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  • Author or Editor: Christopher R. Honey x
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C. Michael Honey, Zurab Ivanishvili, Christopher R. Honey and Manraj K. S. Heran

OBJECTIVE

The location of the human spinothalamic tract (STT) in the anterolateral spinal cord has been known for more than a century. The exact nature of the neuronal fiber lamination within the STT, however, remains controversial. After correlating in vivo macrostimulation-induced pain/temperature sensation during percutaneous cervical cordotomy with simultaneous CT imaging of the electrode tip location, the authors present a modern description of the somatotopy of the human cervical STT.

METHODS

Twenty patients underwent CT-guided percutaneous cervical cordotomy to alleviate contralateral medication-refractory cancer pain. Patient responses to electrical stimulation (0.01–0.1 V, 50 Hz, 1 msec) were recorded and the electrode location for each response was documented with a contemporaneous CT scan. In a post hoc analysis of the data, the location for each patient’s response(s) was measured and drawn on a diagram of their cord. Positive responses were represented only when the lowest possible voltage (≤ 0.02 V) elicited a response. Negative responses were recorded if there was no clinical response at 0.1 V.

RESULTS

Clinically, patients did well with an average reduction in opiates of 75% at 1 week, and 67% were able to leave the palliative care unit. The size of the cervical cord varied between patients, with an average lateral extent (width) of 11 mm and a height of 9 mm. Responses from the lower limb were represented superficially (lateral) and posteriorly within the anterolateral cord. The area with responses from the upper limb was larger and surrounded those with responses from the lower limb primarily anteriorly and medially, but also posteriorly.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, the somatotopic organization of the human STT was elucidated for the first time using in vivo macrostimulation and contemporaneous CT imaging during cordotomy. In this cohort of patients, the STT from the lower-limb region was located superficially and posteriorly in the anterolateral quadrant of the cervical cord, with the STT from the upper-limb region surrounding it primarily anteriorly and medially (deep) but also posteriorly. The authors discuss how the previous methods of cordotomy may have biased the earlier versions of STT lamination. They suggest that an ideal spinal cord entry site for cordotomy of either the upper- or lower-limb pain fibers is halfway between the equator and anterior pole of the cord.

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Christopher R. Honey, Murray D. Morrison, Manraj K. S. Heran and Baljinder S. Dhaliwal

Inducible laryngeal obstruction has been described under at least 40 different monikers, including vocal cord dysfunction, paroxysmal vocal fold motion, and irritable larynx. The etiology of this condition is believed to be laryngeal hyperactivity in response to psychological issues or acid reflux. Most patients are treated with some combination of proton pump inhibitors, speech therapy, and psychotherapy. However, a small cohort of patients remains refractory to all medical interventions. The authors describe a novel condition, hemi-laryngopharyngeal spasm (HELPS), which can cause severe episodic stridor leading to unconsciousness in association with cough. The first recognized and surgically cured patient with HELPS was reported in an earlier issue of this journal. Three additional patients have been followed up for at least a year postoperatively, and their cases are reported here.

Each patient presented with a similar pattern of episodic coughing and choking that increased in frequency, severity, and duration over years. The episodes eventually occurred while sleeping and could cause severe stridor with loss of consciousness. All three patients were initially misdiagnosed with a psychiatric illness and subjected to multiple intubations and one tracheostomy. Unilateral botulinum toxin injections in the vocal fold eased the severity of the throat contractions but not the cough. Magnetic resonance imaging showed a looping posterior inferior cerebellar artery juxtaposed to a vagus nerve in each case. Microvascular decompression (MVD) of that vessel relieved all symptoms.

The introduction of this new medical condition may help a small cohort of patients with inducible laryngeal obstructions that have not responded to the current standard treatments. Patients are asymptomatic between episodes of progressively severe coughing and choking with stridor that may lead to intubation. Severe anxiety about the unpredictable symptoms is expected and may contribute to a psychiatric misdiagnosis. Microvascular decompression for HELPS is more difficult than that for trigeminal neuralgia because the involved nerve is more susceptible to manipulation. Ultimately, the final proof that HELPS is a real and distinct syndrome will require its recognition and successful treatment by colleagues around the world.

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Anthony M. Kaufmann