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Aaron J. Clark, John E. Ziewacz, Michael Safaee, Darryl Lau, Russ Lyon, Dean Chou, Philip R. Weinstein, Christopher P. Ames, John P. Clark III and Praveen V. Mummaneni


The use of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IONM) in surgical decompression surgery for myelopathy may assist the surgeon in taking corrective measures to reduce or prevent permanent neurological deficits. We evaluated the efficacy of IONM in cervical and cervicothoracic spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) cases.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 140 cases involving patients who underwent surgery for CSM utilizing IONM during 2011 at the University of California, San Francisco. Data on preoperative clinical variables, intraoperative changes in transcranial motor evoked potentials (MEPs), and postoperative new neurological deficits were collected. Associations between categorical variables were analyzed with the Fisher exact test.


Of the 140 patients, 16 (11%) had significant intraoperative decreases in MEPs. In 8 of these cases, the MEP signal did not return to baseline values by the end of the operation. There were 8 (6%) postoperative deficits, of which 6 were C-5 palsies and 2 were paraparesis. Six of the patients with postoperative deficits had demonstrated persistent MEP signal change on IONM. There was a significant association between persistent MEP changes and postoperative deficits (p < 0.001). The sensitivity of intraoperative MEP monitoring was 75%, the specificity 98%, the positive predictive value 75%, and the negative predictive value 98%. Due to higher rates of false negatives, the sensitivity decreased to 60% in the subgroup of patients with vascular disease comorbidity. The sensitivity increased to 100% in elderly patients and in patients with preoperative motor deficits. The sensitivity and positive predictive value of deltoid and biceps MEP changes in predicting C-5 palsy were 67% and 67%, respectively.


The authors found a correlation between decreased intraoperative MEPs and postoperative new neurological deficits in patients with CSM. Sensitivity varies based on patient comorbidities, age, and preoperative neurological function. Monitoring of MEPs is a useful adjunct for CSM cases, and the authors have developed a checklist to standardize their responses to intraoperative MEP changes.

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Dean Chou, Frank Acosta Jr., Jordan M. Cloyd and Christopher P. Ames

En bloc resection of chordoma has been shown to be critical for prolonging long-term survival and disease-free intervals in patients. Cervical spine chordomas pose special challenges because of the vertebral arteries and critical nerve roots involved. Multilevel chordomas pose even greater challenges because of the need to remove multiple segments of the spine in 1 piece without tumor violation. Although there have been 2 case reports describing multilevel spondylectomy for cervical chordoma, to the authors' knowledge, there are no reports of parasagittal osteotomies for en bloc resection of multilevel cervical chordomas. The use of these osteotomies allows us to avoid intralesional resection and adhere to the oncological principle of en bloc tumor excision. The authors report their management of 3 multilevel cervical chordomas and describe their technique of en bloc tumor removal using parasagittal osteotomy.

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Dean Chou, Daniel C. Lu, Philip Weinstein and Christopher P. Ames

✓Expandable cages are frequently used to reconstruct the anterior spinal column after a corpectomy. The forces that are used to expand these cages can be large, depending upon the mechanism of expansion. To the authors' knowledge, there have been no reports of adjacent-level vertebral body fracture after placement of expandable cages. The authors report 4 cases of adjacent-level vertebral body fractures after placement of expandable cages. This study found that the fracture pattern in the coronal plane was similar in all cases.

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Frank L. Acosta Jr., Cynthia T. Chin, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Christopher P. Ames, Philip R. Weinstein and Dean Chou

Establishing the diagnosis of cervical osteomyelitis in a timely fashion is critical to prevent catastrophic neurological injury. In the modern imaging era, magnetic resonance imaging in particular has facilitated the diagnosis of cervical osteomyelitis, even before the onset of neurological signs or symptoms. Nevertheless, despite advancements in diagnosis, disagreement remains regarding appropriate surgical treatment. The role of instrumentation and type of graft material after cervical decompression remain controversial. The authors describe the epidemiological features, pathogenesis, and diagnostic evaluation, and the surgical and nonsurgical interventions that can be used to treat osteomyelitis of the cervical spine. They also review the current debate about the role of instrumentation in preventing spinal deformity after surgical decompression for cervical osteomyelitis. Based on this review, the authors conclude that nonsurgical therapy is appropriate if neurological signs or symptoms, instability, deformity, or spinal cord compression are absent. Surgical decompression, debridement, stabilization, and deformity correction are the goals once the decision to perform surgery has been made. The roles of autogenous graft, instrumentation, and allograft have not been clearly delineated with Class I data, but the authors believe that spinal stability and decompression override creating an environment that can be completely sterilized by antibiotic drugs.