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Accuracy of robot-guided versus freehand fluoroscopy-assisted pedicle screw insertion in thoracolumbar spinal surgery

Granit Molliqaj, Bawarjan Schatlo, Awad Alaid, Volodymyr Solomiichuk, Veit Rohde, Karl Schaller, and Enrico Tessitore

OBJECTIVE

The quest to improve the safety and accuracy and decrease the invasiveness of pedicle screw placement in spine surgery has led to a markedly increased interest in robotic technology. The SpineAssist from Mazor is one of the most widely distributed robotic systems. The aim of this study was to compare the accuracy of robot-guided and conventional freehand fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw placement in thoracolumbar surgery.

METHODS

This study is a retrospective series of 169 patients (83 women [49%]) who underwent placement of pedicle screw instrumentation from 2007 to 2015 in 2 reference centers. Pathological entities included degenerative disorders, tumors, and traumatic cases. In the robot-assisted cohort (98 patients, 439 screws), pedicle screws were inserted with robotic assistance. In the freehand fluoroscopy-guided cohort (71 patients, 441 screws), screws were inserted using anatomical landmarks and lateral fluoroscopic guidance. Patients treated before 2009 were included in the fluoroscopy cohort, whereas those treated since mid-2009 (when the robot was acquired) were included in the robot cohort. Since then, the decision to operate using robotic assistance or conventional freehand technique has been based on surgeon preference and logistics. The accuracy of screw placement was assessed based on the Gertzbein-Robbins scale by a neuroradiologist blinded to treatment group. The radiological slice with the largest visible deviation from the pedicle was chosen for grading. A pedicle breach of 2 mm or less was deemed acceptable (Grades A and B) while deviations greater than 2 mm (Grades C, D, and E) were classified as misplacements.

RESULTS

In the robot-assisted cohort, a perfect trajectory (Grade A) was observed for 366 screws (83.4%). The remaining screws were Grades B (n = 44 [10%]), C (n = 15 [3.4%]), D (n = 8 [1.8%]), and E (n = 6 [1.4%]). In the fluoroscopy-guided group, a completely intrapedicular course graded as A was found in 76% (n = 335). The remaining screws were Grades B (n = 57 [12.9%]), C (n = 29 [6.6%]), D (n = 12 [2.7%]), and E (n = 8 [1.8%]). The proportion of non-misplaced screws (corresponding to Gertzbein-Robbins Grades A and B) was higher in the robot-assisted group (93.4%) than the freehand fluoroscopy group (88.9%) (p = 0.005).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors’ retrospective case review found that robot-guided pedicle screw placement is a safe, useful, and potentially more accurate alternative to the conventional freehand technique for the placement of thoracolumbar spinal instrumentation.

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Endoscope-assisted fluorescence-guided resection allowing supratotal removal in glioblastoma surgery

Christoph Bettag, Katharina Schregel, Philip Langer, Carolina Thomas, Daniel Behme, Christine Stadelmann, Veit Rohde, and Dorothee Mielke

OBJECTIVE

Several studies have proven the benefits of a wide extent of resection (EOR) of contrast-enhancing tumor in terms of progression-free survival (PFS) and overall survival (OS) in patients with glioblastoma (GBM). Thus, gross-total resection (GTR) is the main surgical goal in noneloquently located GBMs. Complete tumor removal can be almost doubled by microscopic fluorescence guidance. Recently, a study has shown that an endoscope with a light source capable of inducing fluorescence allows visualization of remnant fluorescent tumor tissue even after complete microscopic fluorescence-guided (FG) resection, thereby increasing the rate of GTR. Since tumor infiltration spreads beyond the borders of contrast enhancement on MRI, the aim of this study was to determine via volumetric analyses of the EOR whether endoscope-assisted FG resection enables supratotal resection beyond the borders of contrast enhancement.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective single-center analysis of a consecutive series of patients with primary GBM presumed to be noneloquently located and routinely operated on at their institution between January 2015 and February 2018 using a combined microscopic and endoscopic FG resection. A 20-mg/kg dose of 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) was administered 4 hours before surgery. After complete microscopic FG resection, the resection cavity was scanned using the endoscope. Detected residual fluorescent tissue was resected and embedded separately for histopathological examination. Nonenhanced and contrast-enhanced 3D T1-weighted MR images acquired before and within 48 hours after tumor resection were analyzed using 3D Slicer. Bias field–corrected data were used to segment brain parenchyma, contrast-enhancing tumor, and the resection cavity for volume definition. The difference between the pre- and postoperative brain parenchyma volume was considered to be equivalent to the resected nonenhancing but fluorescent tumor tissue. The volume of resected tumor tissue was calculated from the sum of resected contrast-enhancing tumor tissue and resected nonenhancing tumor tissue.

RESULTS

Twelve patients with GBM were operated on using endoscopic after complete microscopic FG resection. In all cases, residual fluorescent tissue not visualized with the microscope was detected. Histopathological examination confirmed residual tumor tissue in all specimens. The mean preoperative volume of brain parenchyma without contrast-enhancing tumor was 1213.2 cm3. The mean postoperative volume of brain parenchyma without the resection cavity was 1151.2 cm3, accounting for a mean volume of nonenhancing but fluorescent tumor tissue of 62.0 cm3. The mean relative rate of the overall resected volume compared to the contrast-enhancing tumor volume was 244.7% (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Combined microscopic and endoscopic FG resection of GBM significantly increases the EOR and allows the surgeon to achieve a supratotal resection beyond the borders of contrast enhancement in noneloquently located GBM.

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Do we underdiagnose osteoporosis in patients with pyogenic spondylodiscitis?

Christoph Bettag, Tammam Abboud, Christian von der Brelie, Patrick Melich, Veit Rohde, and Bawarjan Schatlo

OBJECTIVE

Pyogenic spondylodiscitis affects a fragile patient population. Surgical treatment in cases of instability entails instrumentation, and loosening of this instrumentation is a frequent occurrence in pyogenic spondylodiscitis. The authors therefore attempted to investigate whether low bone mineral density (BMD)—which is compatible with the diagnosis of osteoporosis—is underdiagnosed in patients with pyogenic spondylodiscitis. How osteoporosis was treated and how it affected implant stability were further analyzed.

METHODS

Charts of patients who underwent operations for pyogenic spondylodiscitis were retrospectively reviewed for clinical data, prior medical history of osteoporosis, and preoperative CT scans of the thoracolumbar spine. In accordance with a previously validated high-fidelity opportunistic CT assessment, average Hounsfield units (HUs) in vertebral bodies of L1 and L4 were measured. Based on the validation study, the authors opted for a conservative cutoff value for low BMD, being compatible with osteoporosis ≤ 110 HUs. Baseline and outcome variables, including implant failure and osteoporosis interventions, were entered into a multivariate logistic model for statistical analysis.

RESULTS

Of 200 consecutive patients who underwent fusion surgery for pyogenic spondylodiscitis, 64% (n = 127) were male and 66% (n = 132) were older than 65 years. Seven percent (n = 14) had previously been diagnosed with osteoporosis. The attenuation analysis revealed HU values compatible with osteoporosis in 48% (95/200). The need for subsequent revision surgery due to implant failure showed a trend toward an association with estimated low BMD (OR 2.11, 95% CI 0.95–4.68, p = 0.067). Estimated low BMD was associated with subsequent implant loosening (p < 0.001). Only 5% of the patients with estimated low BMD received a diagnosis and pharmacological treatment of osteoporosis within 1 year after spinal instrumentation.

CONCLUSIONS

Relying on past medical history of osteoporosis is insufficient in the management of patients with pyogenic spondylodiscitis. This is the first study to identify a substantially missed opportunity to detect osteoporosis and to start pharmacological treatment after surgery for prevention of implant failure. The authors advocate for routine opportunistic CT evaluation for a better estimation of bone quality to initiate diagnosis and treatment for osteoporosis in these patients.

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Robotic versus fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw insertion for metastatic spinal disease: a matched-cohort comparison

Volodymyr Solomiichuk, Julius Fleischhammer, Granit Molliqaj, Jwad Warda, Awad Alaid, Kajetan von Eckardstein, Karl Schaller, Enrico Tessitore, Veit Rohde, and Bawarjan Schatlo

OBJECTIVE

Robot-guided pedicle screw placement is an established technique for the placement of pedicle screws. However, most studies have focused on degenerative disease. In this paper, the authors focus on metastatic spinal disease, which is associated with osteolysis. The associated lack of dense bone may potentially affect the automatic recognition accuracy of radiography-based surgical assistance systems. The aim of the present study is to compare the accuracy of the SpineAssist robot system with conventional fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw placement for thoracolumbar metastatic spinal disease.

METHODS

Seventy patients with metastatic spinal disease who required instrumentation were included in this retrospective matched-cohort study. All 70 patients underwent surgery performed by the same team of experienced surgeons. The decision to use robot-assisted or fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw placement was based the availability of the robot system. In patients who underwent surgery with robot guidance, pedicle screws were inserted after preoperative planning and intraoperative fluoroscopic matching. In the “conventional” group, anatomical landmarks and anteroposterior and lateral fluoroscopy guided placement of the pedicle screws. The primary outcome measure was the accuracy of screw placement on the Gertzbein-Robbins scale. Grades A and B (< 2-mm pedicle breach) were considered clinically acceptable, and all other grades indicated misplacement. Secondary outcome measures included an intergroup comparison of direction of screw misplacement, surgical site infection, and radiation exposure.

RESULTS

A total of 406 screws were placed at 206 levels. Sixty-one (29.6%) surgically treated levels were in the upper thoracic spine (T1–6), 74 (35.9%) were in the lower thoracic spine, and the remaining 71 (34.4%) were in the lumbosacral region. In the robot-assisted group (Group I; n = 35, 192 screws), trajectories were Grade A or B in 162 (84.4%) of screws. The misplacement rate was 15.6% (30 of 192 screws). In the conventional group (Group II; n = 35, 214 screws), 83.6% (179 of 214) of screw trajectories were acceptable, with a misplacement rate of 16.4% (35 of 214). There was no difference in screw accuracy between the groups (chi-square, 2-tailed Fisher’s exact, p = 0.89). One screw misplacement in the fluoroscopy group required a second surgery (0.5%), but no revisions were required in the robot group. There was no difference in surgical site infections between the 2 groups (Group I, 5 patients [14.3%]; Group II, 8 patients [22.9%]) or in the duration of surgery between the 2 groups (Group I, 226.1 ± 78.8 minutes; Group II, 264.1 ± 124.3 minutes; p = 0.13). There was also no difference in radiation time between the groups (Group I, 138.2 ± 73.0 seconds; Group II, 126.5 ± 95.6 seconds; p = 0.61), but the radiation intensity was higher in the robot group (Group I, 2.8 ± 0.2 mAs; Group II, 2.0 ± 0.6 mAs; p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS

Pedicle screw placement for metastatic disease in the thoracolumbar spine can be performed effectively and safely using robot-guided assistance. Based on this retrospective analysis, accuracy, radiation time, and postoperative infection rates are comparable to those of the conventional technique.

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Surgical management of spinal metastases involving the cervicothoracic junction: results of a multicenter, European observational study

Vanessa Hubertus, Jens Gempt, Michelle Mariño, Björn Sommer, Sven O. Eicker, Martin Stangenberg, Marc Dreimann, Insa Janssen, Christoph Wipplinger, Arthur Wagner, Nicole Lange, Ann-Kathrin Jörger, Marcus Czabanka, Veit Rohde, Karl Schaller, Claudius Thomé, Peter Vajkoczy, Julia S. Onken, and Bernhard Meyer

OBJECTIVE

Surgical management of spinal metastases at the cervicothoracic junction (CTJ) is highly complex and relies on case-based decision-making. The aim of this multicentric study was to describe surgical procedures for metastases at the CTJ and provide guidance for clinical and surgical management.

METHODS

Patients eligible for this study were those with metastases at the CTJ (C7–T2) who had been consecutively treated in 2005–2019 at 7 academic institutions across Europe. The Spine Instability Neoplastic Score, neurological function, clinical status, medical history, and surgical data for each patient were retrospectively assessed. Patients were divided into four surgical groups: 1) posterior decompression only, 2) posterior decompression and fusion, 3) anterior corpectomy and fusion, and 4) anterior corpectomy and 360° fusion. Endpoints were complications, surgical revision rate, and survival.

RESULTS

Among the 238 patients eligible for inclusion this study, 37 were included in group 1 (15%), 127 in group 2 (53%), 18 in group 3 (8%), and 56 in group 4 (24%). Mechanical pain was the predominant symptom (79%, 189 patients). Surgical complications occurred in 16% (group 1), 20% (group 2), 11% (group 3), and 18% (group 4). Of these, hardware failure (HwF) occurred in 18% and led to surgical revision in 7 of 8 cases. The overall complication rate was 34%. In-hospital mortality was 5%.

CONCLUSIONS

Posterior fusion and decompression was the most frequently used technique. Care should be taken to choose instrumentation techniques that offer the highest possible biomechanical load-bearing capacity to avoid HwF. Since the overall complication rate is high, the prevention of in-hospital complications seems crucial to reduce in-hospital mortality.