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  • Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine x
  • By Author: Abdullah, Kalil G. x
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Yumeng Li, Daniel Lubelski, Kalil G. Abdullah, Thomas E. Mroz and Michael P. Steinmetz

Object

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Mark N. Hadley

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Daniel Lubelski, Kalil G. Abdullah, Amy S. Nowacki, Matthew D. Alvin, Michael P. Steinmetz, Srita Chakka, Yumeng Li, Nicholas Gajewski, Edward C. Benzel and Thomas E. Mroz

Object

The goal of this study was to compare the urological complications in patients after anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) with and without the use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2).

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all patients who underwent ALIF with and without rhBMP-2 between January 2002 and August 2010. Patient demographic, operative, and complication information was analyzed. Male patients who underwent ALIF between L-4 and S-1 were contacted to assess postoperative urological complications.

Results

Of the 110 male patients who underwent ALIF and were included in this study, 59 were treated with rhBMP-2 and 51 did not receive rhBMP-2. The mean follow-up duration was 17.5 months for the rhBMP-2 group and 30.8 months for the control group. No difference was found regarding the total number of urological complications in the rhBMP-2 group versus the control group (22% vs 20%, respectively; p = 1.0) or for retrograde ejaculation specifically (8% vs 8%, respectively; p = 1.0).

Conclusions

In this study, the use of rhBMP-2 with ALIF surgery was not associated with an increased incidence of urological complications and retrograde ejaculation when compared with control ALIF without rhBMP-2. Further prospective analyses that specifically look at these complications are warranted.

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Kalil G. Abdullah, Amy S. Nowacki, Michael P. Steinmetz, Jeffrey C. Wang and Thomas E. Mroz

Object

The C-7 lateral mass has been considered difficult to fit with instrumentation because of its unique anatomy. Of the methods that exist for placing lateral mass screws, none particularly accommodates this anatomical variation. The authors have related 12 distinct morphological measures of the C-7 lateral mass to the ability to place a lateral mass screw using the Magerl, Roy-Camille, and a modified Roy-Camille method.

Methods

Using CT scans, the authors performed virtual screw placement of lateral mass screws at the C-7 level in 25 male and 25 female patients. Complications recorded included foraminal and articular process violations, inability to achieve bony purchase, and inability to place a screw longer than 6 mm. Violations were monitored in the coronal, axial, and sagittal planes. The Roy-Camille technique was applied starting directly in the middle of the lateral mass, as defined by Pait's quadrants, with an axial angle of 15° lateral and a sagittal angle of 90°. The Magerl technique was performed by starting in the inferior portion of the top right square of Pait's quadrants and angling 25° laterally in the axial plane with a 45° cephalad angle in the sagittal plane. In a modified method, the starting point is similar to the Magerl technique in the top right square of Pait's quadrant and then angling 15° laterally in the axial plane. In the sagittal plane, a 90° angle is taken perpendicular to the dorsal portion of the lateral mass, as in the traditional Roy-Camille technique.

Results

Of all the morphological methods analyzed, only a combined measure of intrusion of the T-1 facet and the overall length of the C-7 lateral mass was statistically associated with screw placement, and only in the Roy-Camille technique. Use of the Magerl technique allowed screw placement in 28 patients; use of the Roy-Camille technique allowed placement in 24 patients; and use of the modified technique allowed placement in 46 patients. No screw placement by any method was possible in 4 patients.

Conclusions

There is only one distinct anatomical ratio that was shown to affect lateral mass screw placement at C-7. This ratio incorporates the overall length of the lateral mass and the amount of space occupied by the T-1 facet at C-7. Based on this virtual study, a modified Roy-Camille technique that utilizes a higher starting point may decrease the complication rate at C-7 by avoiding placement of the lateral mass screw into the T1 facet.