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David W. Polly Jr.

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Shah N. Siddiqi and Michael G. Fehlings

✓ Lhermitte-Duclos disease is a rare lesion characterized by enlarged cerebellar folia containing abnormal ganglion cells. This case report describes a 51-year-old woman who was initially misdiagnosed as having adult-onset aqueductal stenosis. There were no abnormal findings on computerized tomography (CT), but subsequent magnetic resonance (MR) imaging showed a midline cerebellar lesion extending to the brain stem. This is a unique case of Lhermitte-Duclos disease arising within the cerebellar vermis. The characteristic feature of an enlarged cerebellar hemisphere is absent on CT scans; thus MR imaging is needed to confirm the diagnosis. If diagnosed late, this generally benign lesion becomes difficult to resect totally and has a poorer prognosis. Only two reports have mentioned the MR imaging characteristics of Lhermitte-Duclos disease; both described only T2-weighted images. This case illustrates the full spectrum of MR imaging features of this disease. Both T1- and T2-weighted studies showed enlarged cerebellar folia within the lesion. The T1-weighted image showed a mixed iso- and hypodense signal and the T2-weighted image a homogeneously increased signal; with gadolinium administration the lesion did not enhance. The latter feature supports the theory that this disease is a hamartoma rather than a tumor.

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W. Bradley Jacobs and Michael G. Fehlings

✓ Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory rheumatic disease that primarily affects the vertebral column and sacroiliac joints. Over time, the disease process promotes extensive remodeling of the spinal axis via ligamentous ossification, vertebral joint fusion, osteoporosis, and kyphosis. These pathological changes result in a weakened vertebral column with increased susceptibility to fractures and spinal cord injury (SCI). Spinal cord injury is often exacerbated by the highly unstable nature of vertebral column fractures in AS. A high incidence of missed fractures in the ankylosed spine as well as an increased incidence of spinal epidural hematoma also worsens the severity of SCI. Spinal cord injury in AS is a complex problem associated with high morbidity and mortality rates, which can be attributed to the severity of the injury, associated medical comorbidities, and the advanced age of most patients with AS who suffer an SCI. In this paper the authors outline the factors that increase the incidence of vertebral column fractures and SCI in AS and discuss the management of SCI in patients with AS. Primary prevention strategies for SCI in patients with AS are outlined as well.

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Charles H. Tator and Michael G. Fehlings

✓ In patients with spinal cord injury, the primary or mechanical trauma seldom causes total transection, even though the functional loss may be complete. In addition, biochemical and pathological changes in the cord may worsen after injury. To explain these phenomena, the concept of the secondary injury has evolved for which numerous pathophysiological mechanisms have been postulated. This paper reviews the concept of secondary injury with special emphasis on vascular mechanisms. Evidence is presented to support the theory of secondary injury and the hypothesis that a key mechanism is posttraumatic ischemia with resultant infarction of the spinal cord. Evidence for the role of vascular mechanisms has been obtained from a variety of models of acute spinal cord injury in several species. Many different angiographic methods have been used for assessing microcirculation of the cord and for measuring spinal cord blood flow after trauma. With these techniques, the major systemic and local vascular effects of acute spinal cord injury have been identified and implicated in the etiology of secondary injury.

The systemic effects of acute spinal cord injury include hypotension and reduced cardiac output. The local effects include loss of autoregulation in the injured segment of the spinal cord and a marked reduction of the microcirculation in both gray and white matter, especially in hemorrhagic regions and in adjacent zones. The microcirculatory loss extends for a considerable distance proximal and distal to the site of injury. Many studies have shown a dose-dependent reduction of spinal cord blood flow varying with the severity of injury, and a reduction of spinal cord blood flow which worsens with time after injury. The functional deficits due to acute spinal cord injury have been measured electrophysiologically with techniques such as motor and somatosensory evoked potentials and have been found proportional to the degree of posttraumatic ischemia. The histological effects include early hemorrhagic necrosis leading to major infarction at the injury site.

These posttraumatic vascular effects can be treated. Systemic normotension can be restored with volume expansion or vasopressors, and spinal cord blood flow can be improved with dopamine, steroids, nimodipine, or volume expansion. The combination of nimodipine and volume expansion improves posttraumatic spinal cord blood flow and spinal cord function measured by evoked potentials. These results provide strong evidence that posttraumatic ischemia is an important secondary mechanism of injury, and that it can be counteracted.

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Michael G. Fehlings, Lindsay Tetreault, Patrick C. Hsieh, Vincent Traynelis and Michael Y. Wang

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Charles H. Tator, Michael Fehlings, Kevin Thorpe and Wayne Taylor

A multicenter retrospective study was performed in 36 participating North American centers to examine the use and timing of surgery in the treatment of acute spinal cord injury (SCI). The study was conducted to obtain information required for the planning of a randomized controlled trial of early compared with late decompressive surgery.

The records of all patients aged 16 to 75 years with acute SCI who were admitted to the 36 centers within 24 hours of injury over a 9-month period (August 1994 to April 1995) were examined to obtain data on admission variables, methods of diagnosis, use of traction, and surgical variables including type and timing of surgery.

A total of 585 patients with acute SCI or cauda equina injury were admitted to these centers, although approximately half were ultimately excluded because they did not meet inclusion criteria. Common causes for exclusion were late admission, age, gunshot wound, and an absence of spinal cord compression demonstrated on imaging studies. Thus, only approximately 50% of acute SCI patients would be eligible for inclusion in a study of acute decompressive procedures. Although 100% of patient underwent computerized tomography (CT) scaning, only 54% underwent magnetic resonance imaging, and CT myelography was performed in only 6%. Complete neurological injuries (American Spinal Injury Association Grade A) were present in 57.8%. Traction was applied in only 47% of patients with cervical injuries, of which only 42% demonstrated successful decompression by traction. Neurological deterioration occurred in 8.1% of patients after traction. Surgery was performed in 65.4% of patients. The timing of surgery varied widely: less than 24 hours in 23.5% of patients; 25 to 48 hours in 15.8%; 48 to 96 hours in 19.0%; and 5 days or longer in 41.7% of patients.

These data indicate that whereas surgery is commonly performed in patients with acute SCI, one-third of the cases are managed nonoperatively, and there is very little agreement on the optimum timing of surgical treatment. The results of this study confirm the need for a randomized controlled trial to determine the optimum timing of surgical decompressive procedures in patients with SCI.

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Aria Nouri, Allan R. Martin, David Mikulis and Michael G. Fehlings

Degenerative cervical myelopathy encompasses a spectrum of age-related structural changes of the cervical spine that result in static and dynamic injury to the spinal cord and collectively represent the most common cause of myelopathy in adults. Although cervical myelopathy is determined clinically, the diagnosis requires confirmation via imaging, and MRI is the preferred modality. Because of the heterogeneity of the condition and evolution of MRI technology, multiple techniques have been developed over the years in an attempt to quantify the degree of baseline severity and potential for neurological recovery. In this review, these techniques are categorized anatomically into those that focus on bone, ligaments, discs, and the spinal cord. In addition, measurements for the cervical spine canal size and sagittal alignment are also described briefly. These tools have resulted collectively in the identification of numerous useful parameters. However, the development of multiple techniques for assessing the same feature, such as cord compression, has also resulted in a number of challenges, including introducing ambiguity in terms of which methods to use and hindering effective comparisons of analysis in the literature. In addition, newer techniques that use advanced MRI are emerging and providing exciting new tools for assessing the spinal cord in patients with degenerative cervical myelopathy.

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George M. Ghobrial, David W. Cadotte, Kim Williams Jr., Michael G. Fehlings and James S. Harrop


The use of intrawound vancomycin is rapidly being adopted for the prevention of surgical site infection (SSI) in spinal surgery. At operative closure, the placement of vancomycin powder in the wound bed—in addition to standard infection prophylaxis—can provide high concentrations of antibiotics with minimal systemic absorption. However, despite its popularity, to date the majority of studies on intrawound vancomycin are retrospective, and there are no prior reports highlighting the risks of routine treatment.


A MEDLINE search for pertinent literature was conducted for studies published between 1966 and May 2015 using the following MeSH search terms: “intrawound vancomycin,” “operative lumbar spine complications,” and “nonoperative lumbar spine complications.” This was supplemented with references and known literature on the topic.


An advanced MEDLINE search conducted on May 6, 2015, using the search string “intrawound vancomycin” found 22 results. After a review of all abstracts for relevance to intrawound vancomycin use in spinal surgery, 10 studies were reviewed in detail. Three meta-analyses were evaluated from the initial search, and 2 clinical studies were identified. After an analysis of all of the identified manuscripts, 3 additional studies were included for a total of 16 studies. Fourteen retrospective studies and 2 prospective studies were identified, resulting in a total of 9721 patients. A total of 6701 (68.9%) patients underwent treatment with intrawound vancomycin. The mean SSI rate among the control and vancomycin-treated patients was 7.47% and 1.36%, respectively. There were a total of 23 adverse events: nephropathy (1 patient), ototoxicity resulting in transient hearing loss (2 patients), systemic absorption resulting in supratherapeutic vancomycin exposure (1 patient), and culture-negative seroma formation (19 patients). The overall adverse event rate for the total number of treated patients was 0.3%.


Intrawound vancomycin use appears to be safe and effective for reducing postoperative SSIs with a low rate of morbidity. Study disparities and limitations in size, patient populations, designs, and outcomes measures contribute significant bias that could not be fully rectified by this systematic review. Moreover, care should be exercised in the use of intrawound vancomycin due to the lack of well-designed, prospective studies that evaluate the efficacy of vancomycin and include the appropriate systems to capture drug-related complications.

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Intraoperative neuromonitoring: an essential component of the neurosurgical and spinal armamentarium

Michael G. Fehlings, David Houlden and Peter Vajkoczy