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Faheem A. Sandhu and Richard G. Fessler

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Marc Moisi, Christian Fisahn, Lara Tkachenko, Shiveindra Jeyamohan, Stephen Reintjes, Peter Grunert, Daniel C. Norvell, R. Shane Tubbs, Jeni Page, David W. Newell, Peter Nora, Rod J. Oskouian and Jens Chapman

OBJECTIVE

Posterior atlantoaxial stabilization and fusion using C-1 lateral mass screw fixation has become commonly used in the treatment of instability and for reconstructive indications since its introduction by Goel and Laheri in 1994 and modification by Harms in 2001. Placement of such lateral mass screws can be challenging because of the proximity to the spinal cord, vertebral artery, an extensive venous plexus, and the C-2 nerve root, which overlies the designated starting point on the posterior center of the lateral mass. An alternative posterior access point starting on the posterior arch of C-1 could provide a C-2 nerve root–sparing starting point for screw placement, with the potential benefit of greater directional control and simpler trajectory. The authors present a cadaveric study comparing an alternative strategy (i.e., a C-1 screw with a posterior arch starting point) to the conventional strategy (i.e., using the lower lateral mass entry site), specifically assessing the safety of screw placement to preserve the C-2 nerve root.

METHODS

Five US-trained spine fellows instrumented 17 fresh human cadaveric heads using the Goel/Harms C-1 lateral mass (GHLM) technique on the left and the posterior arch lateral mass (PALM) technique on the right, under fluoroscopic guidance. After screw placement, a CT scan was obtained on each specimen to assess for radiographic screw placement accuracy. Four faculty spine surgeons, blinded to the surgeon who instrumented the cadaver, independently graded the quality of screw placement using a modified Upendra classification.

RESULTS

Of the 17 specimens, the C-2 nerve root was anatomically impinged in 13 (76.5%) of the specimens. The GHLM technique was graded Type 1 or 2, which is considered “acceptable,” in 12 specimens (70.6%), and graded Type 3 or 4 (“unacceptable”) in 5 specimens (29.4%). In contrast, the PALM technique had 17 (100%) of 17 graded Type 1 or 2 (p = 0.015). There were no vertebral artery injuries found in either technique. All screw violations occurred in the medial direction.

CONCLUSIONS

The PALM technique showed statistically fewer medial penetrations than the GHLM technique in this study. The reason for this is not clear, but may stem from a more angulated ”up-and-in” screw direction necessary with a lower starting point.

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Dominic Maggio, Tamir T. Ailon, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Regis W. Haid Jr., Themistocles Protopsaltis, Eric Klineberg, Justin K. Scheer, Shay Bess, Paul M. Arnold, Jens Chapman, Michael G. Fehlings, Christopher Ames, AOSpine North America and International Spine Study Group

OBJECT

The associations among global spinal alignment, patient-reported disability, and surgical outcomes have increasingly gained attention. The assessment of global spinal alignment requires standing long-cassette anteroposterior and lateral radiographs; however, spine surgeons routinely rely only on short-segment imaging when evaluating seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. This may prohibit adequate surgical planning and may predispose surgeons to not recognize associated pathology in the thoracic spine and sagittal spinopelvic malalignment. The authors used a case-based survey questionnaire to evaluate if including long-cassette radiographs led to changes to respondents' operative plans as compared with their chosen plan when cases contained standard imaging of the involved lumbar spine only.

METHODS

A case-based survey was distributed to AOSpine International members that consisted of 15 cases of lumbar spine pathology and lumbar imaging only. The same 15 cases were then shuffled and presented a second time with additional long-cassette radiographs. Each case required participants to select a single operative plan with 5 choices ranging from least to most extensive. The cases included 5 “control” cases with normal global spinal alignment and 10 “test” cases with significant sagittal and/or coronal malalignment. Mean scores were determined for each question with higher scores representing more invasive and/or extensive operative plans.

RESULTS

Of 712 spine surgeons who started the survey, 316 (44%) completed the entire series, including 68% of surgeons with spine fellowship training and representation from more than 40 countries. For test cases, but not for control cases, there were significantly higher average surgical invasiveness scores for cases presented with long-cassette radiographs (4.2) as compared with those cases with lumbar imaging only (3.4; p = 0.002). The addition of long-cassette radiographs resulted in 82.1% of respondents recommending instrumentation up to the thoracic spine, a 23.2% increase as compared with the same cases presented with lumbar imaging only (p = 0.008).

CONCLUSIONS

This study demonstrates the importance of maintaining a low threshold for performing standing long-cassette imaging when assessing seemingly isolated lumbar pathology. Such imaging is necessary for the assessment of spinopelvic and global spinal alignment, which can be important in operative planning. Deformity, particularly positive sagittal malalignment, may go undetected unless one maintains a high index of suspicion and obtains long-cassette radiographs. It is recommended that spine surgeons recognize the prevalence and importance of such deformity when contemplating operative intervention.