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Luis M. Tumialán and Nicholas Theodore

Traumatic cervical spondyloptosis is a rare clinical entity typically associated with complete neurological deficit. The inherent mechanics of this fracture-dislocation pattern contorts the vertebral arteries in such a way that it may result in dissection or compromised flow through those vessels. Thus, intimal injury or thrombus from stasis of flow may result. Reduction of the spondyloptosis restores flow to the vertebral arteries, but it also may mobilize thrombus or propagate an intimal dissection within the previously contorted vessel.

The authors review their experience in the care of a 43-year-old man who sustained C4–5 spondyloptosis while riding an all-terrain vehicle. On arrival, the patient demonstrated no motor function below C-4 but had sensation to the nipple line (American Spinal Injury Association Spinal Cord Injury Classification B). The patient's cranial nerve examination was unremarkable. Computed tomography of the cervical spine demonstrated complete spondyloptosis at C4–5. The patient was immediately placed in cervical traction and taken to the operating room for open reduction of the fracture dislocation, decompression of the spinal cord, and stabilization with an interbody graft and cervical plate. Preoperative cervical traction was successful in only partial reduction of the fracture dislocation. Open reduction was achieved with exposure of the C-4 and C-5 bodies and sequential distraction. After anatomical alignment was achieved, an interbody graft was placed and a cervical plate secured. A subsequent decline in the patient's level of consciousness prompted CT of the head, which showed evidence of a basilar artery thrombosis. A CT angiographic study demonstrated patency of the vertebral arteries, but a mid–basilar artery thrombosis. The patient progressed to brain death 24 hours after reduction of the fracture dislocation.

The degree of contortion of the vertebral arteries in cervical spondyloptosis in the upper cervical spine may result in stasis of flow with subsequent formation of thrombus or intimal injury. After anatomical reduction, restoration of flow within the vertebral arteries may mobilize the thrombus or propagate an intimal dissection and result in subsequent embolic events. Endovascular evaluation may be warranted immediately after anatomical reduction of a high cervical spondyloptosis for evaluation of the vertebral arteries and possible thrombus dissolution or retrieval.

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David A. Wilson, David J. Fusco and Nicholas Theodore

Iatrogenic vascular injury is a rare but potentially devastating complication of cervical spine instrumentation. The authors report on a patient who developed an anterior spinal artery pseudoaneurysm associated with delayed subarachnoid hemorrhage after undergoing odontoid screw placement 14 months earlier. This 86-year-old man presented with spontaneous subarachnoid hemorrhage (Fisher Grade 4) and full motor strength on neurological examination. Imaging demonstrated pseudarthrosis of the odontoid process, extension of the odontoid screw beyond the posterior cortex of the dens, and a pseudoaneurysm arising from an adjacent branch of the anterior spinal artery. Due to the aneurysm's location and lack of active extravasation, endovascular treatment was not attempted. Posterior C1–2 fusion was performed to treat radiographic and clinical instability of the C1–2 joint. Postoperatively, the patient's motor function remained intact. Almost all cases of vascular injury related to cervical spine instrumentation are recognized at surgery. To the authors' knowledge, this is the first report of delayed vascular injury following an uncomplicated cervical fixation. This case further suggests that the risk of this phenomenon may be elevated in cases of failed fusion.

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Ronald H. Uscinski

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Michael J. Schneider

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Mark E. Oppenlander, Forrest D. Hsu, Patrick Bolton and Nicholas Theodore

Although exceedingly rare, catastrophic neurological decline may result from endotracheal intubation of patients with preexisting cervical spine disease. The authors report on 2 cases of quadriplegia resulting from emergent endotracheal intubation in the intensive care unit.

A 68-year-old man with ankylosing spondylitis became quadriplegic after emergent intubation. A new C6–7 fracturedislocation was identified, and the patient underwent emergent open reduction and C4–T2 posterior fixation and fusion. The patient remained quadriplegic and ultimately died of pneumonia 1 year later. This is the first report with radiographic documentation of a cervical fracture-dislocation resulting from intubation in a patient with ankylosing spondylitis.

A 73-year-old man underwent posterior C6–T1 decompression and fixation for a C6–7 fracture. On postoperative Day 12, emergent intubation for respiratory distress resulted in C6-level quadriplegia. Imaging revealed acute spondyloptosis at C6–7, and the patient underwent emergent open reduction with revision and extension of posterior fusion from C-3 to T-2. He remained quadriplegic and ventilator dependent. Five days after the second operation, care was withdrawn. This is the first report of intubation as a cause of significant neurological decline related to disruption of a recently fixated cervical fracture.

Risk factors are identified and pertinent literature is reviewed for cases of catastrophic neurological complications after emergent endotracheal intubation. Strategies for obtaining airway control in patients with cervical spine pathology are also identified. Awareness of the potential dangers of airway management in patients with cervical spine pathology is critical for all involved subspecialty team members.

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Nicholas Theodore, Paul M. Arnold and Ankit I. Mehta

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A. Karim Ahmed, Eduardo Martinez-del-Campo and Nicholas Theodore

The role of chief White House physician has traditionally been held by an individual with a background in a broad medical field, such as emergency medicine, family medicine, or internal medicine. Dr. Daniel Ruge, who served as the director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service for the Veterans Administration and was appointed during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, was the first neurosurgeon to become the chief White House physician. Aside from being the first neurosurgeon to serve in this capacity, Dr. Ruge also stands apart from others who have held this esteemed position because of how he handled Reagan’s care after an attempt was made on the then-president’s life. Instead of calling upon leading medical authorities of the time to care for the president, Dr. Ruge instead decided that Reagan should be treated as any trauma patient would be treated. Dr. Ruge’s actions after the assassination attempt on President Reagan resulted in the rapid, smooth recovery of the then-president. Daniel Ruge’s background, his high-profile roles and heavy responsibilities, and his critical decision-making are characteristics that make his role in the history of medicine and of neurosurgery unique.