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Michael Safaee, Andrew T. Parsa, Nicholas M. Barbaro, Dean Chou, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Philip R. Weinstein, Tarik Tihan and Christopher P. Ames


Intradural extramedullary spine tumors represent two-thirds of all primary spine neoplasms. Approximately half of these are peripheral nerve sheath tumors, mainly neurofibromas and schwannomas. Given the rarity of this disease and, thus, the limited analyses of clinical outcomes, the authors examined the association of tumor location, extent of resection, and neurofibromatosis (NF) status with clinical outcomes.


Patients were identified through a search of the University of California, San Francisco, neuropathology database and a separate review of current procedural terminology codes. Data recorded included patient age, patient sex, clinical presentation, presence of NF, tumor type, tumor location, extent of resection (gross-total resection [GTR] or subtotal resection [STR]), and clinical follow-up.


Of 221 tumors in 199 patients (mean age 45 years), 53 were neurofibromas, 163 were schwannomas, and 5 were malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. The most common presenting symptom was spinal pain (76%), followed by weakness (36%) and sensory abnormalities (34%). Mean symptom duration was 16 months. In terms of spinal location, neurofibromas were more common in the cervical spine (74% vs 27%, p < 0.001), and schwannomas were more common in the thoracic and lumbosacral spine (73% vs 26%, p < 0.001). Rates of GTR were lower for neurofibromas than schwannomas (51% vs 83%, p < 0.001), regardless of location. Rates of GTR were lower for cervical (54%) than thoracic (90%) and lumbosacral (86%) lesions (p < 0.001). NF was associated with lower rates of GTR among all tumors (43% vs 86%, p < 0.001). The mean follow-up time was 32 months. Recurrence/progression was more common for neurofibromas than schwannomas (17% vs 7%, p = 0.03), although the mean time to recurrence/progression did not differ according to tumor type (45 vs 53 months, p = 0.63). As expected, GTR was associated with lower recurrence rates (4% vs 22%, p < 0.001). According to multivariate analysis, cervical location (OR 0.239, 95% CI 0.110–0.520) and presence of NF (OR 0.166, 95% CI 0.054–0.507) were associated with lower rates of GTR. In a separate model, only GTR (OR 0.141, 95% CI 0.046–0.429) was associated with tumor recurrence.


Resection is an effective treatment for spinal nerve sheath tumors. Neurofibromas were found more commonly in the cervical spine than in other regions of the spine and were associated with higher rates of recurrence and lower rates of GTR than other tumor types, particularly in patients with NF Types 1 or 2. According to multivariate analysis, both cervical location and presence of NF were associated with lower rates of GTR. According to a second multivariate model, the only variable associated with tumor recurrence was extent of resection. Maximal safe resection remains ideal for these lesions; however, patients with cervical tumors or NF should be counseled about their increased risk for recurrence.

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Aaron J. Clark, John E. Ziewacz, Michael Safaee, Darryl Lau, Russ Lyon, Dean Chou, Philip R. Weinstein, Christopher P. Ames, John P. Clark III and Praveen V. Mummaneni


The use of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IONM) in surgical decompression surgery for myelopathy may assist the surgeon in taking corrective measures to reduce or prevent permanent neurological deficits. We evaluated the efficacy of IONM in cervical and cervicothoracic spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) cases.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 140 cases involving patients who underwent surgery for CSM utilizing IONM during 2011 at the University of California, San Francisco. Data on preoperative clinical variables, intraoperative changes in transcranial motor evoked potentials (MEPs), and postoperative new neurological deficits were collected. Associations between categorical variables were analyzed with the Fisher exact test.


Of the 140 patients, 16 (11%) had significant intraoperative decreases in MEPs. In 8 of these cases, the MEP signal did not return to baseline values by the end of the operation. There were 8 (6%) postoperative deficits, of which 6 were C-5 palsies and 2 were paraparesis. Six of the patients with postoperative deficits had demonstrated persistent MEP signal change on IONM. There was a significant association between persistent MEP changes and postoperative deficits (p < 0.001). The sensitivity of intraoperative MEP monitoring was 75%, the specificity 98%, the positive predictive value 75%, and the negative predictive value 98%. Due to higher rates of false negatives, the sensitivity decreased to 60% in the subgroup of patients with vascular disease comorbidity. The sensitivity increased to 100% in elderly patients and in patients with preoperative motor deficits. The sensitivity and positive predictive value of deltoid and biceps MEP changes in predicting C-5 palsy were 67% and 67%, respectively.


The authors found a correlation between decreased intraoperative MEPs and postoperative new neurological deficits in patients with CSM. Sensitivity varies based on patient comorbidities, age, and preoperative neurological function. Monitoring of MEPs is a useful adjunct for CSM cases, and the authors have developed a checklist to standardize their responses to intraoperative MEP changes.

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Pierce D. Nunley, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Richard G. Fessler, Paul Park, Joseph M. Zavatsky, Juan S. Uribe, Robert K. Eastlack, Dean Chou, Michael Y. Wang, Neel Anand, Kelly A. Frank, Marcus B. Stone, Adam S. Kanter, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Praveen V. Mummaneni and the International Spine Study Group


The aim of this study was to educate medical professionals about potential financial impacts of improper diagnosis-related group (DRG) coding in adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery.


Medicare’s Inpatient Prospective Payment System PC Pricer database was used to collect 2015 reimbursement data for ASD procedures from 12 hospitals. Case type, hospital type/location, number of operative levels, proper coding, length of stay, and complications/comorbidities (CCs) were analyzed for effects on reimbursement. DRGs were used to categorize cases into 3 types: 1) anterior or posterior only fusion, 2) anterior fusion with posterior percutaneous fixation with no dorsal fusion, and 3) combined anterior and posterior fixation and fusion.


Pooling institutions, cases were reimbursed the same for single-level and multilevel ASD surgery. Longer stay, from 3 to 8 days, resulted in an additional $1400 per stay. Posterior fusion was an additional $6588, while CCs increased reimbursement by approximately $13,000. Academic institutions received higher reimbursement than private institutions, i.e., approximately $14,000 (Case Types 1 and 2) and approximately $16,000 (Case Type 3). Urban institutions received higher reimbursement than suburban institutions, i.e., approximately $3000 (Case Types 1 and 2) and approximately $3500 (Case Type 3). Longer stay, from 3 to 8 days, increased reimbursement between $208 and $494 for private institutions and between $1397 and $1879 for academic institutions per stay.


Reimbursement is based on many factors not controlled by surgeons or hospitals, but proper DRG coding can significantly impact the financial health of hospitals and availability of quality patient care.