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David G. Malone, Nevan G. Baldwin, Frank J. Tomecek, Christopher M. Boxell, Steven E. Gaede, Christopher G. Covington and Kenyon K. Kugler

Object

The authors report a series of 22 patients in whom major complications developed after cervical spinal manipulation therapy (CSMT). A second objective was to estimate the regional incidence of these complications and to compare it with the very low incidences reported in the literature.

Methods

During a 5-year period, practioners at a single group neurosurgical practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma, treated 22 patients, who were markedly worse during, or immediately after, CSMT. The details of these cases are reported. The 1995 US Government National Census was used to define the regional referral population for Tulsa. The published data regarding the incidence of serious CSMT-related complications and the rate of CSMTs undertaken nationally were used to estimate the expected number of CSMT-related complications in the authors' region. The number (22 cases) reported in this series was used to estimate the actual regional incidence.

Complications in the series included radiculopathy (21 cases), myelopathy (11 cases), Brown–Séquard syndrome (two cases), and vertebral artery (VA) occlusion (one case). Twenty-one patients underwent surgery. Poor outcomes were observed in three, outcome was unchanged in one, and 17 improved. The number of patients in this series exceeded the expected number for the region.

Conclusions

Cervical spinal manipulation therapy may worsen preexisting cervical disc herniation or cause disc herniation resulting in radiculopathy, myelopathy, or VA compression. In cases of cervical spondylosis, CSMT may also worsen preexisting myelopathy or radiculopathy. Manipulation of the cervical spine may also be associated with higher complication rates than previously reported.

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Frank J. Tomecek, C. Scott Anthony, Chris Boxell and Jennifer Warren

The authors provide an indepth analysis of discography, a provocative diagnostic tool to determine the origin of low-back pain. Injecting the intervertebral disc with radiopaque dye provides physicians with several useful pieces of information. First, the modality provides radiographic evaluation of the integrity of the nucleus pulposus and anular rings to determine tears or other lesions that could be creating low-back pain. Second, and very important, is its measure of disc nociception. A normal disc should not cause pain when injected; however, a disc that is physiologically compromised can mimic the pain previously experienced by a patient. The authors review the indications, technique, and interpretation of discography to allow a better understanding of when to use this diagnostic test and what to do with the results.

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Patrick W. McCormick, Frank J. Tomecek, Jean McKinney and James I. Ausman

✓ The surgical management of an emerging clinical entity, namely disabling transient cerebral ischemic attacks, is described. A series of 19 patients treated in a 2-year period (12 with anterior circulation dysfunction and seven with posterior insufficiency) met the following criteria: 1) stereotypical recurrent episodes of transient neurological dysfunction related to the anterior or posterior circulation distribution; 2) failure of maximum medical therapy to control the transient neurological dysfunction; 3) four-vessel cerebral angiography demonstrating an isolated vascular territory corresponding to patient symptoms; 4) inhalation xenon cerebral blood flow studies with at least three of eight probe-pairs showing significant asymmetries in the initial slope index, localizing an area of relative oligemia to the symptomatic hemisphere (anterior circulation only); and 5) severe restriction of lifestyle due to transient ischemic attacks (TIA's). Seventeen patients underwent surgical bypass therapy: deep sylvian superficial temporal artery (STA)-middle cerebral artery (MCA) bypass in nine; surface STA-MCA bypass in three: STA-superior cerebellar artery bypass in three; STA-posterior cerebral artery bypass in one; and aorta-carotid artery bypass in one. There was one perioperative death and four perioperative strokes (two ipsilateral and two contralateral to the operated side). The average follow-up period was 14 months. Of the 16 surviving surgically treated patients, 13 (81%) have had an excellent to good outcome with complete resolution of TIA's and minimal neurological deficits. Three patients had a poor outcome with either a significant persistent neurological deficit or continued TIA's. The two patients not treated surgically continue to have vertebrobasilar insufficiency episodes while receiving oral anticoagulation medication. The overall mortality rate (5.5%) and stroke morbidity rate (22.2%) of surgical therapy for disabling TIA's are high in this neurologically unstable group of patients, but are associated with an 81 % excellent to good response.

Although the natural history of disabling TIA's is not known, these patients present with significant to total disability due to their symptoms. It is concluded that disabling TIA's respond to surgical revascularization and may represent an indication for cerebral revascularization surgery.