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Scott L. Parker, Anubhav G. Amin, S. Harrison Farber, Matthew J. McGirt, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Timothy F. Witham

Object

Pedicle screws provide efficient stabilization along all 3 columns of the spine, but they can be technically demanding to place, with malposition rates ranging from 5% to 10%. Intraoperative electromyographic (EMG) monitoring has the capacity to objectively identify a screw breaching the medial pedicle cortex that is in proximity to a nerve root. The purpose of this study is to describe and evaluate the authors' 7-year institutional experience with intraoperative EMG monitoring during placement of lumbar pedicle screws and to determine the clinical utility of intraoperative EMG monitoring.

Methods

The authors retrospectively studied 2450 consecutive lumbar pedicle screws placed in 418 patients from June 2002 through June 2009. All screws were inserted using a free-hand technique and anatomical landmarks, stimulated at 10.0 mA, and evaluated with CT scanning within 48 hours postoperatively. Medial pedicle screw breach was defined as having greater than 25% of the screw diameter extend outside of the pedicle, as confirmed on CT scanning or intraoperatively by a positive EMG response indicating a medial breach. The sensitivity and specificity of intraoperative EMG monitoring in detecting the presence of a medial screw breach was evaluated based on the following definitions: 1) true positive (a positive response to EMG stimulation confirmed as a breach intraoperatively or on postoperative CT scans); 2) false positive (positive response to EMG stimulation confirmed as a correctly positioned screw on postoperative CT scans); 3) true negative (no response to EMG stimulation confirmed as a correctly positioned screw on postoperative CT scans); or 4) false negative (no response to EMG stimulation but confirmed as a breach on postoperative CT scans).

Results

One hundred fifteen pedicle screws (4.7%) showed positive stimulation during intraoperative EMG monitoring. At stimulation thresholds less than 5.0, 5.0–8.0, and > 8.0 mA, the specificity of a positive response was 99.9%, 97.9%, and 95.9%, respectively. The sensitivity of a positive response at these thresholds was only 43.4%, 69.6%, and 69.6%, respectively. At a threshold less than 5.0 mA, 91% of screws with a positive EMG response were confirmed as true medial breaches. However, at thresholds of 5.0–8.0 mA or greater than 8.0 mA, a positive EMG response was associated with 89% and 100% false positives (no breaches), respectively.

Conclusions

When using intraoperative EMG monitoring, a positive response at screw stimulation thresholds less than 5.0 mA was highly specific for a medial pedicle screw breach but was poorly sensitive. A positive response to stimulation thresholds greater 5.0 mA was associated with a very high rate of false positives. The authors' experience suggests that pedicle screws showing positive stimulation below 5.0 mA warrants intraoperative investigation for malpositioning while responses at higher thresholds are less reliable at accurately representing a medial breach.

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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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Oral Presentations

2010 AANS Annual Meeting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 1–5, 2010

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Daniel M. Sciubba, Rory J. Petteys, Sophia F. Shakur, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Edward F. McCarthy, Michael T. Collins, Matthew J. McGirt, Patrick C. Hsieh, Clarke S. Nelson and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

En bloc spondylectomy represents a radical resection of a spinal segment most often reserved for patients presenting with a primary extradural spine tumor or a solitary metastasis in the setting of an indolent, well-controlled systemic malignancy. The authors report a case in which en bloc spondylectomy was conducted to control a metabolically active spine tumor. A 56-year-old woman, who suffered from severe tumor-induced osteomalacia, was found to have a fibroblast growth factor-23–secreting phosphaturic mesenchymal tumor in the T-8 vertebral body. En bloc resection was conducted, leading to resolution of her tumor-induced osteomalacia. This case suggests that radical spondylectomy may be beneficial in the management of metabolically or endocrinologically active tumors of the spine.

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Risheng Xu, Giannina L. Garcés-Ambrossi, Matthew J. McGirt, Timothy F. Witham, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Daniel M. Sciubba

Object

Adequate decompression of the thoracic spinal cord often requires a complete vertebrectomy. Such procedures can be performed from an anterior/transthoracic, posterior, or combined approach. In this study, the authors sought to compare the clinical outcomes of patients with spinal metastatic tumors undergoing anterior, posterior, and combined thoracic vertebrectomies to determine the efficacy and operative morbidity of such approaches.

Methods

A retrospective review was conducted of all patients undergoing thoracic vertebrectomies at a single institution over the past 7 years. Characteristics of patients and operative procedures were documented. Neurological status, perioperative variables, and complications were assessed and associations with each approach were analyzed.

Results

Ninety-one patients (mean age 55.5 ± 13.7 years) underwent vertebrectomies via an anterior (22 patients, 24.2%), posterior (45 patients, 49.4%), or combined anterior-posterior approach (24 patients, 26.4%) for metastatic spinal tumors. The patients did not differ significantly preoperatively in terms of neurological assessments on the Nurick and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment scales, ambulatory ability, or other comorbidities. Anterior approaches were associated with less blood loss than posterior approaches (1172 ± 1984 vs 2486 ± 1645 ml, respectively; p = 0.03) or combined approaches (1172 ± 1984 vs 2826 ± 2703 ml, respectively; p = 0.05) but were associated with a similar length of stay compared with the other treatment cohorts (11.5 ± 9.3 [anterior] vs 11.3 ± 8.6 [posterior] vs 14.3 ± 6.7 [combined] days; p = 0.35). The posterior approach was associated with a higher incidence of wound infection compared with the anterior approach cohort (26.7 vs 4.5%, respectively; p = 0.03), and patients in the posterior approach group experienced the highest rates of deep vein thrombosis (15.6% [posterior] vs 0% [other 2 groups]; p = 0.02). However, the posterior approach demonstrated the lowest incidence of pneumothorax (4.4%; p < 0.0001) compared with the other 2 cohorts. Duration of chest tube use was greater in the combined patient group compared with the anterior approach cohort (8.8 ± 6.2 vs 4.7 ± 2.3 days, respectively; p = 0.01), and the combined group also experienced the highest rates of radiographic pleural effusion (83.3%; p = 0.01). Postoperatively, all groups improved neurologically, although functional outcome in patients undergoing the combined approach improved the most compared with the other 2 groups on both the Nurick (p = 0.04) and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment scales (p = 0.03).

Conclusions

Decisions regarding the approach to thoracic vertebrectomy may be complex. This study found that although anterior approaches to the thoracic vertebrae have been historically associated with significant pulmonary complications, in our experience these rates are nevertheless quite comparable to that encountered via a posterior or combined approach. In fact, the posterior approach was found to be associated with a higher risk for some perioperative complications such as wound infection and deep vein thromboses. Finally, the combined anteriorposterior approach may provide greater ambulatory and neurological improvements in properly selected patients.

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Daniel M. Sciubba, Joseph C. Noggle, Ananth K. Vellimana, Hassan Alosh, Matthew J. McGirt, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

Object

Stabilization of the cervical spine can be challenging when instrumentation involves the axis. Fixation with C1–2 transarticular screws combined with posterior wiring and bone graft placement has yielded excellent fusion rates, but the technique is technically demanding and places the vertebral arteries (VAs) at risk. Placement of screws in the pars interarticularis of C-2 as described by Harms and Melcher has allowed rigid fixation with greater ease and theoretically decreases the risk to the VA. However, fluoroscopy is suggested to avoid penetration laterally, medially, and superiorly to avoid damage to the VA, spinal cord, and C1–2 joint, respectively. The authors describe how, after meticulous dissection of the C-2 pars interarticularis, such screws can be placed accurately and safely without the use of fluoroscopy.

Methods

Prospective follow-up was performed in 55 consecutive patients who underwent instrumented fusion of C-2 by a single surgeon. The causes of spinal instability and type and extent of instrumentation were documented. All patients underwent preoperative CT or MR imaging scans to determine the suitability of C-2 screw placement. Intraoperatively, screws were placed following dissection of the posterior pars interarticularis. Postoperative CT scans were performed to determine the extent of cortical breach. Patients underwent clinical follow-up, and complications were recorded as vascular or neurological. A CT-based grading system was created to characterize such breaches objectively by location and magnitude via percentage of screw diameter beyond the cortical edge (0 = none; I = < 25% of screw diameter; II = 26–50%; III = 51–75%; IV = 76–100%).

Results

One-hundred consecutive screws were placed in the pedicle of the axis by a single surgeon using external landmarks only. In 10 cases, only 1 screw was placed because of a preexisting VA anatomy or bone abnormality noted preoperatively. In no case was screw placement aborted because of complications noted during drilling. Early complications occurred in 2 patients and were limited to 1 wound infection and 1 transient C-2 radiculopathy. There were 15 total breaches (15%), 2 of which occurred in the same patient. Twelve breaches were lateral (80%), and 3 were superior (20%). There were no medial breaches. The magnitude of the breach was classified as I in 10 cases (66.7% of breaches), II in 3 cases (20% of breaches), III in 1 case (6.7%), and IV in 1 case (6.7%).

Conclusions

Free-hand placement of screws in the C-2 pedicle can be done safely and effectively without the use of intraoperative fluoroscopy or navigation when the pars interarticularis/pedicle is assessed preoperatively with CT or MR imaging and found to be suitable for screw placement. When breaches do occur, they are overwhelmingly lateral in location, breach < 50% of the screw diameter, and in the authors' experience, are not clinically significant.

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Daniel M. Sciubba, Rory J. Petteys, Giannina L. Garces-Ambrossi, Joseph C. Noggle, Matthew J. McGirt, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Sacral tumors pose significant challenges to the managing physician from diagnostic and therapeutic perspectives. Although these tumors are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, patients may benefit from good clinical outcomes if an aggressive multidisciplinary approach is used. In this review, the epidemiology, clinical presentation, imaging characteristics, treatment options, and published outcomes are discussed. Special attention is given to the specific anatomical constraints that make tumors in this region of the spine more difficult to effectively manage than those in the mobile portions of the spine.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Frank J. Attenello, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

✓ Pediatric basilar invagination and cranial settling have traditionally been approached through a transoral–transpharyngeal route with or without extended maxillotomy or mandibulotomy for resection of the anterior portion of C-1 and the odontoid. The authors hypothesize that application of a recently described endoscopic transcervical odontoidectomy (ETO) technique would allow an alternative approach for the treatment of ventral pathological entities at the craniocervical junction in pediatric patients.

The authors performed ETO in a consecutive series of pediatric patients presenting with myelopathy or bulbar dysfunction resulting from basilar invagination or cranial settling. All clinical, radiographic, surgical, and follow-up data were prospectively collected. The initial experience with ETO in the pediatric population is analyzed and outcomes are reported. Three patients required ETO for basilar invagination and 1 required ETO with anterior C-1 arch and distal clivus resection for cranial settling. All patients presented with myelopathy. One patient was wheelchair bound with severe quadriparesis. The mean age was 14 ± 3 years (mean ± standard deviation [SD]) in the 2 male and 2 female patients. The ETO and posterior fusion were performed as a 2-stage procedure in 2 (50%) and as a single-stage procedure in 2 (50%) cases. Prolonged intubation or postoperative placement of a gastrostomy tube was not needed in any case. The postoperative hospitalization lasted 9 ± 4 days (mean ± SD). At last follow-up (mean 5 months), head and neck pain had resolved and motor strength had improved or stabilized in all cases. All 4 children were independently functioning and ambulatory at the last follow-up.

In the authors' initial experience, ETO has allowed ventral brainstem decompression without the need for prolonged intubation, worsening dysphagia requiring enteral tube feeding, or prolonged hospitalization, and has resulted in cosmetically appealing results. The ETO technique allows an alternative approach for the treatment of ventral pathological entities at the craniocervical junction in pediatric patients.