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  • Author or Editor: Matthew D. Smyth x
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Matthew D. Smyth, R. Shane Tubbs, E. Martina Bebin, Paul A. Grabb and Jeffrey P. Blount

Object. The aim of this study was to define better the incidence of surgical complications and untoward side effects of chronic vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) in a population of children with medically refractory epilepsy.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the cases of 74 consecutive patients (41 male and 33 female) 18 years of age or younger (mean age 8.8 years, range 11 months–18 years) who had undergone implantation of a vagal stimulator between 1998 and 2001 with a minimum follow up of 1 year (mean 2.2 years). Of the 74 patients treated, seven (9.4%) had a complication ultimately resulting in removal of the stimulator. The rate of deep infections necessitating device removal was 3.5% (three of 74 patients who had undergone 85 implantation and/or revision procedures). An additional three superficial infections occurred in patients in whom the stimulators were not removed: one was treated with superficial operative debridement and antibiotic agents and the other two with oral antibiotics only. Another four stimulators (5.4%) were removed because of the absence of clinical benefit and device intolerance. Two devices were revised because of lead fracture (2.7%). Among the cohort, 11 battery changes have been performed thus far, although none less than 33 months after initial implantation. Several patients experienced stimulation-induced symptoms (hoarseness, cough, drooling, outbursts of laughter, shoulder abduction, dysphagia, or urinary retention) that did not require device removal. Ipsilateral vocal cord paralysis was identified in one patient. One patient died of aspiration pneumonia more than 30 days after device implantation.

Conclusions. Vagus nerve stimulation remains a viable option for improving seizure control in difficult to treat pediatric patients with epilepsy. Surgical complications such as hardware failure (2.7%) or deep infection (3.5%) occurred, resulting in device removal or revision. Occasional stimulation-induced symptoms such as hoarseness, dysphagia, or torticollis may be expected (5.4%).

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R. Shane Tubbs, Matthew D. Smyth, John C. Wellons III, Jeffrey P. Blount, Paul A. Grabb and W. Jerry Oakes

Object. To the best of the authors' knowledge, no quantitative analysis of the atlantoaxial interlaminar distance in flexion (ILD) in children exists in the medical literature. In this study they sought to determine the age-matched relationship between the posterior elements of the atlas and axis in children in cervical spine flexion, to be used as an adjunct to the atlantodental interval in common clinical use.

Methods. Lateral radiographs of the cervical spine in full flexion were analyzed in 74 children. The atlantoaxial ILD was defined as the distance between a midpoint of the anterior cortices of the atlantal and axial posterior arches.

The mean ILD for the entire group was 19 mm (range 8–30 mm). No significant difference was seen between male and female patients (p = 0.084). When stratified by age, the mean ILD was 12.3 ± 3 mm (15 cases) in children age 3 years or younger and 20.5 ± 4.7 mm (59 cases) in children age older than 3 years. Further stratification of the groups yielded a mean ILD of 10.4 ± 1.4 [eight cases]) in children age 1 to 2 years, and 14.4 ± 4.7 mm (seven cases) in children age 3 years. In children older than 3 years of age the mean ILD was consistently approximately 20 ± 5 mm regardless of age.

Conclusions. Rapid, safe, and accurate diagnosis of the cervical spine is essential in critical care. Knowledge of the distance between the posterior elements of the atlas and axis in flexion should enhance the clinicians' (those who clear cervical spines) ability to diagnose accurately atlantoaxial instability on lateral radiographs obtained in flexion.