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  • Author or Editor: Charles A. Sansur x
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Narlin Beaty, Justin Slavin, Cara Diaz, Kyle Zeleznick, David Ibrahimi and Charles A. Sansur


Gunshot wounds (GSWs) to the cervical spine have been examined in a limited number of case series, and operative management of this traumatic disease has been sparsely discussed. The current literature supports and the authors hypothesize that patients without neurological deficit need neither surgical fusion nor decompression. Patients with GSWs and neurological deficits, however, pose a greater management challenge. The authors have compiled the experience of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland, over the past 12 years, creating the largest series of such injuries, with a total number of 40 civilian patients needing neurosurgical evaluation. The current analysis examines presenting bone injury, surgical indication, presenting neurological examination, and neurological outcome. In this study, the authors characterize the incidence, severity, and recovery potential of cervical GSWs. The rate of unstable fractures requiring surgical intervention is documented. A detailed discussion of surgical indications with a treatment algorithm for cervical instability is offered.


A total of 144 cervical GSWs were retrospectively reviewed. Of these injuries, 40 had documented neurological deficits. No neurosurgical consultation was requested for patients without deficit. Epidemiological and clinical information was collected on patients with neurological deficit, including age, sex, timing, indication, type of surgery, initial examination after resuscitation, follow-up examination, and imaging data.


Twenty-eight patients (70%) presented with complete neurological deficits and 12 patients (30%) presented with incomplete injuries. Fourteen (35%) of the 40 patients underwent neurosurgical intervention. Twelve patients (30%) required intervention for cervical instability. Seven patients required internal fixation involving 4 anterior fusions, 2 posterior fusions, and 1 combined approach. Five patients were managed with halo immobilization. Two patients underwent decompression alone for neurological deterioration and persistent compressive injury, both of whom experienced marked neurological recovery. Follow-up was obtained in 92% of cases. Three patients undergoing stabilization converted at least 1 American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale (AIS) grade and the remaining operative cases experienced small ASIA motor score improvement. Eighteen patients underwent inpatient MRI. No patient suffered complications or neurological deterioration related to retained metal. Three of 28 patients presenting with AIS Grade A improved to Grade B. For those 12 patients with incomplete injury, 1 improved from AIS Grade C to D, and 3 improved from Grade D to E.


Spinal cord injury from GSWs often results in severe neurological deficits. In this series, 30% of these patients with deficits required intervention for instability. This is the first series that thoroughly documents AIS improvement in this patient population. Adherence to the proposed treatment algorithm may optimize neurological outcome and spine stability.

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Randall Schultz Jr., Andrew Steven, Aaron Wessell, Nancy Fischbein, Charles A. Sansur, Dheeraj Gandhi, David Ibrahimi and Prashant Raghavan


Dorsal arachnoid webs (DAWs) and spinal cord herniation (SCH) are uncommon abnormalities affecting the thoracic spinal cord that can result in syringomyelia and significant neurological morbidity if left untreated. Differentiating these 2 entities on the basis of clinical presentation and radiological findings remains challenging but is of vital importance in planning a surgical approach. The authors examined the differences between DAWs and idiopathic SCH on MRI and CT myelography to improve diagnostic confidence prior to surgery.


Review of the picture archiving and communication system (PACS) database between 2005 and 2015 identified 6 patients with DAW and 5 with SCH. Clinical data including demographic information, presenting symptoms and neurological signs, and surgical reports were collected from the electronic medical records. Ten of the 11 patients underwent MRI. CT myelography was performed in 3 patients with DAW and in 1 patient with SCH. Imaging studies were analyzed by 2 board-certified neuroradiologists for the following features: 1) location of the deformity; 2) presence or absence of cord signal abnormality or syringomyelia; 3) visible arachnoid web; 4) presence of a dural defect; 5) nature of dorsal cord indentation (abrupt “scalpel sign” vs “C”-shaped); 6) focal ventral cord kink; 7) presence of the nuclear trail sign (endplate irregularity, sclerosis, and/or disc-space calcification that could suggest a migratory path of a herniated disc); and 8) visualization of a complete plane of CSF ventral to the deformity.


The scalpel sign was positive in all patients with DAW. The dorsal indentation was C-shaped in 5 of 6 patients with SCH. The ventral subarachnoid space was preserved in all patients with DAW and interrupted in cases of SCH. In no patient was a web or a dural defect identified.


DAW and SCH can be reliably distinguished on imaging by scrutinizing the nature of the dorsal indentation and the integrity of the ventral subarachnoid space at the level of the cord deformity.