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Marjan Alimi, Christoph P. Hofstetter, Guang-Ting Cong, Apostolos John Tsiouris, Andrew R. James, Danika Paulo, Eric Elowitz and Roger Härtl

Object

Extreme lateral interbody fusion (ELIF) is a popular technique for anterior fixation of the thoracolumbar spine. Clinical and radiological outcome studies are required to assess safety and efficacy. The aim of this study was to describe the functional and radiological impact of ELIF in a degenerative disc disease population with a longer follow-up and to assess the durability of this procedure.

Methods

Demographic and perioperative data for all patients who had undergone ELIF for degenerative lumbar disorders between 2007 and 2011 were collected. Trauma and tumor cases were excluded. For radiological outcome, the preoperative, immediate postoperative, and latest follow-up coronal Cobb angle, lumbar sagittal lordosis, bilateral foraminal heights, and disc heights were measured. Pelvic incidence (PI) and PI–lumbar lordosis (PI-LL) mismatch were assessed in scoliotic patients. Clinical outcome was evaluated using the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and visual analog scale (VAS), as well as the Macnab criteria.

Results

One hundred forty-five vertebral levels were surgically treated in 90 patients. Pedicle screw and rod constructs and lateral plates were used to stabilize fixation in 77% and 13% of cases, respectively. Ten percent of cases involved stand-alone cages. At an average radiological follow-up of 12.6 months, the coronal Cobb angle was 10.6° compared with 23.8° preoperatively (p < 0.0001). Lumbar sagittal lordosis increased by 5.3° postoperatively (p < 0.0001) and by 2.9° at the latest follow-up (p = 0.014). Foraminal height and disc height increased by 4 mm (p < 0.0001) and 3.3 mm (p < 0.0001), respectively, immediately after surgery and remained significantly improved at the last follow-up. Separate evaluation of scoliotic patients showed no statistically significant improvement in PI and PI-LL mismatch either immediately postoperatively or at the latest follow-up. Clinical evaluation at an average follow-up of 17.6 months revealed an improvement in the ODI and the VAS scores for back, buttock, and leg pain by 21.1% and 3.7, 3.6, and 3.7 points, respectively (p < 0.0001). According to the Macnab criteria, 84.8% of patients had an excellent, good, or fair functional outcome. New postoperative thigh numbness and weakness was detected in 4.4% and 2.2% of the patients, respectively, which resolved within the first 3 months after surgery in all but 1 case.

Conclusions

This study provides what is to the authors' knowledge the most comprehensive set of radiological and clinical outcomes of ELIF in a fairly large population at a midterm follow-up. Extreme lateral interbody fusion showed good clinical outcomes with a low complication rate. The procedure allows for at least midterm clinically effective restoration of disc and foraminal heights. Improvement in coronal deformity and a small but significant increase in sagittal lordosis were observed. Nonetheless, no significant improvement in the PI-LL mismatch was achieved in scoliotic patients.

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Jennifer A. Moliterno, Jared Knopman, Karishma Parikh, Jessica N. Cohan, Q. Daisy Huang, Grant D. Aaker, Anastasia D. Grivoyannis, Ashwin R. Patel, Roger Härtl and John A. Boockvar

Object

The use of minimally invasive surgical techniques, including microscope-assisted tubular lumbar microdiscectomy (tLMD), has gained increasing popularity in treating lumbar disc herniations (LDHs). This particular procedure has been shown to be both cost-efficient and effective, resulting in outcomes comparable to those of open surgical procedures. Lumbar disc herniation recurrence necessitating reoperation, however, remains an issue following spinal surgery, with an overall reported incidence of approximately 3–13%. The authors' aim in the present study was to report their experience using tLMD for single-level LDH, hoping to provide further insight into the rate of surgical recurrence and to identify potential risk factors leading to this complication.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed the cases of 217 patients who underwent tLMD for single-level LDH performed identically by 2 surgeons (J.B., R.H.) between 2004 and 2008. Evaluation for LDH recurrence included detailed medical chart review and telephone interview. Recurrent LDH was defined as the return of preoperative signs and symptoms after an interval of postoperative resolution, in conjunction with radiographic demonstration of ipsilateral disc herniation at the same level and pathological confirmation of disc material. A cohort of patients without recurrence was used for comparison to identify possible risk factors for recurrent LDH.

Results

Of the 147 patients for whom the authors were able to definitively assess symptomatic recurrence status, 14 patients (9.5%) experienced LDH recurrence following single-level tLMD. The most common level involved was L5–S1 (42.9%) and the mean length of time to recurrence was 12 weeks (range 1.5–52 weeks). Sixty-four percent of the patients were male. In a comparison with patients without recurrence, the authors found that relatively lower body mass index was significantly associated with recurrence (p = 0.005), such that LDH in nonobese patients was more likely to recur.

Conclusions

Recurrence rates following tLMD for LDH compare favorably with those in patients who have undergone open discectomy, lending further support for its effectiveness in treating single-level LDH. Nonobese patients with a relatively lower body mass index, in particular, appear to be at greater risk for recurrence.

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Dean Chou, Adolfo Espinoza Larios, Robert H. Chamberlain, Mary S. Fifield, Roger Hartl, Curtis A. Dickman, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Neil R. Crawford

Object

A flexibility experiment using human cadaveric thoracic spine specimens was performed to determine biomechanical differences among thoracolumbar two-screw plate, single-screw plate, and dual-rod systems. A secondary goal was to investigate differences in the ability of the systems to stabilize the spine after a one- or two-level corpectomy.

Methods

The authors evaluated 21 cadaveric spines implanted with a titanium mesh cage and three types of anterior thoracolumbar supplementary instrumentation after one-level thoracic corpectomies. Pure moments were applied quasistatically while three-dimensional motion was measured optoelectronically. The lax zone, stiff zone, and range of motion (ROM) were measured during flexion, extension, left and right lateral bending, and left and right axial rotation. Corpectomies were expanded to two levels, and testing was repeated with longer hardware.

Biomechanical testing showed that the single-bolt plate system was no different from the dual-rod system with two screws in limiting ROM. The single-bolt plate system performed slightly better than the two-screw plate system. Across the same two levels, there was an average of 19% more motion after a two-level corpectomy than after a one-level corpectomy. In general, however, the difference across the different loading modes was insignificant.

Conclusions

Biomechanically, the single-screw plate system is equivalent to a two-screw dual-rod and a two-screw plate system. All three systems performed similarly in stabilizing the spine after one- or two-level corpectomies.

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Harminder Singh, Sarang Rote, Ajit Jada, Evan D. Bander, Gustavo J. Almodovar-Mercado, Walid I. Essayed, Roger Härtl, Vijay K. Anand, Theodore H. Schwartz and Jeffrey P. Greenfield

The authors present 4 cases in which they used intraoperative CT (iCT) scanning to provide real-time image guidance during endonasal odontoid resection. While intraoperative CT has previously been used as a confirmatory test after resection, to the authors’ knowledge this is the first time it has been used to provide real-time image guidance during endonasal odontoid resection. The operating room setup, as well as the advantages and pitfalls of this approach, are discussed. A mobile intraoperative CT scanner was used in conjunction with real-time craniospinal neuronavigation in 4 patients who underwent endoscopic endonasal odontoidectomy for basilar invagination. All patients underwent a successful decompression. In 3 of the 4 patients, real-time intraoperative CT image guidance was instrumental in achieving a comprehensive decompression. In 3 (75%) cases in which the right nostril was the predominant working channel, there was a tendency for asymmetrical decompression toward the right side, meaning that residual bone was seen on the left, which was subsequently removed prior to completion of the surgery.

Endoscopic endonasal odontoid resection with real-time intraoperative image-guided CT scanning is feasible and provides accurate intraoperative localization of pathology, thereby increasing the chance of a complete odontoidectomy. For right-handed surgeons operating predominantly through the right nostril, special attention should be paid to the contralateral side of the resection, where there is often a tendency for residual pathology.

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Innocent Njoku Jr., Marjan Alimi, Lewis Z. Leng, Benjamin J. Shin, Andrew R. James, Sandeep Bhangoo, Apostolos John Tsiouris and Roger Härtl

Object

Anterior cervical plating decreases the risk of pseudarthrosis following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). Dysphagia is a common complication of ACDF, with the anterior plate implicated as a potential contributor. A zero-profile, stand-alone polyetheretherketone (PEEK) interbody spacer has been postulated to minimize soft-tissue irritation and postoperative dysphagia, but studies are limited. The object of the present study was to determine the clinical and radiological outcomes for patients who underwent ACDF using a zero-profile integrated plate and spacer device, with a focus on the course of postoperative prevertebral soft-tissue thickness and the incidence of dysphagia.

Methods

Using a surgical database, the authors conducted a retrospective analysis of all patients who had undergone ACDF between August 2008 and October 2011. All patients received a Zero-P implant (DePuy Synthes Spine). The Neck Disability Index (NDI) and visual analog scale (VAS) scores for arm and neck pain were documented. Dysphagia was determined using the Bazaz criteria. Prevertebral soft-tissue thickness, spinal alignment, and subsidence were assessed as well.

Results

Twenty-two male and 19 female consecutive patients, with a mean age of 58.4 ± 14.68, underwent ACDF (66 total operated levels) in the defined study period. The mean clinical follow-up in 36 patients was 18.6 ± 9.93 months. Radiological outcome in 37 patients was assessed at a mean follow-up of 9.76 months (range 7.2–19.7 months). There were significant improvements in neck and arm VAS scores and the NDI following surgery. The neck VAS score improved from a median of 6 (range 0–10) to 0 (range 0–8; p < 0.001). The arm VAS score improved from a median of 2 (range 0–10) to 0 (range 0–7; p = 0.006). Immediate postoperative dysphagia was experienced by 58.4% of all patients. Complete resolution was demonstrated in 87.8% of affected patients at the latest follow-up. The overall median Bazaz score decreased from 1 (range 0–3) immediately postoperatively to 0 (range 0–2; p < 0.001) at the latest follow-up. Prevertebral soft-tissue thickness significantly decreased across all levels from a mean of 15.8 ± 4.38 mm to 10.1 ± 2.93 mm. Postoperative lordosis was maintained at the latest follow-up. Mean subsidence from the immediate postoperative to the latest follow-up was 4.1 ± 4.7 mm (p < 0.001). Radiographic fusion was achieved in 92.6% of implants. No correlation was found between prevertebral soft-tissue thickness and Bazaz dysphagia score.

Conclusions

A zero-profile integrated plate and spacer device for ACDF surgery produces clinical and radiological outcomes that are comparable to those for nonintegrated plate and spacer constructs. Chronic dysphagia rates are comparable to or better than those for previously published case series.

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Andreas Leidinger, Eliana E. Kim, Rodrigo Navarro-Ramirez, Nicephorus Rutabasibwa, Salim R. Msuya, Gulce Askin, Raphael Greving, Hamisi K. Shabani and Roger Härtl

OBJECTIVE

Spinal trauma is a major cause of disability worldwide. The burden is especially severe in low-income countries, where hospital infrastructure is poor, resources are limited, and the volume of cases is high. Currently, there are no reliable data available on incidence, management, and outcomes of spinal trauma in East Africa. The main objective of this study was to describe, for the first time, the demographics, management, costs of surgery and implants, treatment decision factors, and outcomes of patients with spine trauma in Tanzania.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed prospectively collected data on spinal trauma patients in the single surgical referral center in Tanzania (Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute [MOI]) from October 2016 to December 2017. They collected general demographics and the following information: distance from site of trauma to the center, American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS), time to surgery, steroid use, and mechanism of trauma and AOSpine classification and costs. Surgical details and complications were recorded. Primary outcome was neurological status on discharge. The authors analyzed surgical outcome and determined predicting factors for positive outcome.

RESULTS

A total of 180 patients were included and analyzed in this study. The mean distance from site of trauma to MOI was 278.0 km, and the time to admission was on average 5.9 days after trauma. Young males were primarily affected (82.8% males, average age 35.7 years). On admission, 47.2% of patients presented with AIS grade A. Most common mechanisms of injury were motor vehicle accidents (28.9%) and falls from height (32.8%). Forty percent of admitted patients underwent surgery. The mean time to surgery was 33.2 days; 21.4% of patients who underwent surgery improved in AIS grade at discharge (p = 0.030). Overall, the only factor associated with improvement in neurological status was undergoing surgery (p = 0.03) and shorter time to surgery (p = 0.02).

CONCLUSIONS

This is the first study to describe the management and outcomes of spinal trauma in East Africa. Due to the lack of referral hospitals, patients are admitted late after trauma, often with severe neurological deficit. Surgery is performed but generally late in the course of hospital stay. The decision to perform surgery and timing are heavily influenced by the availability of implants and economic factors such as insurance status. Patients with incomplete deficits who may benefit most from surgery are not prioritized. The authors’ results suggest that surgery may have a positive impact on patient outcome. Further studies with a larger sample size are needed to confirm our results. These results provide strong support to implement evidence-based protocols for the management of spinal trauma.

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Sumit N. Niogi, Neal Luther, Kenneth Kutner, Teena Shetty, Heather J. McCrea, Ronnie Barnes, Leigh Weiss, Russell F. Warren, Scott A. Rodeo, Robert D. Zimmerman, Apostolos John Tsiouris and Roger Härtl

OBJECTIVE

Statistical challenges exist when using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to assess traumatic axonal injury (TAI) in individual concussed athletes. The authors examined active professional American football players over a 6-year time period to study potential TAI after concussion and assess optimal methods to analyze DTI at the individual level.

METHODS

Active American professional football players recruited prospectively were assessed with DTI, conventional MRI, and standard clinical workup. Subjects underwent an optional preseason baseline scan and were asked to undergo a scan within 5 days of concussion during gameplay. DTI from 25 age- and sex-matched controls were obtained. Both semiautomated region-of-interest analysis and fully automated tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) were used to examine DTI at individual and group levels. Statistical differences were assessed comparing individual DTI data to baseline imaging versus a normative database. Group-level comparisons were also performed to determine if longer exposure to professional-level play or prior concussion cause white matter microstructural integrity changes.

RESULTS

Forty-nine active professional football players were recruited into the study. Of the 49 players, 7 were assessed at baseline during the preseason and after acute concussion. An additional 18 players were assessed after acute concussion only. An additional 24 players had only preseason baseline assessments. The results suggest DTI is more sensitive to suspected TAI than conventional MRI, given that 4 players demonstrated decreased fractional anisotropy (FA) in multiple tracts despite normal conventional MRI. Furthermore, the data suggest individual assessment of DTI data using baseline premorbid imaging is more sensitive than typical methods of comparing data to a normative control group. Among all subjects with baseline data, 1 reduced FA tract (± 2.5 standard deviations) was found using the typical normative database reference versus 10 statistically significant (p < 0.05) reduced FA tracts when referencing internal control baseline data. All group-level comparisons were statistically insignificant (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

Baseline premorbid DTI data for individual DTI analysis provides increased statistical sensitivity. Specificity using baseline imaging also increases because numerous potential etiologies for reduced FA may exist prior to a concussion. These data suggest that there is a high potential for false-positive and false-negative assessment of DTI data using typical methods of comparing an individual to normative groups given the variability of FA values in the normal population.

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Peter Grunert, Harry H. Gebhard, Robby D. Bowles, Andrew R. James, Hollis G. Potter, Michael Macielak, Katherine D. Hudson, Marjan Alimi, Douglas J. Ballon, Eric Aronowitz, Apostolos John Tsiouris, Lawrence J. Bonassar and Roger Härtl

Object

Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs (TE-IVDs) represent a new experimental approach for the treatment of degenerative disc disease. Compared with mechanical implants, TE-IVDs may better mimic the properties of native discs. The authors conducted a study to evaluate the outcome of TE-IVDs implanted into the rat-tail spine using radiological parameters and histology.

Methods

Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs consist of a distinct nucleus pulposus (NP) and anulus fibrosus (AF) that are engineered in vitro from sheep IVD chondrocytes. In 10 athymic rats a discectomy in the caudal spine was performed. The discs were replaced with TE-IVDs. Animals were kept alive for 8 months and were killed for histological evaluation. At 1, 5, and 8 months, MR images were obtained; T1-weighted sequences were used for disc height measurements, and T2-weighted sequences were used for morphological analysis. Quantitative T2 relaxation time analysis was used to assess the water content and T1ρ-relaxation time to assess the proteoglycan content of TE-IVDs.

Results

Disc height of the transplanted segments remained constant between 68% and 74% of healthy discs. Examination of TE-IVDs on MR images revealed morphology similar to that of native discs. T2-relaxation time did not differ between implanted and healthy discs, indicating similar water content of the NP tissue. The size of the NP decreased in TE-IVDs. Proteoglycan content in the NP was lower than it was in control discs. Ossification of the implanted segment was not observed. Histological examination revealed an AF consisting of an organized parallel-aligned fiber structure. The NP matrix appeared amorphous and contained cells that resembled chondrocytes.

Conclusions

The TE-IVDs remained viable over 8 months in vivo and maintained a structure similar to that of native discs. Tissue-engineered intervertebral discs should be explored further as an option for the potential treatment of degenerative disc disease.