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Richard P. Schlenk, Robert J. Kowalski and Edward C. Benzel

The correction of spinal deformity may be achieved by a variety of methods, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. The goals of spinal deformity surgery include reasonable correction of the curvature, prevention of further deformation, improvement of sagittal and coronal balance, optimization of cosmetic issues, and restoration/preservation of function. The failure to consider all these factors appropriately may result in a suboptimal outcome. Understanding fundamental biomechanical principles involved in the formation, progression, and treatment of spinal deformities is essential in the clinical decision-making process.

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James K. C. Liu, Varun R. Kshettry, Pablo F. Recinos, Kambiz Kamian, Richard P. Schlenk and Edward C. Benzel

Surgical education has been forced to evolve from the principles of its initial inception, in part due to external pressures brought about through changes in modern health care. Despite these pressures that can limit the surgical training experience, training programs are being held to higher standards of education to demonstrate and document trainee competency through core competencies and milestones. One of the methods used to augment the surgical training experience and to demonstrate trainee proficiency in technical skills is through a surgical skills laboratory. The authors have established a surgical skills laboratory by acquiring equipment and funding from nondepartmental resources, through institutional and private educational grants, along with product donations from industry. A separate educational curriculum for junior- and senior-level residents was devised and incorporated into the neurosurgical residency curriculum. The initial dissection curriculum focused on cranial approaches, with spine and peripheral nerve approaches added in subsequent years. The dissections were scheduled to maximize the use of cadaveric specimens, experimenting with techniques to best preserve the tissue for repeated uses. A survey of residents who participated in at least 1 year of the curriculum indicated that participation in the surgical skills laboratory translated into improved understanding of anatomical relationships and the development of technical skills that can be applied in the operating room. In addition to supplementing the technical training of surgical residents, a surgical skills laboratory with a dissection curriculum may be able to help provide uniformity of education across different neurosurgical training programs, as well as provide a tool to assess the progression of skills in surgical trainees.

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Matthew J. Grosso, Roy Hwang, Thomas Mroz, Edward Benzel and Michael P. Steinmetz

Object

Reversal of the normal cervical spine curvature, as seen in cervical kyphosis, can lead to mechanical pain, neurological dysfunction, and functional disabilities. Surgical intervention is warranted in patients with sufficiently symptomatic deformities in an attempt to correct the deformed cervical spine. In theory, improved outcomes should accompany a greater degree of correction toward lordosis, although there are few data available to test this relationship. The purpose of this study is to determine if the degree of deformity correction correlates with improvement in neurological symptoms following surgery for cervical kyphotic deformity.

Methods

A retrospective review of 36 patients with myelopathic symptoms who underwent cervical deformity correction surgery between 2001 and 2009 was performed. Preoperative and postoperative radiographic findings related to the degree of kyphosis were collected and compared with functional outcome measures. The minimum follow-up time was 2 years.

Results

A significant relationship was observed between a greater degree of focal kyphosis correction and improved neurological outcomes according to the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score (r = −0.46, p = 0.032). For patients with severe neurological symptoms (mJOA score < 12) a trend toward improved outcomes with greater global kyphosis correction was observed (r = −0.56, p = 0.057). Patients with an mJOA score less than 16 who attained lordosis postoperatively had a significantly greater improvement in total mJOA score than patients who maintained a kyphotic position (achieved lordosis: 2.7 ± 2.0 vs maintained kyphosis: 1.1 ± 2.1, p = 0.044).

Conclusions

The authors' results suggest that the degree of correction of focal kyphosis deformity correlates with improved neurological outcomes. The authors also saw a positive relationship between attainment of global lordosis and improved mJOA scores. With consideration for the risks involved in correction surgery, this information can be used to help guide surgical strategy decision making.

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Parisa Azimi, Edward C. Benzel, Sohrab Shahzadi, Shirzad Azhari and Hasan Reza Mohammadi

Object

The purpose of this study was to develop an artificial neural network (ANN) model for predicting 2-year surgical satisfaction, and to compare the new model with traditional predictive tools in patients with lumbar spinal canal stenosis.

Methods

The 2 prediction models included an ANN and a logistic regression (LR) model. The patient age, sex, duration of symptoms, walking distance, visual analog scale scores of leg pain or numbness, the Japanese Orthopaedic Association score, the Neurogenic Claudication Outcome Score, and the stenosis ratio values were determined as the input variables for the ANN and LR models that were developed. Patient surgical satisfaction was recorded using a standardized measure. The ANNs were fed patient data to predict 2-year surgical satisfaction based on several input variables. Sensitivity analysis was applied to the ANN model to identify the important variables. The receiver operating characteristic–area under curve (ROC-AUC), Hosmer-Lemeshow statistics, and accuracy rate were calculated for evaluating the 2 models.

Results

A total of 168 patients (59 male, 109 female; mean age 59.8 ± 11.6 years) were divided into training (n = 84), testing (n = 42), and validation (n = 42) data sets. Postsurgical satisfaction was 88.7% at 2-year follow-up. The stenosis ratio was the important variable selected by the ANN. The ANN model displayed a better accuracy rate in 96.9% of patients, a better Hosmer-Lemeshow statistic in 42.4% of patients, and a better ROC-AUC in 80% of patients, compared with the LR model.

Conclusions

The findings show that an ANN can predict 2-year surgical satisfaction for use in clinical application and is more accurate compared with an LR model.

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Atilla Akbay, Serkan İnceoğlu, Ryan Milks, Richard Schlenk, Selcuk Palaoglu and Edward C. Benzel

Object. Pedicle screw instrumentation of the thoracic spine remains technically challenging. Transverse process and costotransverse screw fixation techniques have been described as alternatives to pedicle screw fixation (PSF). In this study, the authors introduce thoracic transfacet PSF and compare its experimental biomechanical results with those of standard PSF in short-term cyclic loading in cadaveric thoracic specimens.

Methods. Specimens were tested intact for six cycles at compressive loads of 250 N offset by 1 cm along appropriate axes to induce flexion, extension, and left and right lateral bending. The specimens were then fixed with either a pedicle screw/rod construct or transfacet pedicle screws and retested in the same fashion. After this sequence, specimens were loaded until failure in flexion mode at a rate of 5 mm/minute was observed.

Both fixation constructs provided significantly greater stiffnesses than that demonstrated when the specimen was intact (p < 0.05, two-way analysis of variance). Additionally, the two constructs were statistically equivalent in terms of stiffness and load-to-failure values (p < 0.05, two-tailed nonpaired t-test). The only difference observed was that the low midthoracic region (T7–9) was biomechanically weaker than the upper midthoracic and lower thoracic areas in flexion after the destabilization and instrumentation-augmented stabilization procedures.

Conclusions. In selected thoracic surgical procedures, transfacet PSF may, after analysis of long-term biomechanical data, potentially become a reasonable alternative to conventional PSF.

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Sait Naderi, Cary D. Alberstone, Frederick W. Rupp, Edward C. Benzel and Nevan G. Baldwin

Forty-four patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy who underwent a ventral surgical approach were evaluated with respect to the results of surgery. The neurological status of the patients was categorized according to the modified Japanese Orthopedic Association scale (0-18). Three patients had a functional score of 8, one patient 9, five patients 10, five patients 11, seven patients 12, seven patients 13, seven patients 14, and nine patients had a functional score of 15, preoperatively. Twenty-three patients underwent a one-level corpectomy, 15 patients a two-level corpectomy, and six patients underwent a three-level corpectomy. Forty-one (93.1%) of the 44 patients underwent ventral cervical plate fixation. Complications among the 44 patients included graft-and instrumentation-related complications in seven cases, iliac crest donor-site infection in three cases, and respiratory complications in three cases. The follow-up periods ranged between 7 and 60 months (mean 42.3 months). Overall, the fusion rate was 97.72%. Three patients showed no functional change (6.8%), two patients were worse (4.5%), and 39 patients (88.6%) showed functional improvement in their score between +1 and +6 points (mean 2.16 points). There was no statistically significant difference in the functional improvement score in patients younger or older than 60 years old. The mean improvement in the functional score was found to be +2.857 ± 1.352, +2.400 ± 1.454, and +0.5000 ± 1.871 following one-level corpectomy, two-level, and three-level corpectomies, respectively. There were statistically significant differences in the neurological improvement observed between patients with one-level corpectomy and three-level corpectomy (p < 0.01), as well as between those with two-level and three-level corpectomy (p < 0.05). There was no statistically significant difference in the neurological outcome between patients with one-level and two-level corpectomy (p > 0.05). The results of this study demonstrate a high rate of solid bone fusion and a high rate of functional (neurological) improvement. Five patients underwent reoperation, predominantly for instrumentation failure. The use of instrumentation dictates careful consideration of the risk/benefit ratio associated with its use in each case.

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Tunç Öktenoǧlu, A. Fahir Özer, Lisa A. Ferrara, Niteen Andalkar, Ali Çetin Sarioǧlu and Edward C. Benzel

Object. The authors conducted a study to assess the effects of cervical posture on the loadbearing ability of the cervical spine.

Methods. Twelve cervical spine specimens obtained in 12 adult sheep were tested. The specimens were randomly separated into two groups. In Group I the specimens were fixed in a lordotic posture, and in Group II they were fixed in a straight posture. Axial compressive loads were applied at a constant rate of 5 cm/minute. Load-to-failure, time-to-failure, piston displacement at failure, and failure modes were recorded. Statistical analyses were performed to detect differences between the groups.

There was no significant difference in load-to-failure values between the two groups. However, the time-to-failure and the piston displacement values for the straight spines were significantly less than those for the lordotic spines. Additionally, the straight spines failed predominantly through ventral elements, whereas the lordotic spines predominantly failed dorsally.

Conclusions. It is concluded that a loss of a lordosis increases the risk of injury to the cervical spine following axial loading.

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Xiao Di, Mark G. Luciano and Edward C. Benzel

Cerebellar ptosis is a rare complication following Chiari malformation decompression, and generally is the result of a very large suboccipital craniectomy. This can lead to the descent of the cerebellum through the craniectomy defect, which in turn may result in cerebellar herniation through the surgical defect as well as the reestablishment of contact between the cerebellar tonsils and the brainstem. In addition, dorsal adherence of the herniated cerebellum to the dura mater or dural patch and an associated obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid flow at the cervicomedullary junction may ensue. Such a result is not desirable, in that it reproduces or mimics the pathoanatomical relationships that existed prior to the surgical decompression.

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David E. Gwinn, Christopher A. Iannotti, Edward C. Benzel and Michael P. Steinmetz

Object

Analysis of cervical sagittal deformity in patients with cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) requires a thorough clinical and radiographic evaluation to select the most appropriate surgical approach. Angular radiographic measurements, which are commonly used to define sagittal deformity, may not be the most appropriate to use for surgical planning. The authors present a simple straight-line method to measure effective spinal canal lordosis and analyze its reliability. Furthermore, comparisons of this measurement to traditional angular measurements of sagittal cervical alignment are made in regards to surgical planning in patients with CSM.

Methods

Twenty preoperative lateral cervical digital radiographs of patients with CSM were analyzed by 3 independent observers on 3 separate occasions using a software measurement program. Sagittal measurements included C2–7 angles utilizing the Cobb and posterior tangent methods, as well as a straight-line method to measure effective spinal canal lordosis from the dorsal-caudal aspect of the C2–7 vertebral bodies. Analysis of variance for repeated measures or Cohen 3-way (kappa) correlation coefficient analysis was performed as appropriate to calculate the intra- and interobserver reliability for each parameter. Discrepancies in angular and effective lordosis measurements were analyzed.

Results

Intra- and interobserver reliability was excellent (intraclass coefficient > 0.75, kappa > 0.90) utilizing all 3 techniques. Four discrepancies between angular and effective lordotic measurements occurred in which images with a lordotic angular measurement did not have lordosis within the ventral spinal canal. These discrepancies were caused by either spondylolisthesis or dorsally projecting osteophytes in all cases.

Conclusions

Although they are reliable, traditional methods used to make angular measurements of sagittal cervical spine alignment do not take into account ventral obstructions to the spinal cord. The effective lordosis measurement method provides a simple and reliable means of determining clinically significant lordosis because it accounts for both overall alignment of the cervical spine as well as impinging structures ventral to the spinal cord. This method should be considered for use in the treatment of patients with CSM.

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Matthew D. Alvin, Daniel Lubelski, Edward C. Benzel and Thomas E. Mroz

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) often can be surgically treated by either ventral or dorsal decompression and fusion. However, there is a lack of high-level evidence on the relative advantages and disadvantages for these treatments of CSM. The authors' goal was to provide a comprehensive review of the relative benefits of ventral versus dorsal fusion in terms of quality of life (QOL) outcomes, complications, and costs. They reviewed 7 studies on CSM published between 2003 and 2013 and summarized the findings for each category. Both procedures have been shown to lead to statistically significant improvement in clinical outcomes for patients. Ventral fusion surgery has been shown to yield better QOL outcomes than dorsal fusion surgery. Complication rates for ventral fusion surgery range from 11% to 13.6%, whereas those for dorsal fusion surgery range from 16.4% to 19%. Larger randomized controlled trials are needed, with particular emphasis on QOL and minimum clinically important differences.