Best of 2019

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Patrick C. Reid, Simon Morr, and Michael G. Kaiser

Lumbar fusion is an accepted and effective technique for the treatment of lumbar degenerative disease. The practice has evolved continually since Albee and Hibbs independently reported the first cases in 1913, and advancements in both technique and patient selection continue through the present day. Clinical and radiological indications for surgery have been tested in trials, and other diagnostic modalities have developed and been studied. Fusion practices have also advanced; instrumentation, surgical approaches, biologics, and more recently, operative planning, have undergone stark changes at a seemingly increasing pace over the last decade. As the general population ages, treatment of degenerative lumbar disease will become a more prevalent—and costlier—issue for surgeons as well as the healthcare system overall. This review will cover the evolution of indications and techniques for fusion in degenerative lumbar disease, with emphasis on the evidence for current practices.

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Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Christopher P. Ames, and Lawrence G. Lenke

Care of the patient with adult spinal deformity (ASD) has evolved from being primarily supportive to now having the ability to directly treat and correct the spinal pathology. The focus of this narrative literature review is to briefly summarize the history of ASD treatment, discuss the current state of the art of ASD care with focus on surgical treatment and current challenges, and conclude with a discussion of potential developments related to ASD surgery.

In the past, care for ASD was primarily based on supportive measures, including braces and assistive devices, with few options for surgical treatments that were often deemed high risk and reserved for rare situations. Advances in anesthetic and critical care, surgical techniques, and instrumentation now enable almost routine surgery for many patients with ASD. Despite the advances, there are many remaining challenges currently impacting the care of ASD patients, including increasing numbers of elderly patients with greater comorbidities, high complication and reoperation rates, and high procedure cost without clearly demonstrated cost-effectiveness based on standard criteria. In addition, there remains considerable variability across multiple aspects of ASD surgery. For example, there is currently very limited ability to provide preoperative individualized counseling regarding optimal treatment approaches (e.g., operative vs nonoperative), complication risks with surgery, durability of surgery, and likelihood of achieving individualized patient goals and satisfaction. Despite the challenges associated with the current state-of-the-art ASD treatment, surgery continues to be a primary option, as multiple reports have demonstrated the potential for surgery to significantly improve pain and disability. The future of ASD care will likely include techniques and technologies to markedly reduce complication rates, including greater use of navigation and robotics, and a shift toward individualized medicine that enables improved counseling, preoperative planning, procedure safety, and patient satisfaction.

Advances in the care of ASD patients have been remarkable over the past few decades. The current state of the art enables almost routine surgical treatment for many types of ASD that have the potential to significantly improve pain and disability. However, significant challenges remain, including high complication rates, lack of demonstrated cost-effectiveness, and limited ability to meaningfully counsel patients preoperatively on an individual basis. The future of ASD surgery will require continued improvement of predictability, safety, and sustainability.

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The evolution of minimally invasive spine surgery

JNSPG 75th Anniversary Invited Review Article

Jang W. Yoon and Michael Y. Wang

The field of minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) has rapidly evolved over the past 3 decades. This review follows the evolution of techniques and principles that have led to significant advances in the field. While still representing only a subset of spine surgeries, MISS’s goals of reducing soft-tissue trauma and mitigating the morbidity of surgery are being realized, translating into more rapid recovery, lower infection rates, and higher cost savings. Future advances in technology and techniques can be anticipated.