Scott L. Parker, Risheng Xu, Matthew J. McGirt, Timothy F. Witham, Donlin M. Long and Ali Bydon
The most common spinal procedure performed in the US is lumbar discectomy for disc herniation. Longterm disc degeneration and height loss occur in many patients after lumbar discectomy. The incidence of mechanical back pain following discectomy varies widely in the literature, and its associated health care costs are unknown. The authors set out to determine the incidence of and the health care costs associated with mechanical back pain attributed to segmental degeneration or instability at the level of a prior discectomy performed at their institution.
The authors retrospectively reviewed the data for 111 patients who underwent primary, single-level lumbar hemilaminotomy and discectomy for radiculopathy. All diagnostic modalities, conservative therapies, and operative treatments used for the management of postdiscectomy back pain were recorded. Institutional billing and accounting records were reviewed to determine the billed costs of all diagnostic and therapeutic measures.
At a mean follow-up of 37.3 months after primary discectomy, 75 patients (68%) experienced minimal to no back pain, 26 (23%) had moderate back pain requiring conservative treatment only, and 10 (9%) suffered severe back pain that required a subsequent fusion surgery at the site of the primary discectomy. The mean cost per patient for conservative treatment alone was $4696. The mean cost per patient for operative treatment was $42,554. The estimated cost of treatment for mechanical back pain associated with postoperative same-level degeneration or instability was $493,383 per 100 cases of first-time, single-level lumbar discectomy ($4934 per primary discectomy).
Postoperative mechanical back pain associated with same-level degeneration is not uncommon in patients undergoing single-level lumbar discectomy and is associated with substantial health care costs.
Scott L. Parker, Anubhav G. Amin, S. Harrison Farber, Matthew J. McGirt, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Timothy F. Witham
Pedicle screws provide efficient stabilization along all 3 columns of the spine, but they can be technically demanding to place, with malposition rates ranging from 5% to 10%. Intraoperative electromyographic (EMG) monitoring has the capacity to objectively identify a screw breaching the medial pedicle cortex that is in proximity to a nerve root. The purpose of this study is to describe and evaluate the authors' 7-year institutional experience with intraoperative EMG monitoring during placement of lumbar pedicle screws and to determine the clinical utility of intraoperative EMG monitoring.
The authors retrospectively studied 2450 consecutive lumbar pedicle screws placed in 418 patients from June 2002 through June 2009. All screws were inserted using a free-hand technique and anatomical landmarks, stimulated at 10.0 mA, and evaluated with CT scanning within 48 hours postoperatively. Medial pedicle screw breach was defined as having greater than 25% of the screw diameter extend outside of the pedicle, as confirmed on CT scanning or intraoperatively by a positive EMG response indicating a medial breach. The sensitivity and specificity of intraoperative EMG monitoring in detecting the presence of a medial screw breach was evaluated based on the following definitions: 1) true positive (a positive response to EMG stimulation confirmed as a breach intraoperatively or on postoperative CT scans); 2) false positive (positive response to EMG stimulation confirmed as a correctly positioned screw on postoperative CT scans); 3) true negative (no response to EMG stimulation confirmed as a correctly positioned screw on postoperative CT scans); or 4) false negative (no response to EMG stimulation but confirmed as a breach on postoperative CT scans).
One hundred fifteen pedicle screws (4.7%) showed positive stimulation during intraoperative EMG monitoring. At stimulation thresholds less than 5.0, 5.0–8.0, and > 8.0 mA, the specificity of a positive response was 99.9%, 97.9%, and 95.9%, respectively. The sensitivity of a positive response at these thresholds was only 43.4%, 69.6%, and 69.6%, respectively. At a threshold less than 5.0 mA, 91% of screws with a positive EMG response were confirmed as true medial breaches. However, at thresholds of 5.0–8.0 mA or greater than 8.0 mA, a positive EMG response was associated with 89% and 100% false positives (no breaches), respectively.
When using intraoperative EMG monitoring, a positive response at screw stimulation thresholds less than 5.0 mA was highly specific for a medial pedicle screw breach but was poorly sensitive. A positive response to stimulation thresholds greater 5.0 mA was associated with a very high rate of false positives. The authors' experience suggests that pedicle screws showing positive stimulation below 5.0 mA warrants intraoperative investigation for malpositioning while responses at higher thresholds are less reliable at accurately representing a medial breach.
2010 AANS Annual Meeting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 1–5, 2010