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  • Author or Editor: Laurence Rhines x
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Novel use of a threadwire saw for high sacral amputation

Technical note and description of operative technique

Robert J. Bohinski, Ehud Mendel and Laurence D. Rhines

✓ The authors describe and demonstrate an innovative modification of the osteotomy procedure required to achieve a supraforaminal high sacral amputation in a patient harboring a large sacral chordoma. Via a combined anterior—posterior approach, three carefully placed threadwire saws were used to create releasing osteotomies through specific portions of the dorsal iliac crests and through the axial midportion of the S-1 vertebral body. The threadwire saws are pulled away from neurovascular and visceral structures, ensuring greater protection. Other advantages include markedly reduced blood loss while performing the osteotomies, a high degree of cutting accuracy, negligible bone loss, and ease and speed of bone cutting.

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Allen W. Burton, Laurence D. Rhines and Ehud Mendel

Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty are relatively new techniques used to treat painful vertebral compression fractures (VCFs). Vertebroplasty is the injection of bone cement, generally polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), into a vertebral body (VB). Kyphoplasty is the placement of balloons (called “tamps”) into the VB, followed by an inflation/deflation sequence to create a cavity prior to the cement injection. These procedures are most often performed in a percutaneous fashion on an outpatient (or short stay) basis. The mechanism of action is unknown, but it is postulated that stabilization of the fracture leads to analgesia. The procedures are indicated for painful VCFs due to osteoporosis or malignancy, and for painful hemangiomas. These procedures may be efficacious in treating painful vertebral metastasis and traumatic VCFs. Much evidence favors the use of these procedures for pain associated with the aforementioned disorders. The risks associated with the procedures are low but serious complications can occur. These risks include spinal cord compression, nerve root compression, venous embolism, and pulmonary embolism including cardiovascular collapse. The risk/benefit ratio appears to be favorable in carefully selected patients. The technical aspects of the procedures are presented in detail along with guidelines for patient selection. A comprehensive review of the evidence for the procedures and the reported complications is presented.

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Stephen J. Hentschel, Ehud Mendel, Sanjay Singh and Laurence D. Rhines

✓ Despite the relatively high incidence of prostate carcinoma involving the spinal column, those that are associated with spinal intradural extramedullary metastases are rare. The role of surgery for metastases to this spinal compartment is limited and palliative because presentation tends to be late in the course of the disease, particularly for prostate carcinoma. It is also considered to be part of the spectrum of leptomeningeal carcinomatosis and is associated with a high incidence of brain metastases. The authors review a rare case of prostate carcinoma metastatic to the spinal intradural extramedullary space and discuss its clinical presentation, imaging features, and surgical management.

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Robert J. Bohinski, Ehud Mendel, Kenneth D. Aldape and Laurence D. Rhines

✓ Solitary fibrous tumor is a spindle cell tumor deriving from mesenchymal cells that arises most commonly in the pleura. Only very recently has this tumor been reported in the spine. A solitary fibrous tumor strongly resembles other spindle cell neoplasms of the spine and may be an unrecognized entity if not routinely considered in the differential diagnosis of spinal neoplasms. The authors report an unusual intra- and extramedullary location for a solitary fibrous tumor of the cervical spine. Findings in this case and a comprehensive review of the literature indicate that solitary fibrous tumors can originate from various spinal anatomical substrates and mimic both intra- and extramedullary tumor types.

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Stephen J. Hentschel, Allen W. Burton, Daryl R. Fourney, Laurence D. Rhines and Ehud Mendel

Object. The purpose of this study was to examine a group of patients with cancer who underwent a vertebroplasty or a kyphoplasty for a vertebral body (VB) fracture, even though the procedure may have been considered contraindicated based on previous reports in the literature.

Methods. The electronic database maintained by the Departments of Neurosurgery and Anesthesiology—Pain Management at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center was searched for patients who underwent vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty between January 2001 and July 2003. The criteria defining a contraindicated procedure were based on a review of the literature. Group I consisted of patients who did not undergo a contraindicated vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty, whereas Group II consisted of patients who underwent one of these procedures even though it may have been considered contraindicated.

There were 53 patients with fractures at 132 levels who met the criteria for the study. Of these, 17 patients with fractures at 18 levels (14% of total) were considered to have undergone a contraindicated vertebroplasty or kyphoplasty (Group II). There were 12 complications (11%) in the 114 levels in Group I and seven complications (39%) in the 18 levels in Group II (p = 0.03). The most common complication was cement extrusion from the anterior VB that did not involve the venous system. No patient required an open surgical procedure to remove extruded cement.

Conclusions. Vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty appear to be safe and effective in the setting of severe back pain caused by VB fracture that is unresponsive to other therapies, even in the presence of relative contraindications to the procedures.

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Ganesh Rao, Chul S. Ha, Indro Chakrabarti, Iman Feiz-Erfan, Ehud Mendel and Laurence D. Rhines


Metastases of multiple myeloma often occur in the cervical spine. These metastases may cause pain and associated spinal instability. The authors report the results of radiotherapy and surgical treatment for myeloma involving the cervical spine. The results of radiation therapy for multiple myeloma metastases to the cervical spine that cause clinical or radiographically documented instability have not been reported previously.


A retrospective chart review of patients with multiple myeloma metastases to the cervical spine was undertaken. Between 1993 and 2005, 35 patients were treated with external-beam radiation and/or surgical stabilization at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. Nineteen of 20 patients with sufficient follow-up data experienced resolution of their pain when treated with radiation without surgical intervention. Twenty-three patients had evidence of spinal instability on radiographic images; 15 of these were treated with radiation alone. Of these, 10 had sufficient follow-up data, and none showed any clinical progression of instability. Radiographic follow-up images demonstrated an arrest of further progression of instability and, in some cases, healing of pathological fractures by means of radiation alone.


The results of this series suggest that, in selected cases, external-beam radiation for multiple myeloma metastases to the cervical spine is an effective palliative treatment, even in cases involving clinical or radiographically documented instability.

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Christopher M. McPherson, Dima Suki, Ian E. McCutcheon, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Laurence D. Rhines and Ehud Mendel


Metastastic lesions have been reported in 5 to 40% of patients with spinal and sacrococcygeal chordoma, but few contemporary series of chordoma metastastic disease exist in the literature. Additionally, the outcome in patients with chordoma-induced metastastic neoplasms remains unclear. The authors performed a retrospective review of the neurosurgery database at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to determine the incidence of metastatic disease in a contemporary series of spinal and sacrococcygeal chordoma as well as to determine the outcomes.


Thirty-seven patients underwent surgery for spinal and sacrococcygeal chordoma between June 1, 1993, and March 31, 2004. All records were reviewed, and appropriate statistical analyses were used to compare patient data for preoperative characteristics, treatments, and outcomes.

The authors identified seven patients (19%) in whom metastatic disease developed; in three the disease had metastasized to the lungs only, in two to the lungs and liver, and in two to distant locations in the spine. There were no significant differences in age, sex, tumor location, or history of radiation treatments between patients with and those without metastases. In cases with local recurrent tumors, metastastic disease was more likely to develop than in those without recurrence (28 compared with 0%, respectively; p = 0.07). In two (12%) of 17 patients who underwent en bloc resection, metastatic disease developed, whereas it developed in five (25%) of 20 patients treated by curettage (p = 0.42). The median time from first surgery to the appearance of metastatic disease, as calculated using the Kaplan–Meier method, was 143.4 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 66.8–219.9). The median survival duration of patients with metastatic disease after the first surgery was 106 months (95% CI 55.7–155.7), and this did not differ significantly from that in patients in whom no metastases developed (p = 0.93).


Spinal chordoma metastasized to other locations in 19% of the patients in this series. In patients with local disease recurrence, metastatic lesions are more likely to develop. Metastatic lesions were shown to be aggressive in some cases. Surgery and chemotherapy can play a role in controlling metastatic disease.

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Indro Chakrabarti, Allen W. Burton, Ganesh Rao, Iman Feiz-Erfan, Roman Hlatky, Laurence D. Rhines and Ehud Mendel

✓ The authors report the use of percutaneous transpedicular vertebroplasty performed using polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) in two patients. These men (53 and 57 years old) had previously undergone open surgery and posterior instrumentation to treat myelomatous compression fractures. Both patients presented with acute back pain that manifested after minor activities. Kyphotic wedge fractures were diagnosed at T-11 in one case and at L-1 in the other. Both patients were treated at other hospitals with laminectomy and instrumented fusion; multiple myeloma was diagnosed after surgery. The patients experienced severe, recalcitrant, and progressive pain; on referral, they were found to have persistent kyphosis. Multiple myelomatous lesions of the spine were seen in one case and in the other the L-1 fracture represented the only site of disease. Percutaneous vertebroplasty was performed by injecting PMMA into the anterior third of the compressed vertebral body. Both patients experienced a 50% reduction in pain immediately after treatment; 3 months later both were walking and reported minimal back pain while undergoing treatment for multiple myeloma. Three years after surgery one patient reported no back pain and no progressive instability of the spine. Four years after surgery the other patient remains pain free, ambulatory, and with overall disease remission.

Percutaneous vertebroplasty provided effective analgesia in these two patients with progressive back pain despite posterior stabilization. In both cases, the anterior column was effectively stabilized. A much larger operative intervention with its attendant risks of morbidity was avoided. In addition, subsequent aggressive medical treatment was well tolerated.

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Iman Feiz-Erfan, Benjamin D. Fox, Remi Nader, Dima Suki, Indro Chakrabarti, Ehud Mendel, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Ganesh Rao and Laurence D. Rhines


Hematogenous metastases to the sacrum can produce significant pain and lead to spinal instability. The object of this study was to evaluate the palliative benefit of surgery in patients with these metastases.


The authors retrospectively reviewed all cases involving patients undergoing surgery for metastatic disease to the sacrum at a single tertiary cancer center between 1993 and 2005.


Twenty-five patients (21 men, 4 women) were identified as having undergone sacral surgery for hematogenous metastatic disease during the study period. Their median age was 57 years (range 25–71 years). The indications for surgery included palliation of pain (in 24 cases), need for diagnosis (in 1 case), and spinal instability (in 3 cases). The most common primary disease was renal cell carcinoma.

Complications occurred in 10 patients (40%). The median overall survival was 11 months (95% CI 5.4–16.6 months). The median time from the initial diagnosis to the diagnosis of metastatic disease in the sacrum was 14 months (95% CI 0.0–29.3 months). The numerical pain scores (scale 0–10) were improved from a median of 8 preoperatively to a median of 3 postoperatively at 90 days, 6 months, and 1 year (p < 0.01). Postoperative modified Frankel grades improved in 8 cases, worsened in 3 (due to disease progression), and remained unchanged in 14 (p = 0.19). Among patients with renal cell carcinoma, the median overall survival was better in those in whom the sacrum was the sole site of metastatic disease than in those with multiple sites of metastatic disease (16 vs 9 months, respectively; p = 0.053).


Surgery is effective to palliate pain with acceptable morbidity in patients with metastatic disease to the sacrum. In the subgroup of patients with renal cell carcinoma, those with the sacrum as their solitary site of metastatic disease demonstrated improved survival.

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Tony Goldschlager, Nicolas Dea, Michael Boyd, Jeremy Reynolds, Shreyaskumar Patel, Laurence D. Rhines, Ehud Mendel, Marina Pacheco, Edwin Ramos, Tobias A. Mattei and Charles G. Fisher


Giant cell tumors (GCTs) of the spine are rare and complex to treat. They have a propensity for local recurrence and the potential to metastasize. Treatment is currently surgical and presents unique challenges due to the proximity of neural structures and the need for reconstruction. Denosumab has been shown in clinical trials to be an effective treatment for GCT, but has not yet been studied specifically in GCT of the spine or as a surgical adjunct. To the authors' knowledge this is the first such reported series.


A multicenter, prospective series of 5 patients with GCT of the spine treated with denosumab were included. Patient demographic data, oncological history, neurological status, tumor staging, treatment details and adverse events, surgical procedure, complications, radiological and histological responses, and patient outcome were analyzed.


All patients were women, with a mean age of 38 years, and presented with pain; 2 patients had additional neurological signs and symptoms. The mean duration of symptoms was 62 weeks. No patient had a prior tumor or metastatic disease at presentation. All patients had Enneking Stage III tumors and were treated with monthly cycles of 120 mg of denosumab, with initial additional loading doses on Days 8 and 15. Patients were given daily supplements of calcium (500 mg) and vitamin D (400 IU). There were no denosumab-related adverse events. All patients had a radiological response to denosumab. One patient failed to have a histological response to denosumab, with > 90% of tumor cells found to be viable on histological investigation.


This study reports the early experience of using denosumab in the treatment of spinal GCT. The results demonstrate a clinically beneficial radiological response and an impressive histological response in most but not all patients. Further experience with denosumab and longer patient follow-up is required. Denosumab has the potential to change the treatment paradigm for spinal GCT.