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Time is spine: a review of translational advances in spinal cord injury

JNSPG 75th Anniversary Invited Review Article

Jetan H. Badhiwala, Christopher S. Ahuja and Michael G. Fehlings

Acute traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a devastating event with far-reaching physical, emotional, and economic consequences for patients, families, and society at large. Timely delivery of specialized care has reduced mortality; however, long-term neurological recovery continues to be limited. In recent years, a number of exciting neuroprotective and regenerative strategies have emerged and have come under active investigation in clinical trials, and several more are coming down the translational pipeline. Among ongoing trials are RISCIS (riluzole), INSPIRE (Neuro-Spinal Scaffold), MASC (minocycline), and SPRING (VX-210). Microstructural MRI techniques have improved our ability to image the injured spinal cord at high resolution. This innovation, combined with serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis, holds the promise of providing a quantitative biomarker readout of spinal cord neural tissue injury, which may improve prognostication and facilitate stratification of patients for enrollment into clinical trials. Given evidence of the effectiveness of early surgical decompression and growing recognition of the concept that “time is spine,” infrastructural changes at a systems level are being implemented in many regions around the world to provide a streamlined process for transfer of patients with acute SCI to a specialized unit. With the continued aging of the population, central cord syndrome is soon expected to become the most common form of acute traumatic SCI; characterization of the pathophysiology, natural history, and optimal treatment of these injuries is hence a key public health priority. Collaborative international efforts have led to the development of clinical practice guidelines for traumatic SCI based on robust evaluation of current evidence. The current article provides an in-depth review of progress in SCI, covering the above areas.

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Michael G. Fehlings and Randolph J. Gray

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Editorial

Surgical complications in adult spondylolisthesis

Michael G. Fehlings and Doron Rabin

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Michael P. Kelly, Lawrence G. Lenke, Jakub Godzik, Ferran Pellise, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Justin S. Smith, Stephen J. Lewis, Christopher P. Ames, Leah Y. Carreon, Michael G. Fehlings, Frank Schwab and Adam L. Shimer

OBJECTIVE

The authors conducted a study to compare neurological deficit rates associated with complex adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery when recorded in retrospective and prospective studies. Retrospective studies may underreport neurological deficits due to selection, detection, and recall biases. Prospective studies are expensive and more difficult to perform, but they likely provide more accurate estimates of new neurological deficit rates.

METHODS

New neurological deficits were recorded in a prospective study of complex ASD surgeries (pSR1) with a defined outcomes measure (decrement in American Spinal Injury Association lower-extremity motor score) for neurological deficits. Using identical inclusion criteria and a subset of participating surgeons, a retrospective study was created (rSR1) and neurological deficit rates were collected. Continuous variables were compared with the Student t-test, with correction for multiple comparisons. Neurological deficit rates were compared using the Mantel-Haenszel method for standardized risks. Statistical significance for the primary outcome measure was p < 0.05.

RESULTS

Overall, 272 patients were enrolled in pSR1 and 207 patients were enrolled in rSR1. Inclusion criteria, defining complex spinal deformities, and exclusion criteria were identical. Sagittal Cobb measurements were higher in pSR1, although sagittal alignment was similar. Preoperative neurological deficit rates were similar in the groups. Three-column osteotomies were more common in pSR1, particularly vertebral column resection. New neurological deficits were more common in pSR1 (pSR1 17.3% [95% CI 12.6–22.2] and rSR1 9.0% [95% CI 5.0–13.0]; p = 0.01). The majority of deficits in both studies were at the nerve root level, and the distribution of level of injury was similar.

CONCLUSIONS

New neurological deficit rates were nearly twice as high in the prospective study than the retrospective study with identical inclusion criteria. These findings validate concerns regarding retrospective cohort studies and confirm the need for and value of carefully designed prospective, observational cohort studies in ASD.

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Robert G. Grossman, Ralph F. Frankowski, Keith D. Burau, Elizabeth G. Toups, John W. Crommett, Michele M. Johnson, Michael G. Fehlings, Charles H. Tator, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Susan J. Harkema, Jonathan E. Hodes, Bizhan Aarabi, Michael K. Rosner, James D. Guest and James S. Harrop

Object

The aim of this multicenter, prospective study was to determine the spectrum, incidence, and severity of complications during the initial hospitalization of patients with spinal cord injury.

Methods

The study was conducted at 9 university-affiliated hospitals that comprise the clinical centers of the North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN) for Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury. The study population comprised 315 patients admitted to NACTN clinical centers between June 25, 2005, and November 2, 2010, who had American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale grades of A–D and were 18 years of age or older. Patients were managed according to a standardized protocol.

Results

The study population was 79% male with a median age of 44 years. The leading causes of injury were falls (37%) and motor vehicle accidents (28%). The distribution of initial ASIA grades were A (40%), B (16%), C (15%), and D (29%). Fifty-eight percent of patients sustained 1 or more severe, moderate, or mild complications. Complications were associated with more severe ASIA grade: 84% of patients with Grade A and 25% of patients with Grade D had at least 1 complication. Seventy-eight percent of complications occurred within 14 days of injury. The most frequent types of severe and moderate complications were respiratory failure, pneumonia, pleural effusion, anemia, cardiac dysrhythmia, and severe bradycardia. The mortality rate was 3.5% and was associated with increased age and preexisting morbidity.

Conclusions

Knowledge of the type, frequency, time of occurrence, and severity of specific complications that occur after spinal cord injury can aid in their early detection, treatment, and prevention. The data are of importance in evaluating and selecting therapy for clinical trials.

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Diana S. L. Chow, Yang Teng, Elizabeth G. Toups, Bizhan Aarabi, James S. Harrop, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Michele M. Johnson, Maxwell Boakye, Ralph F. Frankowski, Michael G. Fehlings and Robert G. Grossman

Object

The aim of this paper was to characterize individual and population pharmacokinetics of enterally administered riluzole in a Phase 1 clinical trial of riluzole as a neuroprotective agent in adults 18–70 years old with acute spinal cord injury (SCI).

Methods

Thirty-five individuals with acute SCI, American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale Grades A–C, neurological levels from C-4 to T-12, who were enrolled in the Phase 1 clinical trial sponsored by the North American Clinical Trials Network for Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury, received 50 mg riluzole twice daily for 28 doses. The first dose was administered at a mean of 8.7 ± 2.2 hours postinjury. Trough plasma samples were collected within 1 hour predose, and peak plasma samples were collected 2 hours postdose on Days 3 and 14 of treatment. Riluzole concentrations were quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography assay. The data were analyzed for individual and population pharmacokinetics using basic structural and covariate models. The pharmacokinetic measures studied were the peak concentration (Cmax), trough concentration (Cmin), systemic exposure (AUC0–12), clearance (CL/F), and volume of distribution (V_F) normalized by the bioavailability (F).

Results

The Cmax and AUC0–12 achieved in SCI patients were lower than those in ALS patients on the same dose basis, due to a higher CL and larger V. The pharmacokinetics of riluzole (Cmax, Cmin, AUC0–12, CL, and V) changed during the acute and subacute phases of SCI during the 14 days of therapy. It was consistently observed in patients at all clinical sites that Cmax, Cmin, and AUC0–12 (128.9 ng/ml, 45.6 ng/ml, and 982.0 ng × hr/ml, respectively) were significantly higher on Day 3 than on Day 14 (76.5 ng/ml, 19.1 ng/ml, and 521.0 ng × hr/ml, respectively). These changes resulted from lower CL (49.5 vs 106.2 L/hour) and smaller V (557.1 vs 1297.9/L) on Day 3. No fluid imbalance or cytochrome P 1A2 induction due to concomitant medications was identified during the treatment course to account for such increases in V and CL, respectively. Possible mechanisms underlying these changes are discussed.

Conclusions

This is the first report of clinical pharmacokinetics of riluzole in patients with SCI. The Cmax and AUC0–12 achieved in SCI patients were lower than those in ALS patients on the same dose basis, due to a higher clearance and larger volume of distribution in SCI patients. The finding in SCI patients of an increase in the clearance and distribution of riluzole between the 3rd and 14th days after SCI, with a lower plasma concentration of riluzole on the 14th day, stresses the importance of monitoring changes in drug metabolism after SCI in interpreting the safety and efficacy of therapeutic drugs that are used in clinical trials in SCI. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT00876889.

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Michael G. Fehlings, Jefferson R. Wilson, Ralph F. Frankowski, Elizabeth G. Toups, Bizhan Aarabi, James S. Harrop, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Susan J. Harkema, James D. Guest, Charles H. Tator, Keith D. Burau, Michele W. Johnson and Robert G. Grossman

In the immediate period after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) a variety of secondary injury mechanisms combine to gradually expand the initial lesion size, potentially leading to diminished neurological outcomes at long-term follow-up. Riluzole, a benzothiazole drug, which has neuroprotective properties based on sodium channel blockade and mitigation of glutamatergic toxicity, is currently an approved drug that attenuates the extent of neuronal degeneration in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Moreover, several preclinical SCI studies have associated riluzole administration with improved functional outcomes and increased neural tissue preservation. Based on these findings, riluzole has attracted considerable interest as a potential neuroprotective drug for the treatment of SCI. Currently, a Phase I trial evaluating the safety and pharmacokinetic profile of riluzole in human SCI patients is being conducted by the North American Clinical Trials Network (NACTN) for Treatment of Spinal Cord Injury. The current review summarizes the existing preclinical and clinical literature on riluzole, provides a detailed description of the Phase I trial, and suggests potential opportunities for future investigation. Clinical trial registration no.: NCT00876889.

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Dominic Maggio, Tamir T. Ailon, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Regis W. Haid Jr., Themistocles Protopsaltis, Eric Klineberg, Justin K. Scheer, Shay Bess, Paul M. Arnold, Jens Chapman, Michael G. Fehlings, Christopher Ames, AOSpine North America and International Spine Study Group

OBJECT

The associations among global spinal alignment, patient-reported disability, and surgical outcomes have increasingly gained attention. The assessment of global spinal alignment requires standing long-cassette anteroposterior and lateral radiographs; however, spine surgeons routinely rely only on short-segment imaging when evaluating seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. This may prohibit adequate surgical planning and may predispose surgeons to not recognize associated pathology in the thoracic spine and sagittal spinopelvic malalignment. The authors used a case-based survey questionnaire to evaluate if including long-cassette radiographs led to changes to respondents' operative plans as compared with their chosen plan when cases contained standard imaging of the involved lumbar spine only.

METHODS

A case-based survey was distributed to AOSpine International members that consisted of 15 cases of lumbar spine pathology and lumbar imaging only. The same 15 cases were then shuffled and presented a second time with additional long-cassette radiographs. Each case required participants to select a single operative plan with 5 choices ranging from least to most extensive. The cases included 5 “control” cases with normal global spinal alignment and 10 “test” cases with significant sagittal and/or coronal malalignment. Mean scores were determined for each question with higher scores representing more invasive and/or extensive operative plans.

RESULTS

Of 712 spine surgeons who started the survey, 316 (44%) completed the entire series, including 68% of surgeons with spine fellowship training and representation from more than 40 countries. For test cases, but not for control cases, there were significantly higher average surgical invasiveness scores for cases presented with long-cassette radiographs (4.2) as compared with those cases with lumbar imaging only (3.4; p = 0.002). The addition of long-cassette radiographs resulted in 82.1% of respondents recommending instrumentation up to the thoracic spine, a 23.2% increase as compared with the same cases presented with lumbar imaging only (p = 0.008).

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrates the importance of maintaining a low threshold for performing standing long-cassette imaging when assessing seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. Such imaging is necessary for the assessment of spinopelvic and global spinal alignment, which can be important in operative planning. Deformity, particularly positive sagittal malalignment, may go undetected unless one maintains a high index of suspicion and obtains long-cassette radiographs. It is recommended that spine surgeons recognize the prevalence and importance of such deformity when contemplating operative intervention.

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Shian Liu, Renaud Lafage, Justin S. Smith, Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Virginie C. Lafage, Vincent Challier, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Kris Radcliff, Paul M. Arnold, Jens R. Chapman, Frank J. Schwab, Eric M. Massicotte, S. Tim Yoon, Michael G. Fehlings and Christopher P. Ames

OBJECT

Cervical stenosis is a defining feature of cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM). Matsunaga et al. proposed that elements of stenosis are both static and dynamic, where the dynamic elements magnify the canal deformation of the static state. For the current study, the authors hypothesized that dynamic changes may be associated with myelopathy severity and neck disability. This goal of this study was to present novel methods of dynamic motion analysis in CSM.

METHODS

A post hoc analysis was performed of a prospective, multicenter database of patients with CSM from the AOSpine North American study. One hundred ten patients (34%) met inclusion criteria, which were symptomatic CSM, age over 18 years, baseline flexion/extension radiographs, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaires (modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association [mJOA] score, Neck Disability Index [NDI], the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey Physical Component Score [SF-36 PCS], and Nurick grade). The mean age was 56.9 ± 12 years, and 42% of patients were women (n = 46). Correlations with HRQOL measures were analyzed for regional (cervical lordosis and cervical sagittal vertical axis) and focal parameters (kyphosis and spondylolisthesis between adjacent vertebrae) in flexion and extension. Baseline dynamic parameters (flexion/extension cone relative to a fixed C-7, center of rotation [COR], and range of motion arc relative to the COR) were also analyzed for correlations with HRQOL measures.

RESULTS

At baseline, the mean HRQOL measures demonstrated disability and the mean radiographic parameters demonstrated sagittal malalignment. Among regional parameters, there was a significant correlation between decreased neck flexion (increased C2–7 angle in flexion) and worse Nurick grade (R = 0.189, p = 0.048), with no significant correlations in extension. Focal parameters, including increased C-7 sagittal translation overT-1 (slip), were significantly correlated with greater myelopathy severity (mJOA score, Flexion R = −0.377, p = 0.003; mJOA score, Extension R = −0.261, p = 0.027). Sagittal slip at C-2 and C-4 also correlated with worse HRQOL measures. Reduced flexion/extension motion cones, a more posterior COR, and smaller range of motion correlated with worse general health SF-36 PCS and Nurick grade.

CONCLUSIONS

Dynamic motion analysis may play an important role in understanding CSM. Focal parameters demonstrated a significant correlation with worse HRQOL measures, especially increased C-7 sagittal slip in flexion and extension. Novel methods of motion analysis demonstrating reduced motion cones correlated with worse myelopathy grades. More posterior COR and smaller range of motion were both correlated with worse general health scores (SF-36 PCS and Nurick grade). To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate correlation of dynamic motion and listhesis with disability and myelopathy in CSM.

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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