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Rafael De la Garza-Ramos, Risheng Xu, Seba Ramhmdani, Thomas Kosztowski, Mohamad Bydon, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Ali Bydon

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to report the long-term clinical outcomes following 3- and 4-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).

METHODS

A retrospective review of all adult neurosurgical patients undergoing elective ACDF for degenerative disease at a single institution between 1996 and 2013 was performed. Patients who underwent first-time 3- or 4-level ACDF were included; patients with previous cervical spine surgery, those undergoing anterior/posterior approaches, and those with corpectomy were excluded. Outcome measures included perioperative complication rates, fusion rates, need for revision surgery, Nurick Scores, Odom's criteria, symptom resolution, neck visual analog scale (VAS) pain score, and persistent narcotics usage.

RESULTS

Seventy-one patients who underwent 3-level ACDF and 26 patients who underwent 4-level ACDF were identified and followed for an average of 7.6 ± 4.2 years. There was 1 case (3.9%) of deep wound infection in the 4-level group and 1 case in the 3-level group (1.4%; p = 0.454). Postoperatively, 31% of patients in the 4-level group complained of dysphagia, compared with 12.7% in the 3-level group (p = 0.038). The fusion rate was 84.6% after 4-level ACDF and 94.4% after 3-level ACDF (p = 0.122). At last follow-up, a significantly higher proportion of patients in the 4-level group continued to have axial neck pain (53.8%) than in the 3-level group (31%; p = 0.039); the daily oral morphine equivalent dose was significantly higher in the 4-level group (143 ± 97 mg/day) than in the 3-level group (25 ± 10 mg/day; p = 0.030). Outcomes based on Odom's criteria were also different between cohorts (p = 0.044), with a significantly lower proportion of patients in the 4-level ACDF group experiencing an excellent/good outcome.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, patients who underwent 4-level ACDF had significantly higher rates of dysphagia, postoperative neck pain, and postoperative narcotic usage when compared with patients who underwent 3-level ACDF. Pseudarthrosis and deep wound infection rates were also higher in the 4-level group, although this did not reach statistical significance. Additionally, a smaller proportion of patients achieved a good/excellent outcome in the 4-level group than in the 3-level group. These findings suggest a significant increase of perioperative morbidity and worsened outcomes for patients who undergo 4- versus 3-level ACDF.

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Mohamad Bydon, Risheng Xu, Anubhav G. Amin, Mohamed Macki, Paul Kaloostian, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Timothy F. Witham

Object

A number of imaging techniques have been introduced to minimize the risk of pedicle screw placement. Intraoperative CT has been recently introduced to assist in spinal instrumentation. The aim of this study was to study the effectiveness of intraoperative CT in enhancing the safety and accuracy of pedicle screw placement.

Methods

The authors included all cases from December 2009 through July 2012 in which intraoperative CT scanning was used to confirm pedicle screw placement.

Results

A total of 203 patients met the inclusion criteria. Of 1148 screws, 103 screws (8.97%) were revised intraoperatively in 72 patients (35.5%): 14 (18.42%) were revised in the cervical spine (C-2 or C-7), 25 (7.25%) in the thoracic spine, and 64 (8.80%) in the lumbar spine. Compared with screws in the thoracic and lumbar regions, pedicle screws placed in the cervical region were statistically more likely to be revised (p = 0.0061). Two patients (0.99%) required reoperations due to undetected misplacement of pedicle screws.

Conclusions

The authors describe one of the first North American experiences using intraoperative CT scanning to confirm the placement of pedicle screws. Compared with a similar cohort of patients from their institution who had pedicle screws inserted via the free-hand technique with postoperative CT, the authors found that the intraoperative CT lowers the threshold for pedicle screw revision, resulting in a statistically higher rate of screw revision in the thoracic and lumbar spine (p < 0.0001). During their 2.5-year experience with the intraoperative CT, the authors did not find a reduction in rates of reoperation for misplaced pedicle screws.

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Mohamad Bydon, Risheng Xu, David Santiago-Dieppa, Mohamed Macki, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Timothy F. Witham

Object

The aim of this study was to study the long-term outcomes of patients undergoing instrumented posterior fusion of the lumbar spine.

Methods

The authors present 511 patients who underwent instrumented arthrodesis for lumbar degenerative disease over a 23-year period at a single institution. Patients underwent follow-up for an average of 39.73 ± 46.52 months (± SD) after the index lumbar arthrodesis procedure.

Results

The average patient age was 59.45 ± 13.48 years. Of the 511 patients, 502 (98.24%) presented with back pain, 379 (74.17%) with radiculopathy, 76 (14.87%) with motor weakness, and 32 (6.26%) with preoperative bowel/bladder dysfunction. An average of 2.04 ± 1.03 spinal levels were fused. Postoperatively, patients experienced a significant improvement in back pain (p < 0.0001) and radiculopathy (p < 0.0001). Patients with fusions excluding the sacrum (floating fusions) were statistically more likely to develop adjacent-segment disease (ASD) than those with fusion constructs ending at S-1 distally (p = 0.030) but were less likely to develop postoperative radiculopathy (p = 0.030). In the floating fusion cohort, 31 (12.11%) of 256 patients had cephalad ASD, whereas 39 (15.29%) of 255 patients in the lumbosacral cohort had cephalad ASD development; this was not statistically different (p = 0.295). This suggests that caudad ASD development in the floating fusion cohort is due to the added risk of an unfused L5–S1 vertebral level. Because of the elevated risk of symptomatic radiculopathy but lower risk of ASD, patients in the lumbosacral fusion cohort had a reoperation rate similar to those undergoing floating fusions (p = 0.769).

Conclusions

In this paper, the authors present one of the largest cohorts in the Western literature of patients undergoing instrumented fusion for degenerative lumbar spine disease. Patients who had floating lumbar fusions were statistically more likely to develop ASD over time than those who had lumbosacral fusions incorporating the S-1 spinal segment, but were less likely to experience postoperative radicular symptoms. Additional prospective studies may more clearly delineate the long-term risks of instrumented posterolateral fusions of the lumbar spine.

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Mohamad Bydon, Risheng Xu, Kyriakos Papademetriou, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham, Ziya L. Gokaslan, George Jallo and Ali Bydon

Object

Unintended durotomies are a common complication of spine surgery and are often correlated with increased postoperative morbidity. Recently, ultrasonic bone curettes have been introduced in spine surgery as a possible alternative to the conventional high-speed drill, offering the potential for greater bone-cutting precision and less damage to surrounding soft tissues. To date, however, few studies have investigated the safety and efficacy of the ultrasonic bone curette in reducing the rates of incidental durotomy compared with the high-speed drill.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of 337 consecutive patients who underwent posterior cervical or thoracic decompression at a single institution between January 2009 and September 2011. Preoperative pathologies, the location and extent of spinal decompression, and the use of an ultrasonic bone curette versus the high-speed drill were noted. The rates of incidental durotomy, as well as hospital length of stay (LOS) and perioperative outcomes, were compared between patients who were treated using the ultrasonic bone curette and those treated using a high-speed drill.

Results

Among 88 patients who were treated using an ultrasonic bone curette and 249 who were treated using a high-speed drill, 5 (5.7%) and 9 (3.6%) patients had an unintentional durotomy, respectively. This finding was not statistically significant (p = 0.40). No patients in either cohort experienced statistically higher rates of perioperative complications, although patients treated using an ultrasonic bone curette tended to have a longer hospital LOS. This difference may be attributed to the fact that this series contained a statistically higher number of metastatic tumor cases (p < 0.0001) in the ultrasonic bone curette cohort, likely increasing the LOS for that patient population. In 13 patients, the dural defect was repaired intraoperatively. No patients who experienced an incidental durotomy had new-onset or permanent neurological deficits postoperatively.

Conclusions

The safety and efficacy of ultrasonic bone curettes in spine surgery has not been well established. This study shows that the ultrasonic bone curette has a similar safety profile compared with the high-speed drill, although both are capable of causing iatrogenic dural tears during spine surgery.

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Risheng Xu, Matthew J. McGirt, Edward G. Sutter, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Ali Bydon

Object

The aim of this study was to conduct the first in vitro biomechanical comparison of immediate and postcyclical rigidities of C-7 lateral mass versus C-7 pedicle screws in posterior C4–7 constructs.

Methods

Ten human cadaveric spines were treated with C4–6 lateral mass screw and C-7 lateral mass (5 specimens) versus pedicle (5 specimens) screw fixation. Spines were potted in polymethylmethacrylate bone cement and placed on a materials testing machine. Rotation about the axis of bending was measured using passive retroreflective markers and infrared motion capture cameras. The motion of C-4 relative to C-7 in flexion-extension and lateral bending was assessed uninstrumented, immediately after instrumentation, and following 40,000 cycles of 4 Nm of flexion-extension and lateral bending moments at 1 Hz. The effect of instrumentation and cyclical loading on rotational motion across C4–7 was analyzed for significance.

Results

Preinstrumented spines for the 2 cohorts were comparable in bone mineral density and range of motion in both flexion-extension (p = 0.33) and lateral bending (p = 0.16). Lateral mass and pedicle screw constructs significantly reduced motion during flexion-extension (11.3°–0.26° for lateral mass screws, p = 0.002; 10.51°–0.30° for pedicle screws, p = 0.008) and lateral bending (7.38°–0.27° for lateral mass screws, p = 0.003; 11.65°–0.49° for pedicle screws, p = 0.03). After cyclical loading in both cohorts, rotational motion over C4–7 was increased during flexion-extension (0.26°–0.68° for lateral mass screws; 0.30°–1.31° for pedicle screws) and lateral bending (0.27°–0.39° and 0.49°–0.80°, respectively), although the increase was not statistically significant (p > 0.05). There was no statistical difference in postcyclical flexion-extension (p = 0.20) and lateral bending (0.10) between lateral mass and pedicle screws.

Conclusions

Both C-7 lateral mass and C-7 pedicle screws allow equally rigid fixation of subaxial lateral mass constructs ending at C-7. Immediately and within a simulated 6-week postfixation period, C-7 lateral mass screws may be as effective as C-7 pedicle screws in biomechanically stabilizing long subaxial lateral mass constructs.

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Editorial

Pedicle versus lateral mass screws

Alexander R. Vaccaro

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Scott L. Parker, Risheng Xu, Matthew J. McGirt, Timothy F. Witham, Donlin M. Long and Ali Bydon

Object

The most common spinal procedure performed in the US is lumbar discectomy for disc herniation. Longterm disc degeneration and height loss occur in many patients after lumbar discectomy. The incidence of mechanical back pain following discectomy varies widely in the literature, and its associated health care costs are unknown. The authors set out to determine the incidence of and the health care costs associated with mechanical back pain attributed to segmental degeneration or instability at the level of a prior discectomy performed at their institution.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed the data for 111 patients who underwent primary, single-level lumbar hemilaminotomy and discectomy for radiculopathy. All diagnostic modalities, conservative therapies, and operative treatments used for the management of postdiscectomy back pain were recorded. Institutional billing and accounting records were reviewed to determine the billed costs of all diagnostic and therapeutic measures.

Results

At a mean follow-up of 37.3 months after primary discectomy, 75 patients (68%) experienced minimal to no back pain, 26 (23%) had moderate back pain requiring conservative treatment only, and 10 (9%) suffered severe back pain that required a subsequent fusion surgery at the site of the primary discectomy. The mean cost per patient for conservative treatment alone was $4696. The mean cost per patient for operative treatment was $42,554. The estimated cost of treatment for mechanical back pain associated with postoperative same-level degeneration or instability was $493,383 per 100 cases of first-time, single-level lumbar discectomy ($4934 per primary discectomy).

Conclusions

Postoperative mechanical back pain associated with same-level degeneration is not uncommon in patients undergoing single-level lumbar discectomy and is associated with substantial health care costs.