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L. Fernando Gonzalez, Sepideh Amin-Hanjani, Nicholas C. Bambakidis and Robert F. Spetzler

Posterior circulation lesions constitute approximately 10% of all intracranial aneurysms. Their distribution includes the basilar artery (BA) bifurcation, superior cerebellar artery, posterior inferior cerebellar artery, and anterior inferior cerebellar artery. The specific features of a patient's aneurysm and superb anatomical knowledge help the surgeon to choose the most appropriate approach and to tailor it to the patient's situation. The main principle that must be applied is maximization of bone resection. This allows the surgeon to work within a wider corridor, which facilitates the use of surgical instruments and minimizes retraction of the brain.

The management of aneurysms within the posterior circulation requires expertise in skull base and vascular surgery. Endovascular treatments have become increasingly important, but in this paper the authors focus on the surgical management of these difficult aneurysms. The paper is divided into three parts: the first section is a brief review of the anatomy of the BA; the second part is a review of the techniques associated with the management of posterior fossa aneurysms; and in the third section the authors describe the different approaches, their nuances and indications based on the location of the aneurysm, and its relationship to the surrounding bone (especially the clivus, dorsum sellae, and the free edge of the petrous apex).

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Fady T. Charbel, Meide Zhao, Sepideh Amin-Hanjani, William Hoffman, Xinjian Du and Marlyn E. Clark

Object. Balloon occlusion tests (BOTs) are performed to identify patients who are at risk for ischemia and stroke following permanent internal carotid artery (ICA) occlusion. The object of this work was to determine whether patient-specific blood flow modeling can be used to identify patients in whom the BOT would not be tolerated.

Methods. The test was performed in 16 patients who underwent BOT with continuous neurological and electroencephalographic monitoring, followed by a hypotensive challenge. During hypotension a tracer was injected so that single-photon emission tomography (SPECT) scans could be obtained. Each individual brain circulation was modeled using information gained from phase-contrast magnetic resonance (MR) angiography and digital subtraction (DS) angiography, and the predicted effect of the BOT was evaluated.

Six patients did not tolerate the BOT; in these patients, decreases in middle cerebral artery (M1 segment) blood flow of 41 ± 27% (mean ± standard deviation), anterior cerebral artery (A3 segment) flow of 56 ± 33%, and posterior cerebral artery (P2 segment) flow of 4 ± 13% ipsilateral to the site of occlusion were found with modeling; these changes were significantly greater than the percentage of changes measured in the contralateral hemisphere (p < 0.05). Ten patients who tolerated the BOT well had calculated decreases in ipsilateral flows of only 9 ± 6% for the M1 segment, 12 ± 40% for the A3 segment, and 17 ± 21% for the P2 segment during BOT modeling.

Conclusions. A decrease in blood flow in both the ipsilateral M1 and A3 segments that was greater than 20%, calculated by flow modeling of the BOT, was 100% sensitive and 100% specific in identifying patients who could not tolerate the BOT. Blood flow modeling, coupled with DS angiography and noninvasive phase-contrast MR angiography measurements to make calculations patient specific, can be used to identify patients who have an elevated risk of ischemia during the BOT.

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Zoher Ghogawala, Edward C. Benzel, Sepideh Amin-Hanjani, Fred G. Barker II, J. Fred Harrington, Subu N. Magge, John Strugar, Jean-Valéry C.E. Coumans and Lawrence F. Borges

Object. There is considerable debate among spine surgeons regarding whether fusion should be used to augment decompressive surgery in patients with symptomatic lumbar spinal stenosis involving Grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis. The authors prospectively evaluated the outcomes of patients treated between 2000 and 2002 at two institutions to determine whether fusion improves functional outcome 1 year after surgery.

Methods. Patients ranged in age from 50 to 81 years. They presented with degenerative Grade I (3- to 14-mm) spondylolisthesis and lumbar stenosis without gross instability (< 3 mm of motion at the level of subluxation). Those in whom previous surgery had been performed at the level of subluxation were excluded. Each patient completed Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Short Form—36 (SF-36) questionnaires preoperatively and at 6 to 12 months postoperatively.

Some patients underwent decompression alone (20 cases), whereas others underwent decompression and posterolateral instrumentation-assisted fusion (14 cases), at the treating surgeon's discretion. Baseline demographic data, radiographic features, and ODI and SF-36 scores were similar in both groups. The 1-year fusion rate was 93%.

Both forms of surgery independently improved outcome compared with baseline status, based on ODI and SF-36 physical component summary (PCS) results (p < 0.001). Decompression combined with fusion led to an improvement in ODI scores of 27.5 points, whereas decompression alone was associated with a 13.6-point increase (p = 0.02). Analysis of the SF-36 PCS data also demonstrated a significant intergroup difference (p = 0.003).

Conclusions. Surgery substantially improved 1-year outcomes based on established outcomes instruments in patients with Grade I spondylolisthesis and stenosis. Fusion was associated with greater functional improvement.