The role of chief White House physician has traditionally been held by an individual with a background in a broad medical field, such as emergency medicine, family medicine, or internal medicine. Dr. Daniel Ruge, who served as the director of the Spinal Cord Injury Service for the Veterans Administration and was appointed during President Ronald Reagan’s first term, was the first neurosurgeon to become the chief White House physician. Aside from being the first neurosurgeon to serve in this capacity, Dr. Ruge also stands apart from others who have held this esteemed position because of how he handled Reagan’s care after an attempt was made on the then-president’s life. Instead of calling upon leading medical authorities of the time to care for the president, Dr. Ruge instead decided that Reagan should be treated as any trauma patient would be treated. Dr. Ruge’s actions after the assassination attempt on President Reagan resulted in the rapid, smooth recovery of the then-president. Daniel Ruge’s background, his high-profile roles and heavy responsibilities, and his critical decision-making are characteristics that make his role in the history of medicine and of neurosurgery unique.
A. Karim Ahmed, Eduardo Martinez-del-Campo, and Nicholas Theodore
Ari M. Blitz, A. Karim Ahmed, and Daniele Rigamonti
Because of his exceptional and pioneering contributions to the understanding and treatment of neurosurgical conditions, Walter Dandy is considered to be one of the founders of both neurosurgery and neuroradiology. In the field of hydrocephalus, Dandy developed revolutionary research models, imaging modalities, and operative procedures. His laboratory and clinical experiences at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, including the surgical treatment of hydrocephalus, are well illustrated in the publications he authored. Archival materials housed at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine provide a window into Dandy’s clinical experience and supplement the work published during his lifetime. His operative experience with hydrocephalus spanned 1915–1946 and comprised 381 surgeries. From this clinical experience, Dandy created much of the framework for modern diagnostic imaging and treatment of hydrocephalus.
Surgical management of giant presacral schwannoma: systematic review of published cases and meta-analysis
Presented at the 2019 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves
Zach Pennington, Erick M. Westbroek, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Giant presacral schwannomas are rare sacral tumors found in less than 1 of every 40,000 hospitalizations. Current management of these tumors is based solely upon case reports and small case series. In this paper the authors report the results of a systematic review of the available English literature on presacral schwannoma, focused on identifying the influence of tumor size, tumor morphology, surgical approach, and extent of resection (EOR) on recurrence-free survival and postoperative complications.
The medical literature (PubMed and EMBASE) was queried for reports of surgically managed sacral schwannoma, either involving 2 or more contiguous vertebral levels or with a diameter ≥ 5 cm. Tumor size and morphology, surgical approach, EOR, intraoperative and postoperative complications, and survival data were recorded.
Seventy-six articles were included, covering 123 unique patients (mean age 44.1 ± 1.4 years, 50.4% male). The most common presenting symptoms were leg pain (28.7%), lower back pain (21.3%), and constipation (15.7%). Most surgeries used an open anterior-only (40.0%) or posterior-only (30%) approach. Postoperative complications occurred in 25.6% of patients and local recurrence was noted in 5.4%. En bloc resection significantly improved progression-free survival relative to subtotal resection (p = 0.03). No difference existed between en bloc and gross-total resection (GTR; p = 0.25) or among the surgical approaches (p = 0.66). Postoperative complications were more common following anterior versus posterior approaches (p = 0.04). Surgical blood loss was significantly correlated with operative duration and tumor volume on multiple linear regression (both p < 0.001).
Presacral schwannoma can reasonably be treated with either en bloc or piecemeal GTR. The approach should be dictated by lesion morphology, and recurrence is infrequent. Anterior approaches may increase the risk of postoperative complications.
Sakibul Huq, Jeffrey Ehresman, Ethan Cottrill, A. Karim Ahmed, Zach Pennington, Erick M. Westbroek, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Scheuermann kyphosis (SK) is an idiopathic kyphosis characterized by anterior wedging of ≥ 5° at 3 contiguous vertebrae managed with either nonoperative or operative treatment. Nonoperative treatment typically employs bracing, while operative treatment is performed with either a combined anterior-posterior fusion or posterior-only approach. Current evidence for these approaches has largely been derived from retrospective case series or focused reviews. Consequently, no consensus exists regarding optimal management strategies for patients afflicted with this condition. In this study, the authors systematically review the literature on SK with respect to indications for treatment, complications of treatment, differences in correction and loss of correction, and changes in treatment over time.
Using PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library, all full-text publications on the operative and nonoperative treatment for SK in the peer-reviewed English-language literature between 1950 and 2017 were screened. Inclusion criteria involved fully published, peer-reviewed, retrospective or prospective studies of the primary medical literature. Studies were excluded if they did not provide clinical outcomes and statistics specific to SK, described fewer than 2 patients, or discussed results in nonhuman models. Variables extracted included treatment indications and methodology, maximum pretreatment kyphosis, immediate posttreatment kyphosis, kyphosis at last follow-up, year of treatment, and complications of treatment.
Of 659 unique studies, 45 met our inclusion criteria, covering 1829 unique patients. Indications for intervention were pain, deformity, failure of nonoperative treatment, and neural impairment. Among operatively treated patients, the most common complications were hardware failure and proximal or distal junctional kyphosis. Combined anterior-posterior procedures were additionally associated with neural, pulmonary, and cardiovascular complications. Posterior-only approaches offered superior correction compared to combined anterior-posterior fusion; both groups provided greater correction than bracing. Loss of correction was similar across operative approaches, and all were superior to bracing. Cross-sectional analysis suggested that surgeons have shifted from anterior-posterior to posterior-only approaches over the past two decades.
The data indicate that for patients with SK, surgery affords superior correction and maintenance of correction relative to bracing. Posterior-only fusion may provide greater correction and similar loss of correction compared to anterior-posterior approaches along with a smaller complication profile. This posterior-only approach has concomitantly gained popularity over the combined anterior-posterior approach in recent years.
James Feghali, Zach Pennington, Jeff Ehresman, Daniel Lubelski, Ethan Cottrill, A. Karim Ahmed, Andrew Schilling, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Symptomatic spinal metastasis occurs in around 10% of all cancer patients, 5%–10% of whom will require operative management. While postoperative survival has been extensively evaluated, postoperative health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) outcomes have remained relatively understudied. Available tools that measure HRQOL are heterogeneous and may emphasize different aspects of HRQOL. The authors of this paper recommend the use of the EQ-5D and Spine Oncology Study Group Outcomes Questionnaire (SOSGOQ), given their extensive validation, to capture the QOL effects of systemic disease and spine metastases. Recent studies have identified preoperative QOL, baseline functional status, and neurological function as potential predictors of postoperative QOL outcomes, but heterogeneity across studies limits the ability to derive meaningful conclusions from the data. Future development of a valid and reliable prognostic model will likely require the application of a standardized protocol in the context of a multicenter study design.
A. Karim Ahmed, Zachary Pennington, Camilo A. Molina, Yuanxuan Xia, C. Rory Goodwin, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Effective en bloc resection of primary spinal tumors necessitates careful consideration of adjacent anatomical structures in order to achieve negative margins and reduce surgical morbidity. This can be particularly challenging in the cervical spine, where vital neurovascular and connective tissues are present in the region. Early multidisciplinary surgical planning that includes clinicians and engineers can both optimize surgical planning and enable a more feasible resection with oncological margins. The aim of the current work was to demonstrate two cases that involved multidisciplinary surgical planning for en bloc resection of primary cervical spine tumors, successfully utilizing 3D-printed patient models and neoadjuvant therapies.
Ethan Cottrill, Zach Pennington, A. Karim Ahmed, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin, Alexander Perdomo-Pantoja, Erick M. Westbroek, Nicholas Theodore, Timothy Witham, and Daniel Sciubba
Nonunion is a common complication of spinal fusion surgeries. Electrical stimulation technologies (ESTs)—namely, direct current stimulation (DCS), capacitive coupling stimulation (CCS), and inductive coupling stimulation (ICS)—have been suggested to improve fusion rates. However, the evidence to support their use is based solely on small trials. Here, the authors report the results of meta-analyses of the preclinical and clinical data from the literature to provide estimates of the overall effect of these therapies at large and in subgroups.
A systematic review of the English-language literature was performed using PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases. The query of these databases was designed to include all preclinical and clinical studies examining ESTs for spinal fusion. The primary endpoint was the fusion rate at the last follow-up. Meta-analyses were performed using a Freeman-Tukey double arcsine transformation followed by random-effects modeling.
A total of 33 articles (17 preclinical, 16 clinical) were identified, of which 11 preclinical studies (257 animals) and 13 clinical studies (2144 patients) were included in the meta-analysis. Among preclinical studies, the mean fusion rates were higher among EST-treated animals (OR 4.79, p < 0.001). Clinical studies similarly showed ESTs to increase fusion rates (OR 2.26, p < 0.001). Of EST modalities, only DCS improved fusion rates in both preclinical (OR 5.64, p < 0.001) and clinical (OR 2.13, p = 0.03) populations; ICS improved fusion in clinical studies only (OR 2.45, p = 0.014). CCS was not effective at increasing fusion, although only one clinical study was identified. A subanalysis of the clinical studies found that ESTs increased fusion rates in the following populations: patients with difficult-to-fuse spines, those who smoke, and those who underwent multilevel fusions.
The authors found that electrical stimulation devices may produce clinically significant increases in arthrodesis rates among patients undergoing spinal fusion. They also found that the pro-arthrodesis effects seen in preclinical studies are also found in clinical populations, suggesting that findings in animal studies are translatable. Additional research is needed to analyze the cost-effectiveness of these devices.
Corinna C. Zygourakis, A. Karim Ahmed, Samuel Kalb, Alex M. Zhu, Ali Bydon, Neil R. Crawford, and Nicholas Theodore
The Excelsius GPS (Globus Medical, Inc.) was approved by the FDA in 2017. This novel robot allows for real-time intraoperative imaging, registration, and direct screw insertion through a rigid external arm—without the need for interspinous clamps or K-wires. The authors present one of the first operative cases utilizing the Excelsius GPS robotic system in spinal surgery. A 75-year-old man presented with severe lower back pain and left leg radiculopathy. He had previously undergone 3 decompressive surgeries from L3 to L5, with evidence of instability and loss of sagittal balance. Robotic assistance was utilized to perform a revision decompression with instrumented fusion from L3 to S1. The usage of robotic assistance in spinal surgery may be an invaluable resource in minimally invasive cases, minimizing the need for fluoroscopy, or in those with abnormal anatomical landmarks.
The video can be found here: https://youtu.be/yVI-sJWf9Iw.
Zach Pennington, Jeff Ehresman, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Kurt Lehner, James Feghali, A. Karim Ahmed, Andrew Schilling, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Accurate prediction of patient survival is an essential component of the preoperative evaluation of patients with spinal metastases. Over the past quarter of a century, a number of predictors have been developed, although none have been accurate enough to be instituted as a staple of clinical practice. However, recently more comprehensive survival calculators have been published that make use of larger data sets and machine learning to predict postoperative survival among patients with spine metastases. Given the glut of calculators that have been published, the authors sought to perform a narrative review of the current literature, highlighting existing calculators along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. In doing so, they identify two “generations” of scoring systems—a first generation based on a priori factor weighting and a second generation comprising predictive tools that are developed using advanced statistical modeling and are focused on clinical deployment. In spite of recent advances, the authors found that most predictors have only a moderate ability to explain variation in patient survival. Second-generation models have a greater prognostic accuracy relative to first-generation scoring systems, but most still require external validation. Given this, it seems that there are two outstanding goals for these survival predictors, foremost being external validation of current calculators in multicenter prospective cohorts, as the majority have been developed from, and internally validated within, the same single-institution data sets. Lastly, current predictors should be modified to incorporate advances in targeted systemic therapy and radiotherapy, which have been heretofore largely ignored.
Erick M. Westbroek, Zach Pennington, A. Karim Ahmed, Yuanxuan Xia, Christine Boone, Philippe Gailloud, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Preoperative endovascular embolization of hypervascular spine tumors can reduce intraoperative blood loss. The extent to which subtotal embolization reduces blood loss has not been clearly established. This study aimed to elucidate a relationship between the extent of preoperative embolization and intraoperative blood loss.
Sixty-six patients undergoing preoperative endovascular embolization and subsequent resection of hypervascular spine tumors were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were divided into 3 groups: complete embolization (n = 22), near-complete embolization (≥ 90% but < 100%; n = 22), and partial embolization (< 90%; n = 22). Intraoperative blood loss was compared between groups using one-way ANOVA with post hoc comparisons between groups.
The average blood loss in the complete embolization group was 1625 mL. The near-complete embolization group had an average blood loss of 2021 mL in surgery. Partial embolization was associated with a mean blood loss of 4009 mL. On one-way ANOVA, significant differences were seen across groups (F-ratio = 6.81, p = 0.002). Significant differences in intraoperative blood loss were also seen between patients undergoing complete and partial embolization (p = 0.001) and those undergoing near-complete and partial embolization (p = 0.006). Pairwise testing showed no significant difference between complete and near-complete embolization (p = 0.57). Analysis of a combined group of complete and near-complete embolization also showed a significantly decreased blood loss compared with partial embolization (p < 0.001). Patient age, tumor size, preoperative coagulation parameters, and preoperative platelet count were not significantly associated with blood loss.
Preoperative endovascular embolization is associated with decreased intraoperative blood loss. In this series, blood loss was significantly less in surgeries for tumors in which preoperative complete or near-complete embolization was achieved than in tumors in which preoperative embolization resulted in less than 90% reduction of tumor vascular blush. These findings suggest that there may be a critical threshold of efficacy that should be the goal of preoperative embolization.