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Tofey J. Leon, Elizabeth N. Kuhn, Anastasia A. Arynchyna, Burkely P. Smith, R. Shane Tubbs, James M. Johnston, Jeffrey P. Blount, Curtis J. Rozzelle, W. Jerry Oakes and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

There are sparse published data on the natural history of “benign” Chiari I malformation (CM-I)—i.e., Chiari with minimal or no symptoms at presentation and no imaging evidence of syrinx, hydrocephalus, or spinal cord signal abnormality. The purpose of this study was to review a large cohort of children with benign CM-I and to determine whether these children become symptomatic and require surgical treatment.

METHODS

Patients were identified from institutional outpatient records using International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, diagnosis codes for CM-I from 1996 to 2016. After review of the medical records, patients were excluded if they 1) did not have a diagnosis of CM-I, 2) were not evaluated by a neurosurgeon, 3) had previously undergone posterior fossa decompression, or 4) had imaging evidence of syringomyelia at their first appointment. To include only patients with benign Chiari (without syrinx or classic Chiari symptoms that could prompt immediate intervention), any patient who underwent decompression within 9 months of initial evaluation was excluded. After a detailed chart review, patients were excluded if they had classical Chiari malformation symptoms at presentation. The authors then determined what changes in the clinical picture prompted surgical treatment. Patients were excluded from the multivariate logistic regression analysis if they had missing data such as race and insurance; however, these patients were included in the overall survival analysis.

RESULTS

A total of 427 patients were included for analysis with a median follow-up duration of 25.5 months (range 0.17–179.1 months) after initial evaluation. Fifteen patients had surgery at a median time of 21.0 months (range 11.3–139.3 months) after initial evaluation. The most common indications for surgery were tussive headache in 5 (33.3%), syringomyelia in 5 (33.3%), and nontussive headache in 5 (33.3%). Using the Kaplan-Meier method, rate of freedom from posterior fossa decompression was 95.8%, 94.1%, and 93.1% at 3, 5, and 10 years, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Among a large cohort of patients with benign CM-I, progression of imaging abnormalities or symptoms that warrant surgical treatment is infrequent. Therefore, these patients should be managed conservatively. However, clinical follow-up of such individuals is justified, as there is a low, but nonzero, rate of new symptom or syringomyelia development. Future analyses will determine whether imaging or clinical features present at initial evaluation are associated with progression and future need for treatment.

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Robert P. Naftel, R. Shane Tubbs, Joshua Y. Menendez, John C. Wellons III, Ian F. Pollack and W. Jerry Oakes

Object

The effects of posterior fossa decompression on Chiari malformation Type I–induced syringomyelia have been well described. However, treatment of worsening syringomyelia after Chiari decompression remains enigmatic. This paper defines patient and clinical characteristics as well as treatment and postoperative radiological and clinical outcomes in patients experiencing this complication.

Methods

The authors performed a retrospective review of patients at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh and Children's of Alabama who developed worsening syringomyelia after Chiari decompression was performed.

Results

Fourteen children (age range 8 months to 15 years), 7 of whom had preoperative syringomyelia, underwent posterior fossa decompression. Aseptic meningitis (n = 3) and bacterial meningitis (n = 2) complicated 5 cases (4 of these patients were originally treated at outside hospitals). Worsening syringomyelia presented a median of 1.4 years (range 0.2–10.3 years) after the primary decompression. Ten children presented with new, recurrent, or persistent symptoms, and 4 were asymptomatic. Secondary Chiari decompression was performed in 11 of the 14 children. The other 3 children were advised to undergo secondary decompression. A structural cause for each failed primary Chiari decompression (for example, extensive scarring, suture in the obex, arachnoid web, residual posterior arch of C-1, and no duraplasty) was identified at the secondary operation. After secondary decompression, 8 patients' symptoms completely resolved, 1 patient's condition stabilized, and 2 patients remained asymptomatic. Radiologically, 10 of the 11 children had a decrease in the size of their syringes, and 1 child experienced no change (but improved clinically). The median follow-up from initial Chiari decompression was 3.1 years (range 0.8–14.1 years) and from secondary decompression, 1.3 years (range 0.3–4.5 years). No patient underwent syringopleural shunting or other nonposterior fossa treatment for syringomyelia.

Conclusions

Based on the authors' experience, children with worsening syringomyelia after decompression for Chiari malformation Type I generally have a surgically remediable structural etiology, and secondary exploration and decompression should be considered.

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R. Shane Tubbs, Mitchel Muhleman, Samuel G. McClugage, Marios Loukas, Joseph H. Miller, Joshua J. Chern, Curtis J. Rozzelle, W. Jerry Oakes and Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol

Cysts of the choroidal fissure are often incidentally identified. Symptoms from such cysts appear to be exceedingly rare. Herein, the authors report a case series of symptomatic enlargement of choroidal fissure cysts that were surgically treated. Although cysts of the choroidal fissure do not normally become symptomatic, the neurosurgeon should be aware of such a complication. Based on the authors' experience, surgical fenestration of such cysts has good long-term results.

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Joshua J. Chern, Mitchel Muhleman, R. Shane Tubbs, Joseph H. Miller, James M. Johnston, John C. Wellons III, Jeffrey P. Blount, W. Jerry Oakes and Curtis J. Rozzelle

Object

Most children with spina bifida aperta have implanted CSF shunts. However, the efficacy of adding surveillance imaging to clinical evaluation during routine follow-up as a means to minimize the hazard of shunt failure has not been thoroughly studied.

Methods

A total of 396 clinic visits were made by patients with spina bifida aperta and shunt-treated hydrocephalus in a spina bifida specialty clinic during the calendar years 2008 and 2009 (initial clinic visit). All visits were preceded by a 6-month period during which no shunt evaluation of any kind was performed and were followed by a subsequent visit in the same clinic. At the initial clinic visit, 230 patients were evaluated by a neurosurgeon (clinical evaluation group), and 166 patients underwent previously scheduled surveillance CT scans in addition to clinical evaluation (surveillance imaging group). Subsequent unexpected events, defined as emergency department (ED) visits and caregiver-requested clinic visits, were reviewed. The time to an unexpected event and the likelihood of event occurrence in each of the 2 groups were compared using Cox proportional hazards survival analysis. The outcome and complications of shunt surgeries were also reviewed.

Results

The clinical characteristics of the 2 groups were similar. In the clinical evaluation group, 2 patients underwent shunt revision based on clinical findings in the initial visit. In the subsequent follow-up period, there were 27 visits to the ED and 25 requested clinic visits that resulted in 12 shunt revisions. In the surveillance imaging group, 11 patients underwent shunt revision based on clinical and imaging findings in the initial visit. In the subsequent follow-up period, there were 15 visits to the ED and 9 requested clinic visits that resulted in 8 shunt revisions. Patients who underwent surveillance imaging on the day of initial clinic visit were less likely to have an unexpected event in the subsequent follow-up period (relative risk 0.579, p = 0.026). The likelihood of needing shunt revision and the morbidity of shunt malfunction was not significantly different between the 2 groups.

Conclusions

Surveillance imaging in children with spina bifida aperta and shunted hydrocephalus decreases the likelihood of ED visits and caregiver-requested clinic visits in the follow-up period, but based on this study, its effect on mortality and morbidity related to shunt malfunction was less clear.

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Christina A. Markunas, R. Shane Tubbs, Roham Moftakhar, Allison E. Ashley-Koch, Simon G. Gregory, W. Jerry Oakes, Marcy C. Speer and Bermans J. Iskandar

Object

Although Chiari Type I (CM-I) and Type 0 (CM-0) malformations have been previously characterized clinically and radiologically, there have been no studies focusing on the possible genetic link between these disorders. The goal of this study was to identify families in whom CM-0 and CM-I co-occurred and to further assess the similarities between these disorders.

Methods

Families were ascertained through a proband with CM-I. Detailed family histories were obtained to identify first-degree relatives diagnosed with CM-0. Several criteria were used to exclude individuals with acquired forms of CM-I and/or syringomyelia. Individuals were excluded with syndromic, traumatic, infectious, or tumor-related syringomyelia, as well as CM-I due to a supratentorial mass, hydrocephalus, history of cervical or cranial surgery unrelated to CM-I, or development of symptoms following placement of a lumbar shunt. Medical records and MR images were used to characterize CM-I and CM-0 individuals clinically and radiologically.

Results

Five families were identified in which the CM-I proband had a first-degree relative with CM-0. Further assessment of affected individuals showed similar clinical and radiological features between CM-0 and CM-I individuals, although CM-I patients in general had more severe symptoms and skull base abnormalities than their CM-0 relatives. Overall, both groups showed improvement in symptoms and/or syrinx size following craniocervical decompression surgery.

Conclusions

There is accumulating evidence suggesting that CM-0 and CM-I may be caused by a common underlying developmental mechanism. The data in this study are consistent with this hypothesis, showing similar clinical and radiological features between CM-0 and CM-I individuals, as well as the occurrence of both disorders within families. Familial clustering of CM-0 and CM-I suggests that these disorders may share an underlying genetic basis, although additional epigenetic and/or environmental factors are likely to play an important role in the development of CM-0 versus CM-I.

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Joshua J. Chern, Jennifer L. Kirkman, Chevis N. Shannon, R. Shane Tubbs, Jeffrey D. Stone, Stuart A. Royal, W. Jerry Oakes, Curtis J. Rozzelle and John C. Wellons

Object

Various cutaneous stigmata and congenital anomalies are accepted as sufficient reasons to perform lumbar ultrasonography as a screening tool to rule out occult spinal dysraphism (OSD). The purpose of this study was to correlate presenting cutaneous findings with lumbar ultrasonography results based on a large number of lumbar ultrasonography tests obtained by regional primary care providers.

Methods

Over the course of 5 years, 1273 infants underwent lumbar ultrasonography screening at a major pediatric tertiary referral center. Of these infants, 1116 had adequate documentation for retrospective chart review. Referral sources included urban academic, urban private practice, and surrounding rural private practitioners. Presence of cutaneous stigmata and/or congenital anomalies and lumbar ultrasonography results were reviewed for all patients. When present, surgical findings were reviewed.

Results

A total of 943 infants were referred for presumed cutaneous stigmata, the most common of which was a sacral dimple (638 patients [68%]) followed by hairy patch (96 patients [10%]). Other reported cutaneous findings included hemangioma, deviated gluteal fold, skin tag, and skin discoloration. In comparison, 173 patients presented with congenital anomalies, such as imperforate anus (56 patients [32%]) and tracheoesophageal fistula/esophageal atresia (37 patients [21%]), most of which were detected prenatally by fetal ultrasonography. A total of 17 infants underwent surgical exploration. Occult spinal dysraphism was diagnosed in 7 infants in the cutaneous stigmata group and in 10 infants in the group with congenital abnormalities. None of the cutaneous stigmata as recorded were found to be indicative of the presence of OSD.

Conclusions

Cutaneous markers as currently defined by general practitioners are not useful markers for predicting OSD. The vast majority of findings on lumbar ultrasonography studies performed under these circumstances will be negative.

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Joshua J. Chern, Joseph H. Miller, R. Shane Tubbs, Thomas R. Whisenhunt, James M. Johnston, John C. Wellons III, Curtis J. Rozzelle, Jeffrey P. Blount and W. Jerry Oakes

Object

A large volume of patients presented to a Level I pediatric trauma center during and after a recent tornado disaster. Injuries of the central and peripheral nervous systems and the medical responses of a pediatric neurosurgical team are reviewed.

Methods

The clinical courses of patients who suffered cranial, spinal, and peripheral nerve injuries due to the tornado storm are reported. The clinical actions taken by the neurosurgical team during and after the event are reviewed and the lessons learned are discussed.

Results

The tornado storm system moved through the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham metropolitan areas on the early evening hours of April 27, 2011. Twenty-four patients received care from the neurosurgical team. A total of 11 cranial (including placement of an external ventricular drain), 2 spine, and 2 peripheral procedures were performed for the victims. Nine procedures were performed within the first 12 hours of the event, and an additional 6 surgeries were performed in the following 24 hours. Injuries of the peripheral nervous system often presented in a delayed fashion. Several key components were identified that enabled adequate neurosurgical care for a large influx of acute patients.

Conclusions

Massive casualties due to tornados are rare. A well-organized physician team working with the hospital administration may decrease the mortality and morbidity of such events.

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Marios Loukas, Brian J. Shayota, Kim Oelhafen, Joseph H. Miller, Joshua J. Chern, R. Shane Tubbs and W. Jerry Oakes

A single pathophysiological mechanism of Chiari Type I malformations (CM-I) has been a topic of debate. To help better understand CM-I, the authors review disorders known to be associated with CM-I. The primary methodology found among most of them is deformation of the posterior cranial fossa, usually with subsequent decrease in volume. Other mechanisms exist as well, which can be categorized as either congenital or acquired. In understanding the relationship of such disorders with CM-I, we may gain further insight into the process by which cerebellar tonsillar herniation occurs. Some of these pathologies appear to be true associations, but many appear to be spurious.

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Joshua J. Chern, Amber S. Gordon, Robert P. Naftel, R. Shane Tubbs, W. Jerry Oakes and John C. Wellons III

Intracranial endoscopy in the treatment of hydrocephalus, arachnoid cysts, or brain tumors has gained wide acceptance, but the use of endoscopy for intradural navigation in the pediatric spine has received much less attention. The aim of the authors' present study was to analyze their experience in using spinal endoscopy to treat various pathologies of the spinal canal.

The authors performed a retrospective review of intradural spinal endoscopic cases at their institution. They describe 4 representative cases, including an arachnoid cyst, intrinsic spinal cord tumor, holocord syrinx, and split cord malformation.

Intradural spinal endoscopy was useful in treating the aforementioned lesions. It resulted in a more limited laminectomy and myelotomy, and it assisted in identifying a residual spinal cord tumor. It was also useful in the fenestration of a multilevel arachnoid cyst and in confirming communication of fluid spaces in the setting of a complex holocord syrinx. Endoscopy aided in the visualization of the spinal cord to ensure the absence of tethering in the case of a long-length Type II split spinal cord malformation.

Conclusions

Based on their experience, the authors found intradural endoscopy to be a useful surgical adjunct and one that helped to decrease morbidity through reduced laminectomy and myelotomy. With advances in technology, the authors believe that intradural endoscopy will begin to be used by more neurosurgeons for treating diseases of this anatomical region.

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Joshua J. Chern, Amber J. Gordon, Martin M. Mortazavi, R. Shane Tubbs and W. Jerry Oakes

Object

In 1998 the authors identified 5 patients with syringomyelia and no evidence of Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I). Magnetic resonance imaging of the entire neuraxis ruled out other causes of a syrinx. Ultimately, abnormal CSF flow at the foramen magnum was the suspected cause. The label “Chiari 0” was used to categorize these unique cases with no tonsillar ectopia. All of the patients underwent posterior fossa decompression and duraplasty identical to the technique used to treat patients with CM-I. Significant syrinx and symptom resolution occurred in these patients. Herein, the authors report on a follow-up study of patients with CM-0 who were derived from over 400 operative cases of pediatric CM-I decompression.

Methods

The authors present their 12-year experience with this group of patients.

Results

Fifteen patients (3.7%) were identified. At surgery, many were found to have physical barriers to CSF flow near the foramen magnum. In most of them, the syringomyelia was greatly diminished postoperatively.

Conclusions

The authors stress that this subgroup represents a very small cohort among patients with Chiari malformations. They emphasize that careful patient selection is critical when diagnosing CM-0. Without an obvious CM-I, other etiologies of a spinal syrinx must be conclusively ruled out. Only then can one reasonably expect to ameliorate the clinical course of these patients via posterior fossa decompression.