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Carolyn J. Sparrey, Jeannie F. Bailey, Michael Safaee, Aaron J. Clark, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Justin S. Smith and Christopher P. Ames

The goal of this review is to discuss the mechanisms of postural degeneration, particularly the loss of lumbar lordosis commonly observed in the elderly in the context of evolution, mechanical, and biological studies of the human spine and to synthesize recent research findings to clinical management of postural malalignment. Lumbar lordosis is unique to the human spine and is necessary to facilitate our upright posture. However, decreased lumbar lordosis and increased thoracic kyphosis are hallmarks of an aging human spinal column. The unique upright posture and lordotic lumbar curvature of the human spine suggest that an understanding of the evolution of the human spinal column, and the unique anatomical features that support lumbar lordosis may provide insight into spine health and degeneration. Considering evolution of the skeleton in isolation from other scientific studies provides a limited picture for clinicians. The evolution and development of human lumbar lordosis highlight the interdependence of pelvic structure and lumbar lordosis. Studies of fossils of human lineage demonstrate a convergence on the degree of lumbar lordosis and the number of lumbar vertebrae in modern Homo sapiens. Evolution and spine mechanics research show that lumbar lordosis is dictated by pelvic incidence, spinal musculature, vertebral wedging, and disc health. The evolution, mechanics, and biology research all point to the importance of spinal posture and flexibility in supporting optimal health. However, surgical management of postural deformity has focused on restoring posture at the expense of flexibility. It is possible that the need for complex and costly spinal fixation can be eliminated by developing tools for early identification of patients at risk for postural deformities through patient history (genetics, mechanics, and environmental exposure) and tracking postural changes over time.

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David B. Bumpass, Lawrence G. Lenke, Jeffrey L. Gum, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Justin S. Smith, Christopher P. Ames, Shay Bess, Brian J. Neuman, Eric Klineberg, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Frank Schwab, Virginie Lafage, Han Jo Kim, Douglas C. Burton, Khaled M. Kebaish, Richard Hostin, Renaud Lafage, Michael P. Kelly and for the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Adolescent spine deformity studies have shown that male patients require longer surgery and have greater estimated blood loss (EBL) and complications compared with female patients. No studies exist to support this relationship in adult spinal deformity (ASD). The purpose of this study was to investigate associations between sex and complications, deformity correction, and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) in patients with ASD. It was hypothesized that male ASD patients would have greater EBL, longer surgery, and more complications than female ASD patients.

METHODS

A multicenter ASD cohort was retrospectively queried for patients who underwent primary posterior-only instrumented fusions with a minimum of 5 levels fused. The minimum follow-up was 2 years. Primary outcomes were EBL, operative time, intra-, peri-, and postoperative complications, radiographic correction, and HRQOL outcomes (Oswestry Disability Index, SF-36, and Scoliosis Research Society-22r Questionnaire). Poisson multivariate regression was used to control for age, comorbidities, and levels fused.

RESULTS

Ninety male and 319 female patients met the inclusion criteria. Male patients had significantly greater mean EBL (2373 ml vs 1829 ml, p = 0.01). The mean operative time, transfusion requirements, and final radiographic measurements did not differ between sexes. Similarly, changes in HRQOL showed no significant differences. Finally, there were no sex differences in the incidence of complications (total, major, or minor) at any time point after controlling for age, body mass index, comorbidities, and levels fused.

CONCLUSIONS

Despite higher EBL, male ASD patients did not experience more complications or require less deformity correction at the 2-year follow-up. HRQOL scores similarly showed no sex differences. These findings differ from adolescent deformity studies, and surgeons can counsel patients that sex is unlikely to influence the outcomes and complication rates of primary all-posterior ASD surgery.