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Abdul Al-Anazi and Mark Bernstein

✓ Ommaya reservoirs are used primarily for the repeated injection of intrathecal chemotherapy for leptomeningeal metastasis from hematopoietic and solid malignancies. Insertion of this device in a relatively large nondisplaced ventricle is not a difficult task, but challenges arise when the ventricle is small and/or displaced. Different techniques have been developed to overcome this difficulty, most of which include the use of stereotactic frames. Further improvements would be beneficial.

The technique described in this paper depends on a stereotactic frame; however, the modification proposed by the authors removes the arc system from the surgical field before the actual surgical procedure is begun. Removal of the arc improves access to the surgical field as well as preparation and draping of the surgical site and minimizes potential breaks in sterile technique, which ultimately reduces the incidence of infection. A twist-drill hole along the path of the chosen trajectory becomes an external guide for the ventricular catheter. The technique is easy, user friendly, and results in an unencumbered sterile field and reliable cannulation of small ventricles.

A simple stereotactic technique for Ommaya reservoir insertion has been described. It should lower the chance of infection in this group of patients, most of whom have suppressed immune systems.

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Kamal B. Balkhoyor and Mark Bernstein

✓ Spontaneous involution of pilocytic astrocytoma has been reported in children, particularly in those with neurofibromatosis Type 1. However, this rare occurrence has not been documented in adults. In this report the authors describe two cases of adults with pilocytic astrocytoma. One patient had a tumor in the thalamus and the other in the hypothalamus and optic chiasm; both patients underwent partial resection of the tumor. The initial magnetic resonance (MR) images demonstrated reduction in size of the tumors, and subsequent MR images obtained several months later revealed marked further involution with reduction in size and enhancement. The possible mechanisms for this uncommon occurrence are discussed.

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Thomas J. Zwimpfer and Mark Bernstein

✓ The hallmark of concussion injuries of the nervous system is the rapid and complete resolution of neurological deficits. Cerebral concussion has been well studied, both clinically and experimentally. In comparison, spinal cord concussion (SCC) is poorly understood. The clinical and radiological features of 19 SCC injuries in the general population are presented. Spinal cord injuries were classified as concussions if they met three criteria: 1) spinal trauma immediately preceded the onset of neurological deficits; 2) neurological deficits were consistent with spinal cord involvement at the level of injury; and 3) complete neurological recovery occurred within 72 hours after injury.

Most cases involved young males, injured during athletics or due to falls. Concussion occurred at the two most unstable spinal regions, 16 involving the cervical spinal and three the thoracolumbar junction. Fifteen cases presented with combined sensorimotor deficits, while four exhibited only sensory disturbances. Many patients showed signs of recovery with the first few hours after injury and most had completely recovered within 24 hours. Only one case involved an unstable spinal injury. There was no evidence of ligamentous instability, spinal stenosis, or canal encroachment in the remaining 18 cases. Two patients, both children, suffered recurrent SCC injuries. No delayed deterioration or permanent cord injuries occurred.

Spinal abnormalities that would predispose the spinal cord to a compressive injury were present in only one of the 19 cases. This suggests that, as opposed to direct cord compression, SCC may be the result of an indirect cord injury. Possible mechanisms are discussed.

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Mark Bernstein

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Ralph G. Dacey Jr.

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Michael D. Taylor and Mark Bernstein

Object. Awake craniotomy was performed as the standard surgical approach to supratentorial intraaxial tumors, regardless of the involvement of eloquent cortex, in a prospective trial of 200 patients surgically treated by the same surgeon at a single institution.

Methods. Patient presentations, comorbid conditions, tumor locations, and the histological characteristics of lesions were recorded. Brain mapping was possible in 195 (97.5%) of 200 patients. The total number of patients sustaining complications was 33 for an overall complication rate of 16.5%. There were two deaths in this series, for a mortality rate of 1%. New postoperative neurological deficits were seen in 13% of the patients, but these were permanent in only 4.5% of them. Complication rates were higher in patients who had gliomas or preoperative neurological deficits and in those who had undergone prior radiation therapy or surgery. No patient who entered the operating room neurologically intact sustained a permanent neurological deficit postoperatively. Of the most recent 50 patients treated, three (6%) required a stay in the intensive care unit, and the median total hospital stay was 1 day.

Conclusions. Use of awake craniotomy can result in a considerable reduction in resource utilization without compromising patient care by minimizing intensive care time and total hospital stay. Awake craniotomy is a practical and effective standard surgical approach to supratentorial tumors with a low complication rate, and provides an excellent alternative to craniotomy performed with the patient in the state of general anesthesia because it allows the opportunity for brain mapping and avoids general anesthesia.

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Parisa Nicole Fallah and Mark Bernstein

OBJECTIVE

There is a global lack of access to surgical care, and this issue disproportionately affects those in low- and middle-income countries. Global surgery academic collaborations (GSACs) between surgeons in high-income countries and those in low- and middle-income countries are one possible sustainable way to address the global surgical need. The objective of this study was to examine the barriers to participation in GSACs and to suggest ways to increase involvement.

METHODS

A convenience sample of 86 surgeons, anesthesiologists, other physicians, residents, fellows, and nurses from the US, Canada, and Norway was used. Participants were all health care providers from multiple specialties and multiple academic centers with varied involvement in GSACs. More than half of the participants were neurosurgeons. Participants were interviewed in person or over Skype in Toronto over the course of 2 months by using a predetermined set of open-ended questions. Thematic content analysis was used to evaluate the participants’ responses.

RESULTS

Based on the data, 3 main themes arose that pointed to individual, community, and system barriers for involvement in GSACs. Individual barriers included loss of income, family commitments, young career, responsibility to local patients, skepticism of global surgery efforts, ethical concerns, and safety concerns. Community barriers included insufficient mentorship and lack of support from colleagues. System barriers included lack of time, minimal academic recognition, insufficient awareness, insufficient administrative support and organization, and low political and funding support.

CONCLUSIONS

Steps can be taken to address some of these barriers and to increase the involvement of surgeons from high-income countries in GSACs. This could lead to a necessary scale-up of global surgery efforts that may help increase worldwide access to surgical care.

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Mark Bernstein and Ross E. G. Upshur

Object. Frameworks for scientific assessment of articles on therapy published in the medical literature have become available and will likely enhance the quality of medical research that is published in peer-reviewed journals. Comprehensive frameworks do not exist for the assessment of bioethical issues pertaining to research on human volunteers.

Methods. The authors have developed a framework consisting of ethical dimensions or questions that they suggest should be applied to assess the bioethical integrity of articles on therapy. Thirteen questions were developed and discussed in the context of current bioethical principles, and examples were applied where possible.

Conclusions. The simple framework the authors have developed offers a method to assess key bioethical issues surrounding an article on therapy and probably defines the minimum standard to which such articles should be held. Many ethical questions cannot yet be answered based on available information or bioethical theories. The authors are not suggesting that their framework is comprehensive; refinements and individualization of it to fit specific studies are probably required by each clinician—researcher who designs a therapy trial and reports its results.

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Demitre Serletis and Mark Bernstein

Object

The authors prospectively assessed the value of awake craniotomy used nonselectively in patients undergoing resection of supratentorial tumors.

Methods

The demographic features, presenting symptoms, tumor location, histological diagnosis, outcomes, and complications were documented for 610 patients who underwent awake craniotomy for supratentorial tumor resection. Intraoperative brain mapping was used in 511 cases (83.8%). Mapping identified eloquent cortex in 115 patients (22.5%) and no eloquent cortex in 396 patients (77.5%).

Results

Neurological deficits occurred in 89 patients (14.6%). In the subset of 511 patients in whom brain mapping was performed, 78 (15.3%) experienced postoperative neurological worsening. This phenomenon was more common in patients with preoperative neurological deficits or in those individuals in whom mapping successfully identified eloquent tissue. Twenty-five (4.9%) of the 511 patients suffered intraoperative seizures, and two of these individuals required intubation and induction of general anesthesia after generalized seizures occurred.

Four (0.7%) of the 610 patients developed wound complications. Postoperative hematomas developed in seven patients (1.1%), four of whom urgently required a repeated craniotomy to allow evacuation of the clot. Two patients (0.3%) required readmission to the hospital soon after being discharged. There were three deaths (0.5%).

Conclusions

Awake craniotomy is safe, practical, and effective during resection of supratentorial lesions of diverse pathological range and location. It allows for intraoperative brain mapping that helps identify and protect functional cortex. It also avoids the complications inherent in the induction of general anesthesia. Awake craniotomy provides an excellent alternative to surgery of supratentorial brain lesions in patients in whom general anesthesia has been induced.