves stability, although stability remains less than that provided by long-segment constructs with or without index-level pedicle screws. Therefore, highly unstable fractures likely require extended, long-segment constructs for optimum stability.