W. Bradley Jacobs, Richard J. Bransford, Carlo Bellabarba and Jens R. Chapman
Charcot spinal arthropathy (CSA) is an uncommon disorder that occurs in the setting of conditions with decreased protective sensation of the vertebral column, resulting in vertebral joint degeneration, pain, and deformity. Historically, CSA treatment has been fraught with high failure rates. Over time, the authors' institution has trended toward a CSA treatment paradigm of intralesional debridement, circumferential fusion, and four-rod lumbopelvic fixation. As such, the overall objectives of this study were to define the specific clinical characteristics of this rare condition and to determine whether the authors' treatment paradigm has decreased the incidence of revision due to hardware failure/presumed pseudarthrosis or the development of a new CSA over the course of the study and in comparison with historical controls.
The authors performed a retrospective review of the clinical and radiographic records for all patients with CSA treated by the Spine Service at the University of Washington between 1997 and 2009.
Twenty-three patients with CSA were identified. The mean age at presentation was 43.1 years, and the mean latency between spinal cord injury and CSA diagnosis was 19.6 years. The mean follow-up was 33.1 months. Pain and progressive deformity were the major presenting symptoms. Concomitant infection was identified in 17% of patients. Patients with CSA were noted to have long initial fusion constructs spanning an average of 8.4 vertebral levels. Charcot spinal arthropathy did not occur above the level of neurological injury. The vast majority of CSA cases occurred caudally along the spinal axis, with 65% occurring within 1 level of the caudal end of the index fusion construct and 35% occurring even farther distally. Revision due to hardware failure or the development of a new CSA level occurred in 35% of patients. Rates of treatment failure requiring revision significantly decreased over the course of the study, with revision occurring in 6 (66%) of 9 patients who underwent surgery before 2002, in comparison with only 2 (14%) of 14 treated between 2002 and 2009. During a mean follow-up period of 34 months, no treatment revision occurred in the subgroup of 9 patients who underwent four-rod lumbopelvic fixation.
This study represents the largest reported modern surgical series of CSA patients. While revision rates were initially high and comparable to previous reports, the authors' multimodal treatment paradigm, which includes the use of bone morphogenetic protein and four-rod lumbopelvic fixation, dramatically reduced the incidence of treatment failure requiring revision over the course of the study period and represents a significant improvement in the treatment of CSA.
Richard Bransford, Fangyi Zhang, Carlo Bellabarba, Mark Konodi and Jens R. Chapman
Symptomatic thoracic disc herniations (TDHs) are relatively uncommon and are typically treated with an anterior approach. Various posterior surgical approaches have been developed to treat TDH, but the gold standard remains transthoracic decompression. Certain patients have comorbidities and herniation aspects that are not optimally treated with an anterior approach. A transfacet pedicle-sparing approach was first described in 1995, but outcomes and complications have not been well described. The objective of this study was to assess outcomes and complications in a consecutive series of patients with TDH undergoing posterior transfacet decompression and discectomy with posterior instrumentation and fusion.
Eighteen consecutive patients undergoing operative management of TDH were identified from a tertiary care referral database. All patients underwent a transfacet pedicle-sparing decompression and segmental instrumentation with interbody fusion. Outcomes and complications were retrospectively assessed in this patient series. Clinical records were scrutinized to assess levels and types of disc herniation; blood loss; pre- and postoperative motor scores, Nurick grades, and visual analog pain scale scores; and complications such as wrong-level surgery, infection, seroma, and neurological changes. Pre- and postoperative imaging studies were reviewed to assess levels and types of herniation, alignment, and accuracy of instrumentation.
Of the 18 patients, 9 had TDHs at multiple levels. The patients presented with symptoms including myelopathy, axial back pain, urinary symptoms, and radiculopathy and radiological evidence of 29 compressive TDHs ranging from T1–2 to T12–L1. Discs were classified as central (10) or paracentral (19). All discs were successfully removed with no incidence of wrong-level surgery or CSF leak. The mean estimated blood loss was 870 ml with no dural tears. Nurick grades improved on average from 2.5 to 1.9. All patients reported improvement in symptoms compared with preoperative status. The mean visual analog scale score improved from 59 to 21. Sixteen of the 18 patients spent an average of 4.2 days in the hospital; the 2 other patients spent 58 and 69 days. The average duration of follow-up was 12.2 months in 14 patients; 4 patients were lost to follow-up. Twelve patients had no complications. Five patients developed postoperative wound infections or seromas requiring additional operative debridement. One patient had a misplaced screw and suboptimally positioned interbody graft requiring revision. One transient neurological deterioration (American Spinal Injury Association [ASIA] D to ASIA B) occurred postoperatively associated with an inferior segment fracture 20 days after surgery. This necessitated extending the fusion caudally; the patient subsequently experienced a full return to better-than-baseline neurological status.
A modified transfacetal pedicle-sparing approach combined with short segmental fusion offers a safe means of achieving concurrent decompression and segmental stabilization and is an option for certain subtypes of TDH. Although 6 patients required additional surgery for postoperative complications, all patients experienced improvement relative to their preoperative status.
Gregory C. Wiggins, Sohail Mirza, Carlo Bellabarba, G. Alex West, Jens R. Chapman and Christopher I. Shaffrey
Anterior decompression and stabilization for thoracic spinal tumors often involves a thoracotomy and can be associated with surgical approach–related complications. An alternative to thoracotomy is surgery via a costotransversectomy exposure.
To delineate the risks of surgery, the authors reviewed their prospective database for patients who had undergone surgery via either of these approaches for thoracic or thoracolumbar tumors. The complications were recorded and graded based on severity and risk of impact on patient outcome.
Between September 1995 and April 2001, the authors performed 29 costotransversectomies (Group 1) and 18 thoracolumbar or combined (Group 2) approaches as initial operations for thoracic neoplasms. The age, sex, pre-operative motor score, and preoperative Frankel grade did not significantly differ between the groups. In the costotransversectomy group there were greater numbers of metastases, upper thoracic procedures, and affected vertebral levels; additionally, the comorbidity rate based on Charlson score, was higher. The mean Frankel grades at discharge were not significantly different whereas the discharge motor and last follow-up motor scores were better in Group 2. There were 11 Group 1 and seven Group 2 patients who suffered at least one complication. The number or patients with complications, the mean number of complications, and severity of complications did not differ between the groups.
Compared with anterior or combined approaches, the incidence and severity of perioperative complications in the surgical treatment of thoracic and thoracolumbar spinal tumors is similar in patients who undergo costotransversectomy. Costotransversectomy may be the preferred operation in patients with significant medical comorbidity or tumors involving more than one thoracic vertebra.
Carlo Bellabarba, Sohail K. Mirza, G. Alexander West, Frederick A. Mann, Andrew T. Dailey, David W. Newell and Jens R. Chapman
Craniocervical dissociation (CCD) is a highly unstable and usually fatal injury resulting from osseoligamentous disruption between the occiput and C-2. The purpose of this study was to elucidate systematic factors associated with delays in diagnosing and treating this life-threatening condition and to introduce an injury-severity classification with therapeutic implications.
In a retrospective evaluation of institutional databases, the authors reviewed medical records and original images obtained in 17 consecutive surviving patients with CCD treated between 1994 and 2002. Images and clinical results of treatment were evaluated, emphasizing the timing of diagnosis, clinical effect of delayed diagnosis, potential clinical or imaging warning signs, and response to treatment.
Craniocervical dissociation was identified or suspected on the initial lateral cervical spine radiograph acquired in two patients (12%) and was diagnosed based on screening computerized tomography findings in two additional patients (12%). A retrospective review of initial lateral x-ray films showed an abnormal dens–basion interval in 16 patients (94%). The 2-day average delay in diagnosis was associated with profound neurological deterioration in five patients (29%). Neurological status declined in one patient after a fixation procedure was performed. There were no cases of craniocervical pseudarthrosis or hardware failure during a mean 26-month follow-up period. The mean American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor score of 50 improved to 79, and the number of patients with useful motor function (ASIA Grade D or E) increased from seven (41%) preoperatively to 13 (76%) postoperatively.
The diagnosis of CCD was frequently delayed, and the delay was associated with an increased likelihood of neurological deterioration. Early diagnosis and spinal stabilization protected against worsening spinal cord injury.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.