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Gregory D. Schroeder, Nik Hjelm, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Michael S. Weinstein and Christopher K. Kepler

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this paper was to compare the severity of the initial neurological injury as well as the early changes in the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor score (AMS) between central cord syndrome (CCS) patients with and without an increased T2 signal intensity in their spinal cord.

METHODS

Patients with CCS were identified and stratified based on the presence of increased T2 signal intensity in their spinal cord. The severity of the initial neurological injury and the progression of the neurological injury over the 1st week were measured according to the patient's AMS. The effect of age, sex, congenital stenosis, surgery within 24 hours, and surgery in the initial hospitalization on the change in AMS was determined using an analysis of variance.

RESULTS

Patients with increased signal intensity had a more severe initial neurological injury (AMS 57.6 vs 75.3, respectively, p = 0.01). However, the change in AMS over the 1st week was less severe in patients with an increase in T2 signal intensity (−0.85 vs −4.3, p = 0.07). Analysis of variance did not find that age, sex, Injury Severity Score, congenital stenosis, surgery within 24 hours, or surgery during the initial hospitalization affected the change in AMS.

CONCLUSIONS

The neurological injury is different between patients with and without an increased T2 signal intensity. Patients with an increased T2 signal intensity are likely to have a more severe initial neurological deficit but will have relatively minimal early neurological deterioration. Comparatively, patients without an increase in the T2 signal intensity will likely have a less severe initial injury but can expect to have a slight decline in neurological function in the 1st week.

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Christopher Paul O'Boynick, Mark F. Kurd, Bruce V. Darden II, Alexander R. Vaccaro and Michael G. Fehlings

The understanding of the optimal surgical timing for stabilization in thoracolumbar fractures is severely limited. Thoracolumbar spine fractures can be devastating injuries and are often associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The role of early surgical stabilization (within 48–72 hours of injury) as a vehicle to improve outcomes in these patients has generated significant interest. Goals of early stabilization include improved neurological recovery, faster pulmonary recovery, improved pain control, and decreased health care costs. Opponents cite the potential for increased bleeding, hypotension, and the risk of further cord injury as a few factors that weigh against early stabilization. The concept of spinal cord injury and its relationship to surgical timing remains in question. However, when neurological outcomes are eliminated from the equation, certain measures have shown positive influences from prompt surgical fixation.

Early fixation of thoracolumbar spine fractures can significantly decrease the duration of hospital stay and the number of days in the intensive care unit. Additionally, prompt stabilization can reduce rates of pulmonary complications. This includes decreased rates of pneumonia and fewer days on ventilator support. Cost analysis revealed as much as $80,000 in savings per patient with early stabilization. All of these benefits come without an increase in morbidity or evidence of increased mortality. In addition, there is no evidence that early stabilization has any ill effect on the injured or uninjured spinal cord. Based on the existing data, early fixation of thoracolumbar fractures has been linked with positive outcomes without clear evidence of negative impacts on the patient's neurological status, associated morbidities, or mortality. These procedures can be viewed as “damage control” and may consist of simple posterior instrumentation or open reductions with internal fixation as indicated. Based on the current literature it is advisable to proceed with early surgical stabilization of thoracolumbar fractures in a well-resuscitated patient, unless extenuating medical conditions would prevent it.

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George M. Ghobrial, Christopher M. Maulucci, Mitchell Maltenfort, Richard T. Dalyai, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Michael G. Fehlings, John Street, Paul M. Arnold and James S. Harrop

Object

Thoracolumbar spine injuries are commonly encountered in patients with trauma, accounting for almost 90% of all spinal fractures. Thoracolumbar burst fractures comprise a high percentage of these traumatic fractures (45%), and approximately half of the patients with this injury pattern are neurologically intact. However, a debate over complication rates associated with operative versus nonoperative management of various thoracolumbar fracture morphologies is ongoing, particularly concerning those patients presenting without a neurological deficit.

Methods

A MEDLINE search for pertinent literature published between 1966 and December 2013 was conducted by 2 authors (G.G. and R.D.), who used 2 broad search terms to maximize the initial pool of manuscripts for screening. These terms were “operative lumbar spine adverse events” and “nonoperative lumbar spine adverse events.”

Results

In an advanced MEDLINE search of the term “operative lumbar spine adverse events” on January 8, 2014, 1459 results were obtained. In a search of “nonoperative lumbar spine adverse events,” 150 results were obtained. After a review of all abstracts for relevance to traumatic thoracolumbar spinal injuries, 62 abstracts were reviewed for the “operative” group and 21 abstracts were reviewed for the “nonoperative” group. A total of 14 manuscripts that met inclusion criteria for the operative group and 5 manuscripts that met criteria for the nonoperative group were included.

There were a total of 919 and 436 patients in the operative and nonoperative treatment groups, respectively. There were no statistically significant differences between the groups with respect to age, sex, and length of stay. The mean ages were 43.17 years in the operative and 34.68 years in the nonoperative groups. The majority of patients in both groups were Frankel Grade E (342 and 319 in operative and nonoperative groups, respectively). Among the studies that reported the data, the mean length of stay was 14 days in the operative group and 20.75 in the nonoperative group.

The incidence of all complications in the operative and nonoperative groups was 300 (32.6%) and 21 (4.8%), respectively (p = 0.1065). There was no significant difference between the 2 groups with respect to the incidence of pulmonary, thromboembolic, cardiac, and gastrointestinal complications. However, the incidence of infections (pneumonia, urinary tract infection, wound infection, and sepsis) was significantly higher in the operative group (p = 0.000875). The incidence of instrumentation failure and need for revision surgery was 4.35% (40 of 919), a significant morbidity, and an event unique to the operative category (p = 0.00396).

Conclusions

Due to the limited number of high-quality studies, conclusions related to complication rates of operative and nonoperative management of thoracolumbar traumatic injuries cannot be definitively made. Further prospective, randomized studies of operative versus nonoperative management of thoracolumbar and lumbar spine trauma, with standardized definitions of complications and matched patient cohorts, will aid in properly defining the risk-benefit ratio of surgery for thoracolumbar spine fractures.

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Jeffrey D. Coe, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Andrew T. Dailey, Rick C. Sasso, Steven C. Ludwig, James S. Harrop, Joseph R. Dettori, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Sanford E. Emery and Michael G. Fehlings

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Gregory D. Schroeder, Christopher K. Kepler, John D. Koerner, Jens R. Chapman, Carlo Bellabarba, F. Cumhur Oner, Max Reinhold, Marcel F. Dvorak, Bizhan Aarabi, Luiz Vialle, Michael G. Fehlings, Shanmuganathan Rajasekaran, Frank Kandziora, Klaus J. Schnake and Alexander R. Vaccaro

OBJECT

The aim of this study was to determine if the ability of a surgeon to correctly classify A3 (burst fractures with a single endplate involved) and A4 (burst fractures with both endplates involved) fractures is affected by either the region or the experience of the surgeon.

METHODS

A survey was sent to 100 AOSpine members from all 6 AO regions of the world (North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East) who had no prior knowledge of the new AOSpine Thoracolumbar Spine Injury Classification System. Respondents were asked to classify 25 cases, including 6 thoracolumbar burst fractures (A3 or A4). This study focuses on the effect of region and experience on surgeons’ ability to properly classify these 2 controversial fracture variants.

RESULTS

All 100 surveyed surgeons completed the survey, and no significant regional (p > 0.50) or experiential (p > 0.21) variability in the ability to correctly classify burst fractures was identified; however, surgeons from all regions and with all levels of experience were more likely to correctly classify A3 fractures than A4 fractures (p < 0.01). Further analysis demonstrated that no region predisposed surgeons to increasing their assessment of severity of burst fractures.

CONCLUSIONS

A3 and A4 fractures are the most difficult 2 fractures to correctly classify, but this is not affected by the region or experience of the surgeon; therefore, regional variations in the treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures (A3 and A4) is not due to differing radiographic interpretation of the fractures.

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Michael G. Fehlings, Justin S. Smith, Branko Kopjar, Paul M. Arnold, S. Tim Yoon, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Darrel S. Brodke, Michael E. Janssen, Jens R. Chapman, Rick C. Sasso, Eric J. Woodard, Robert J. Banco, Eric M. Massicotte, Mark B. Dekutoski, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Christopher M. Bono and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Object

Rates of complications associated with the surgical treatment of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) are not clear. Appreciating these risks is important for patient counseling and quality improvement. The authors sought to assess the rates of and risk factors associated with perioperative and delayed complications associated with the surgical treatment of CSM.

Methods

Data from the AOSpine North America Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy Study, a prospective, multicenter study, were analyzed. Outcomes data, including adverse events, were collected in a standardized manner and externally monitored. Rates of perioperative complications (within 30 days of surgery) and delayed complications (31 days to 2 years following surgery) were tabulated and stratified based on clinical factors.

Results

The study enrolled 302 patients (mean age 57 years, range 29–86) years. Of 332 reported adverse events, 73 were classified as perioperative complications (25 major and 48 minor) in 47 patients (overall perioperative complication rate of 15.6%). The most common perioperative complications included minor cardiopulmonary events (3.0%), dysphagia (3.0%), and superficial wound infection (2.3%). Perioperative worsening of myelopathy was reported in 4 patients (1.3%). Based on 275 patients who completed 2 years of follow-up, there were 14 delayed complications (8 minor, 6 major) in 12 patients, for an overall delayed complication rate of 4.4%. Of patients treated with anterior-only (n = 176), posterior-only (n = 107), and combined anterior-posterior (n = 19) procedures, 11%, 19%, and 37%, respectively, had 1 or more perioperative complications. Compared with anterior-only approaches, posterior-only approaches had a higher rate of wound infection (0.6% vs 4.7%, p = 0.030). Dysphagia was more common with combined anterior-posterior procedures (21.1%) compared with anterior-only procedures (2.3%) or posterior-only procedures (0.9%) (p < 0.001). The incidence of C-5 radiculopathy was not associated with the surgical approach (p = 0.8). The occurrence of perioperative complications was associated with increased age (p = 0.006), combined anterior-posterior procedures (p = 0.016), increased operative time (p = 0.009), and increased operative blood loss (p = 0.005), but it was not associated with comorbidity score, body mass index, modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association score, smoking status, anterior-only versus posterior-only approach, or specific procedures. Multivariate analysis of factors associated with minor or major complications identified age (OR 1.029, 95% CI 1.002–1.057, p = 0.035) and operative time (OR 1.005, 95% CI 1.002–1.008, p = 0.001). Multivariate analysis of factors associated with major complications identified age (OR 1.054, 95% CI 1.015–1.094, p = 0.006) and combined anterior-posterior procedures (OR 5.297, 95% CI 1.626–17.256, p = 0.006).

Conclusions

For the surgical treatment of CSM, the vast majority of complications were treatable and without long-term impact. Multivariate factors associated with an increased risk of complications include greater age, increased operative time, and use of combined anterior-posterior procedures.

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Christopher K. Kepler, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Eric Chen, Alpesh A. Patel, Henry Ahn, Ahmad Nassr, Christopher I. Shaffrey, James Harrop, Gregory D. Schroeder, Amit Agarwala, Marcel F. Dvorak, Daryl R. Fourney, Kirkham B. Wood, Vincent C. Traynelis, S. Tim Yoon, Michael G. Fehlings and Bizhan Aarabi

OBJECT

In this clinically based systematic review of cervical facet fractures, the authors’ aim was to determine the optimal clinical care for patients with isolated fractures of the cervical facets through a systematic review.

METHODS

A systematic review of nonoperative and operative treatment methods of cervical facet fractures was performed. Reduction and stabilization treatments were compared, and analysis of postoperative outcomes was performed. MEDLINE and Scopus databases were used. This work was supported through support received from the Association for Collaborative Spine Research and AOSpine North America.

RESULTS

Eleven studies with 368 patients met the inclusion criteria. Forty-six patients had bilateral isolated cervical facet fractures and 322 had unilateral isolated cervical facet fractures. Closed reduction was successful in 56.4% (39 patients) and 63.8% (94 patients) of patients using a halo vest and Gardner-Wells tongs, respectively. Comparatively, open reduction was successful in 94.9% of patients (successful reduction of open to closed reduction OR 12.8 [95% CI 6.1–26.9], p < 0.0001); 183 patients underwent internal fixation, with an 87.2% success rate in maintaining anatomical alignment. When comparing the success of patients who underwent anterior versus posterior procedures, anterior approaches showed a 90.5% rate of maintenance of reduction, compared with a 75.6% rate for the posterior approach (anterior vs posterior OR 3.1 [95% CI 1.0–9.4], p = 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

In comparison with nonoperative treatments, operative treatments provided a more successful outcome in terms of failure of treatment to maintain reduction for patients with cervical facet fractures. Operative treatment appears to provide superior results to the nonoperative treatments assessed.