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Daniel J. Miller, Frederick F. Lang, Garrett L. Walsh, Dima Abi-Said, David M. Wildrick and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object. A unique method of anterior spinal reconstruction after decompressive surgery was used to prevent methylmethacrylate—dural contact in cancer patients who underwent corpectomy. The purpose of this study was to assess the efficacy and stability of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) anterior surgical constructs in conjunction with anterior cervical plate stabilization (ACPS) in these patients.

Methods. Approximately 700 patients underwent spinal surgery at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center over a 4-year period. The authors conducted a retrospective outcome study for 29 of these patients who underwent anterior cervical or upper thoracic tumor resections while in the supine position. These patients were all treated using the coaxial, double-lumen, PMMA technique for anterior spinal reconstruction with subsequent ACPS. No postoperative external orthoses were used. Twenty-seven patients (93%) harbored metastatic spinal lesions and two (7%) harbored primary tumors. At 1 month postsurgery, significant improvement was seen in spinal axial pain (p < 0.001), radiculopathy (p < 0.00 1), gait (p = 0.008), and Frankel grade (p = 0.002). A total of nine patients (31%) underwent combined anterior—posterior 360° stabilization. Twenty-one patients (72%) experienced no complications. Complications related to instrumentation failure occurred in only two patients (7%). There were no cases in which the patients' status worsened, and there were no neurological complications or infections. The median Kaplan—Meier survival estimate for patients with spinal metastases was 9.5 months. At the end of the study, 13 patients (45%) had died and 16 (55%) were alive. Postoperative magnetic resonance images consistently demonstrated that the dura and PMMA in all patients remained separated.

Conclusions. The anterior, coaxial, double-lumen, PMMA reconstruction technique provides a simple means of spinal cord protection in patients in the supine position while undergoing surgery and offers excellent results in cancer patients who have undergone cervical vertebrectomy.

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Julie E. York, Garrett L. Walsh, Frederick F. Lang, Joe B. Putnam, Ian E. McCutcheon, Stephen G. Swisher, Ritsuko Komaki and Ziya L Gokaslan

Object. Traditionally, superior sulcus tumors of the lung that involve the chest wall and spinal column have been considered to be unresectable, and historically, patients harboring these tumors have been treated with local radiation therapy with, at best, modest results. The value of gross-total resection remains unclear in this patient population; however, with the recent advances in surgical technique and spinal instrumentation, procedures involving more radical removal of such tumors are now possible. At The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the authors have developed a new technique for resecting superior sulcus tumors that invade the chest wall and spinal column. They present a technical description of this procedure and results in nine patients in whom stage IIIb superior sulcus tumors extensively invaded the vertebral column.

Methods. These patients underwent gross-total tumor resection via a combined approach that included posterolateral thoracotomy, apical lobectomy, chest wall resection, laminectomy, vertebrectomy, anterior spinal column reconstruction with methylmethacrylate, and placement of spinal instrumentation. There were six men and three women, with a mean age of 55 years (range 36–72 years). Histological examination revealed squamous cell carcinoma (three patients), adenocarcinoma (four patients), and large cell carcinoma (two patients). The mean postoperative follow-up period was 16 months. All patients are currently ambulatory or remained ambulatory until they died. Pain related to tumor invasion improved in four patients and remained unchanged in five. In three patients instrumentation failed and required revision. There was one case of cerebrospinal fluid leakage that was treated with lumbar drainage and one case of wound breakdown that required revision. Two patients experienced local tumor recurrence, and one patient developed a second primary lung tumor.

Conclusions. The authors conclude that in selected patients, combined radical resection of superior sulcus tumors of the lung that involve the chest wall and spinal column may represent an acceptable treatment modality that can offer a potential cure while preserving neurological function and providing pain control.

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Julie E. York, Rasim H. Berk, Gregory N. Fuller, Jasti S. Rao, Dima Abi-Said, David M. Wildrick and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object. Primary chondrosarcoma of the spine is extremely rare. During the last 43 years only 21 patients with this disease were registered at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The purpose of this study was to examine the demographic characteristics, treatments, and outcomes of this set of patients.

Methods. Medical records for 21 patients were reviewed. Age, sex, race, clinical presentation, tumor histology, tumor location in the spinal column, treatments, surgical details, and response to treatment were recorded. Surgical procedures were categorized as either gross-total resection or subtotal excision of tumor. Neurological function was assessed using Frankel's functional classification. Time to recurrence and survival analyses were performed using the Kaplan—Meier method. The median age of patients was 51 years, with fairly equal gender representation. Eighteen patients underwent at least one surgical procedure for a total of 28 surgical procedures: seven radical resections and 21 subtotal excisions. Radiation therapy was used in conjunction with 10 of the 28 surgical procedures. The median Kaplan—Meier estimate of overall survival for the entire group was 6 years (range 6 months–17 years). Tumors recurred after 18 of the 28 procedures. Kaplan—Meier analysis revealed a statistically significant difference in the per-procedure disease-free interval after gross-total resection relative to subtotal excision (exact log rank 3.39; p = 0.04). The addition of radiation therapy prolonged the median disease-free interval from 16 to 44 months, although this was not statistically significant (exact log rank 2.63; p = 0.16).

Conclusions. Our results suggest that gross-total resection of the chondrosarcoma provides the best chance for prolonging the disease-free interval in patients. Subtotal excision should be avoided whenever possible. Addition of radiation therapy does not appear to lengthen significantly the disease-free interval in this patient population.

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Ziya L. Gokaslan, Marvin M. Romsdahl, Stephen S. Kroll, Garrett L. Walsh, Theresa A. Gillis, David M. Wildrick and Milam E. Leavens

Although radical resection is the best treatment for malignant sacral tumors, total sacrectomy for such tumors has been performed in only a few instances. Total sacral resection requires reconstruction of the pelvic ring plus establishment of a bilateral union between the lumbar spine and iliac bone. This technique is illustrated in two patients harboring large, painful, sacral giant-cell tumors that were unresponsive to prior treatment. These patients were treated with complete en bloc resection of the sacrum and complex iliolumbar reconstruction/stabilization and fusion. Surgery was performed in two stages, the first consisting of a midline celiotomy, dissection of visceral/neural structures, and ligation of internal iliac vessels, followed by an anterior L5-S1 discectomy. The second stage consisted of mobilization of an inferiorly based myocutaneous rectus abdominis pedicle flap for wound closure, followed by an L-5 laminectomy, bilateral L-5 foraminotomy, ligation of the thecal sac, division of sacral nerve roots, and transection of the ilia lateral to the tumor and sacroiliac joints. Placement of the instrumentation required segmental fixation of the lumbar spine from L-3 down by means of pedicle screws and the establishment of a bilateral liaison between the lumbar spine and the ilia by using the Galveston L-rod technique. The pelvic ring was then reestablished by means of a threaded rod connecting left and right ilia. Both autologous (posterior iliac crest) and allograft bone were used for fusion, and a tibial allograft strut was placed between the remaining ilia. The patients were immobilized for 8 weeks postoperatively and underwent progressive rehabilitation. At the 1-year follow-up review, one patient could walk unassisted, and the other ambulated independently using a cane. Both patients controlled bowel function satisfactorily with laxatives and diet and could maintain continence but required self-catheterization for bladder emptying. The authors conclude that in selected patients, total sacrectomy represents an acceptable surgical procedure that can offer not only effective local pain control, but also a potential cure, while preserving satisfactory ambulatory capacity and neurological function.

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Wesley Hsu, I-Mei Siu, Gustavo Pradilla, Ziya L. Gokaslan, George I. Jallo and Gary L. Gallia

Object

Advances in the diagnosis and management of patients with spinal cord tumors have been limited because of the rarity of the disease and the limitations of current animal models for spinal cord glioma. The ideal spinal cord tumor model would possess a number of characteristics, including the use of human glioma cells that capture the growth pattern and local invasive nature of their human counterpart. In this study, the authors' goal was to develop a novel spinal cord tumor model using a human neurosphere cell line.

Methods

Eighteen female athymic rats were randomized into 3 experimental groups. Animals in the first group (6 rats) received a 3-ml intramedullary injection containing DMEM and were used as controls. Animals in the second group (6 rats) received a 3-ml intramedullary injection containing 100,000 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) neurosphere cells in 3 ml DMEM. Animals in the third group (6 rats) received a 3-ml intramedullary injection containing 9L gliosarcoma cells in 3 ml DMEM. Functional testing of hindlimb strength was assessed using the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) scale. Once the functional BBB score of an animal was less than or equal to 5 (slight movement of 2 joints and extensive movement of the third), euthanasia was performed.

Results

Animals in the GBM neurosphere group had a mean survival of 33.3 ± 2.0 days, which was approximately twice as long as animals in the 9L gliosarcoma group (16.3 ± 2.3 days). There was a significant difference between survival of the GBM neurosphere and 9L gliosarcoma groups (p < 0.001). None of the control animals died (p < 0.001 for GBM neurosphere group vs controls and 9L vs controls). Histopathological examination of the rats injected with 9L gliosarcoma revealed that all animals developed highly cellular, well-circumscribed lesions causing compression of the surrounding tissue, with minimal invasion of the surrounding gray and white matter. Histopathological examination of animals injected with GBM neurospheres revealed that all animals developed infiltrative lesions with a high degree of white and gray matter invasion along with areas of necrosis.

Conclusions

The authors have established a novel animal model of spinal cord glioma using neurospheres derived from human GBM. When injected into the spinal cords of athymic nude rats, neurospheres gave rise to infiltrative, actively proliferating tumors that were histologically identical to spinal cord glioma in humans. On the basis of their results, the authors conclude that this is a reproducible animal model of high-grade spinal cord glioma based on a human GBM neurosphere line. This model represents an improvement over other models using nonhuman glioma cell lines. Novel therapeutic strategies can be readily evaluated using this model.

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Carlos A. Bagley, Markus J. Bookland, Jonathan A. Pindrik, Tolga Ozmen, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Jean-Paul Wolinsky and Timothy F. Witham

Object

Spinal column metastatic disease affects thousands of cancer patients every year. Radiation therapy frequently represents the primary treatment for this condition. Despite the enormous clinical impact of spinal column metastatic disease, the literature currently lacks an accurate animal model for testing the efficacy of irradiation on spinal column metastases.

Methods

After anesthesia was induced, female Fischer 344 rats underwent a transabdominal approach to the ventral vertebral body (VB) of L-6. A 2- to 3-mm-diameter bur hole was drilled for the implantation of a section of CRL-1666 breast adenocarcinoma. After the animals had recovered from the surgery, they underwent fractionated, single-port radiotherapy beginning on postoperative Day 7. Each group of animals underwent five daily fractions of radiation treatment. Group I animals received a total dose of 10 Gy in 200-cGy daily fractions, Group II animals received a total dose of 20 Gy in 400-cGy daily fractions, and Group III animals received a total dose of 30 Gy in 600-cGy daily fractions. A control group of rats with implanted VB lesions did not receive radiation. To test the effects of radiation toxicity alone, additional rats without implanted tumors received radiation treatments in the same fractions as the rats with tumors. Hindlimb function in all rats was rated before and after radiation treatment using the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan locomotor rating scale. Histological analysis of spinal cord and vertebral column sections was performed after each animal's death.

Results

Functional assessments demonstrated a statistically significant delay in the onset of paresis between the three treatment groups and the control group (tumor implanted but no radiotherapy). The rats in the three treatment groups, however, did not exhibit any significant differences related to hindlimb function. A dose-dependent relationship was found for the percentage of animals who had become paralyzed at the time of death, with all members of the control group and no members of the 30-Gy group exhibiting paralysis. The results of this study do not indicate any overall survival benefit for any level of radiation dose.

Conclusions

These findings demonstrate the efficacy of focal spinal irradiation in delaying the onset of paralysis in a rat metastatic spine tumor model, but without a clear survival benefit. Because of the dose-related toxicity observed in the rats treated with 30 Gy, this effect was most profound for the 20-Gy group. This finding parallels the observed clinical course of spinal column metastatic disease in humans and provides a basis for the future comparison of novel local and systemic treatments to augment the observed effects of focal irradiation.

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Daniel M. Sciubba, Joseph C. Noggle, Ananth K. Vellimana, Hassan Alosh, Matthew J. McGirt, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

Object

Stabilization of the cervical spine can be challenging when instrumentation involves the axis. Fixation with C1–2 transarticular screws combined with posterior wiring and bone graft placement has yielded excellent fusion rates, but the technique is technically demanding and places the vertebral arteries (VAs) at risk. Placement of screws in the pars interarticularis of C-2 as described by Harms and Melcher has allowed rigid fixation with greater ease and theoretically decreases the risk to the VA. However, fluoroscopy is suggested to avoid penetration laterally, medially, and superiorly to avoid damage to the VA, spinal cord, and C1–2 joint, respectively. The authors describe how, after meticulous dissection of the C-2 pars interarticularis, such screws can be placed accurately and safely without the use of fluoroscopy.

Methods

Prospective follow-up was performed in 55 consecutive patients who underwent instrumented fusion of C-2 by a single surgeon. The causes of spinal instability and type and extent of instrumentation were documented. All patients underwent preoperative CT or MR imaging scans to determine the suitability of C-2 screw placement. Intraoperatively, screws were placed following dissection of the posterior pars interarticularis. Postoperative CT scans were performed to determine the extent of cortical breach. Patients underwent clinical follow-up, and complications were recorded as vascular or neurological. A CT-based grading system was created to characterize such breaches objectively by location and magnitude via percentage of screw diameter beyond the cortical edge (0 = none; I = < 25% of screw diameter; II = 26–50%; III = 51–75%; IV = 76–100%).

Results

One-hundred consecutive screws were placed in the pedicle of the axis by a single surgeon using external landmarks only. In 10 cases, only 1 screw was placed because of a preexisting VA anatomy or bone abnormality noted preoperatively. In no case was screw placement aborted because of complications noted during drilling. Early complications occurred in 2 patients and were limited to 1 wound infection and 1 transient C-2 radiculopathy. There were 15 total breaches (15%), 2 of which occurred in the same patient. Twelve breaches were lateral (80%), and 3 were superior (20%). There were no medial breaches. The magnitude of the breach was classified as I in 10 cases (66.7% of breaches), II in 3 cases (20% of breaches), III in 1 case (6.7%), and IV in 1 case (6.7%).

Conclusions

Free-hand placement of screws in the C-2 pedicle can be done safely and effectively without the use of intraoperative fluoroscopy or navigation when the pars interarticularis/pedicle is assessed preoperatively with CT or MR imaging and found to be suitable for screw placement. When breaches do occur, they are overwhelmingly lateral in location, breach < 50% of the screw diameter, and in the authors' experience, are not clinically significant.

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Total cervical spondylectomy for primary osteogenic sarcoma

Case report and description of operative technique

Zvi R. Cohen, Daryl R. Fourney, Rex A. Marco, Laurence D. Rhines and Ziya L. Gokaslan

✓ The authors describe a technique for total spondylectomy for lesions involving the cervical spine. The method involves separately staged anterior and posterior approaches and befits the unique anatomy of the cervical spine. The procedure is described in detail, with the aid of radiographs, intraoperative photographs, and illustrations. Unlike in the thoracic and lumbar spine—for which methods of total en bloc spondylectomy have previously been described—a strictly en bloc resection is not possible in the cervical spine because of the need to preserve the vertebral arteries and the nerve roots supplying the upper limbs. Although the resection described in this case is by definition intralesional, it is oncologically sound, given the development of effective neoadjuvent chemotherapeutic regimens for osteosarcoma.

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Ann Liu, Eric W. Sankey, C. Rory Goodwin, Thomas A. Kosztowski, Benjamin D. Elder, Ali Bydon, Timothy F. Witham, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECT

Spinal metastases from gynecological cancers are rare, with few cases reported in the literature. In this study, the authors examine a series of patients with spinal metastases from gynecological cancer and review the literature.

METHODS

The cases of 6 consecutive patients who underwent spine surgery for metastatic gynecological cancer between 2007 and 2012 at a single institution were retrospectively reviewed. The recorded demographic, operative, and postoperative factors were reviewed, and the functional outcomes were determined by change in Karnofsky Performance Scale and the American Spine Injury Association (ASIA) score during follow-up. A systematic review of the literature was also performed to evaluate outcomes for patients with similar gynecological metastases to the spine.

RESULTS

In this series, details regarding metastatic gynecological cancers to the spine are as follows: 2 patients with cervical cancer (both presented at age 46 years, mean postoperative survival of 32 months), 2 patients with endometrial cancer (mean age of 40 years, mean postoperative survival of 26 months), and 2 patients with leiomyosarcoma (mean age of 44 years, mean postoperative survival of 20 months). All patients presented with pain, and no complications were noted following surgery. All patients with known follow-up had stable or improved neurological outcomes, performance status, and improved pain, without local recurrence of tumor. Overall median survival after diagnosis of metastatic spine lesions for all cases in the literature as well as those treated by the authors was 15 months. When categorized by type, median survival of patients with cervical cancer (n = 2), endometrial cancer (n = 26), and leiomyosarcoma (n = 16) was 32, 10, and 22.5 months, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Gynecological cancers metastasizing to the spine are rare. In this series, overall survival following diagnosis of spinal metastasis and surgery was 27 months, with cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, and leiomyosarcoma survival being 32, 26, and 20 months, respectively. Combined with literature cases, survival differs depending on primary histology, with decreasing survival from cervical cancer (32 months) to leiomyosarcoma (22.5 months) to endometrial cancer (10 months). Integrating such information with other patient factors may more accurately guide decision making regarding management of such spinal lesions.

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Stephen J. Hentschel, Laurence D. Rhines, Franklin C. Wong, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Ian E. McCutcheon

Object. Little has been written about the appropriate diagnosis, investigation, and management of subarachnoid—pleural fistula (SPF). The authors report a series of patients with SPF that developed after resection of spinal tumor and discuss the diagnosis and treatment of this entity.

Methods. Between 1993 and 2002, nine patients with SPF observed after spinal surgery at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center were prospectively followed. In all patients the tumors were located in the thoracic region, and the most common entity was vertebral body metastasis (six cases), with renal cell carcinoma being the most common form of the disease (three cases). All but one patient underwent surgery via a transthoracic approach; in only one patient an intradural approach was performed. The most common presentation was overt cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leakage, manifesting as chest tube drainage (four cases) or as leakage through the wound (one case). A definitive diagnosis of SPF was established in four patients, with evidence of extraspinal leakage on an 111In-radionuclide CSF study. Although all patients initially underwent a trial of lumbar CSF drainage, all but one required open repair, including creation of intercostal muscle (three cases) and omental (one case) flaps.

Conclusions. After spinal surgery in which the thorax is entered, a diagnosis of SPF should be considered in any patient with abnormal chest tube output, persistent pleural effusion, or clinical evidence of intracranial hypotension. The diagnosis should be confirmed by performing a radionuclide-labeled CSF study. Definitive open repair is required in most cases and preferentially consists of a vascularized tissue graft, which is most easily obtained from an intercostal muscle flap.