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Aaron G. Filler

Object

To improve diagnostic accuracy and achieve high levels of treatment success in patients with pudendal nerve entrapment (PNE) syndromes, the author of this study applied advanced technology diagnostics in distinguishing the various syndrome types according to the different entrapment locations and evaluated new minimal access surgical techniques to treat each subtype.

Methods

Two hundred cases were prospectively evaluated using a standardized set of patient-completed functional and symptom assessments, a collection of new physical examination maneuvers, MR neurography, open MR image–guided injections, intraoperative neurophysiology, minimal access surgery, and formal outcome assessment with the Oswestry Disability Index, pain diagrams, and analog pain scales.

Results

Four primary types of PNE syndromes were identified based on the different locations of entrapment: Type I, entrapment at the exit of the greater sciatic notch in concert with piriformis muscle spasm; Type II, entrapment at the level of the ischial spine, sacrotuberous ligament, and lesser sciatic notch entrance; Type III, entrapment in association with obturator internus muscle spasm at the entrance of the Alcock canal; and Type IV, distal entrapment of terminal branches. The application of new, targeted minimal access surgical techniques led to sustained good to excellent outcomes (50–100% improvement in the pain score or functional score) in 87% of patients. Most of these patients obtained most of their improvement within 4 weeks of surgery, although some continued to experience progressive improvements up to 12 months after surgery.

Conclusions

The application of advanced diagnostics to categorize PNE syndrome origins into 4 major subtypes and the subsequent treatment of each subtype with a tailored strategy greatly improved therapeutic outcomes as compared with those reported when only a single treatment paradigm was applied to all patients.

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Aaron G. Filler

✓A new textual analysis of the central religious aspect of the ancient Egyptian creation myth reveals what appears to be a description of the oldest recorded neurosurgical operation, occurring circa 3000 BC. The analysis results in a hypothesis suggesting that traction reduction was used successfully to reverse a paralyzing cervical spine injury of an early Egyptian leader (Osiris), which inspired the story of his resurrection. The Egyptian mother god Isis, working with the god Thoth (the inventor of medicine), resurrects Osiris by treating his damaged cervical spine. Numerous references in the Papyrus of Ani (Book of the Dead) to Osiris regaining the strength and control of his legs are linked textually to the treatment of his spine. The connection between the intact spine and the ability to rise and stand is used as a distinct metaphor for life and death by the spinal representation of the “djed column” painted on the back of the numerous Egyptian sarcophagi for thousands of years. Controversy over the translation of the vertebral references in Egyptian texts is clarified by considering the specific neurosurgical meanings of hieroglyphs appearing in both the Edwin Smith medical papyrus and in the Papyrus of Ani, and in light of recent scholarly reassessments of those hieroglyphs in the Egyptological literature.

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J. Patrick Johnson, Aaron G. Filler and Duncan Q. McBride

Object

Thoracoscopic discectomy is a minimally invasive procedure simulating a thoracotomy and is an alternative to the costotransversectomy and transpedicular approaches. In recent studies authors have concluded that thoracoscopic discectomy is the preferred procedure; however, relative historical comparisons were difficult to interpret.

The authors conducted a prospective nonrandomized study in which they compared data on 36 patients undergoing thoracoscopic discectomy with eight patients undergoing thoracotomy between 1995 and 1999.

Methods

Patients affected with one- or two-level lesions underwent a thoracoscopic discectomy, and patients with three-level lesions or more underwent thoracotomy and discectomy. Data were collected on operative time, blood loss, chest tube duration, narcotic agent use, and hospital length of stay (LOS). Longer-term follow-up study of pain-related symptoms and neurological function was conducted.

Patients who underwent thoracoscopic discectomy had shorter operative times, less blood loss, a shorter period of chest tube drainage dependence, less narcotic usage, and a shorter LOS. These findings were statistically significant (p < 0.05) for narcotic usage and shorter LOS. Pain related to radiculopathy was improved by means of 75%, and no patients exprienced worsened pain. In patients with myelopathy there was an improvement of two Frankel grades in the thoracoscopic group and one Frankel grade in the thoracotomy discectomy group, but patients in the thoracotomy group were significantly worse preoperatively. One myelopathic patient from each group suffered a worsened outcome postoperatively, although this was not attributed to the method of surgery. The incidence of complications (minor and major) was 31% in the thoracoscopic group and greater than 100% (that is, more than one complication per patient) in the thoracotomy/discectomy group.

Conclusions

One advantage to thoracoscopic discectomy is its reduced incidence of morbidity compared with thoractomy, but its steep learning curve and unfamiliar surgical techniques make this procedure less practical for surgeons not performing it frequently. The more familiar costotransversectomy, transpedicular, and thoracotomy procedures remain viable alternatives for surgeons more experienced in these procedures.

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Aaron G. Filler

✓The lordotic region of the lumbar spine is a significant focus of pain and dysfunction in the human body, and its susceptibility to disorders may reflect its substantial reconfiguration during the course of human evolution. The basic anatomy of the lumbar vertebra in Old World Monkeys and Early Miocene apes, or proconsulids, retains typical mammalian architecture. The lumbar vertebra in humans is different in the repositioning of the lumbar transverse process dorsal to the vertebral body rather than originating on the body itself and in the loss of the styloid process that is adjacent to the facets in other primates. These two features appeared in Morotopithecus bishopi 21.6 million years ago, suggesting that this ape is the founder of an upright hominiform lineage. The iliocostalis lumborum muscles migrated onto the iliac crest approximately 18 million years ago, becoming a powerful lateral flexor muscle of the trunk. The posterior superior iliac spine shifted far dorsal to the longissimus insertion in the genus Homo between 1 and 2 million years ago, making this muscle a powerful extensor of the lumbar spine. Functionally, the establishment of strong muscular flexors and extensors adds dynamic compressive stresses to the lumbar disks and also makes these muscles susceptible to strain.

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Robert L. Tiel and David G. Kline

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J. Patrick Johnson, Samuel S. Ahn, William C. Choi, Jeffery E. Masciopinto, Kee D. Kim, Aaron G. Filler and Antonio A. F. DeSalles

Thoracic sympathectomy is an important option in the treatment of palmar hyperhidrosis and pain disorders. Earlier surgical procedures were highly invasive with known morbidity, acceptable outcome, and established recurrence rates that were the limitations to considering surgical treatment. Thoracoscopic sympathectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that allows detailed visualization of the sympathetic ganglia and minimal postoperative morbidity; however, outcome studies of this technique have been limited. The authors treated 39 patients with 60 thoracoscopic procedures, and the outcomes in this small series were equivalent to previously established open surgical techniques; however, operative moribidity rates, hospital stay, and time of return to normal activity were substantially reduced. Complications and recurrence of symptoms were also comparable to previous reports. Overall patient satisfaction and willingness to repeat the operative procedure ranged from 66 to 96% in all patients. Patients and physicians can consider minimally invasive thoracoscopic sympathectomy procedures as an option to treat sympathetically mediated disorders because of the procedure's reduced morbidity and at least equivalent outcome rates in comparison to other treatments.

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Aaron G. Filler, Jodean Haynes, Sheldon E. Jordan, Joshua Prager, J. Pablo Villablanca, Keyvan Farahani, Duncan Q. Mcbride, Jay S. Tsuruda, Brannon Morisoli, Ulrich Batzdorf and J. Patrick Johnson

Object. Because lumbar magnetic resonance (MR) imaging fails to identify a treatable cause of chronic sciatica in nearly 1 million patients annually, the authors conducted MR neurography and interventional MR imaging in 239 consecutive patients with sciatica in whom standard diagnosis and treatment failed to effect improvement.

Methods. After performing MR neurography and interventional MR imaging, the final rediagnoses included the following: piriformis syndrome (67.8%), distal foraminal nerve root entrapment (6%), ischial tunnel syndrome (4.7%), discogenic pain with referred leg pain (3.4%), pudendal nerve entrapment with referred pain (3%), distal sciatic entrapment (2.1%), sciatic tumor (1.7%), lumbosacral plexus entrapment (1.3%), unappreciated lateral disc herniation (1.3%), nerve root injury due to spinal surgery (1.3%), inadequate spinal nerve root decompression (0.8%), lumbar stenosis (0.8%), sacroiliac joint inflammation (0.8%), lumbosacral plexus tumor (0.4%), sacral fracture (0.4%), and no diagnosis (4.2%).

Open MR—guided Marcaine injection into the piriformis muscle produced the following results: no response (15.7%), relief of greater than 8 months (14.9%), relief lasting 2 to 4 months with continuing relief after second injection (7.5%), relief for 2 to 4 months with subsequent recurrence (36.6%), and relief for 1 to 14 days with full recurrence (25.4%). Piriformis surgery (62 operations; 3-cm incision, transgluteal approach, 55% outpatient; 40% with local or epidural anesthesia) resulted in excellent outcome in 58.5%, good outcome in 22.6%, limited benefit in 13.2%, no benefit in 3.8%, and worsened symptoms in 1.9%.

Conclusions. This Class A quality evaluation of MR neurography's diagnostic efficacy revealed that piriformis muscle asymmetry and sciatic nerve hyperintensity at the sciatic notch exhibited a 93% specificity and 64% sensitivity in distinguishing patients with piriformis syndrome from those without who had similar symptoms (p < 0.01).

Evaluation of the nerve beyond the proximal foramen provided eight additional diagnostic categories affecting 96% of these patients. More than 80% of the population good or excellent functional outcome was achieved.

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Aaron G. Filler, Michel Kliot, Franklyn A. Howe, Cecil E. Hayes, Dawn E. Saunders, Robert Goodkin, B. Anthony Bell, H. Richard Winn, John R. Griffiths and Jay S. Tsuruda

✓ Currently, diagnosis and management of disorders involving nerves are generally undertaken without images of the nerves themselves. The authors evaluated whether direct nerve images obtained using the new technique of magnetic resonance (MR) neurography could be used to make clinically important diagnostic distinctions that cannot be readily accomplished using existing methods.

The authors obtained T2-weighted fast spin—echo fat-suppressed (chemical shift selection or inversion recovery) and T1-weighted images with planes parallel or transverse to the long axis of nerves using standard or phased-array coils in healthy volunteers and referred patients in 242 sessions.

Longitudinal and cross-sectional fascicular images readily distinguished perineural from intraneural masses, thus predicting both resectability and requirement for intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring. Fascicle pattern and longitudinal anatomy firmly identified nerves and thus improved the safety of image-guided procedures. In severe trauma, MR neurography identified nerve discontinuity at the fascicular level preoperatively, thus verifying the need for surgical repair. Direct images readily demonstrated increased diameter in injured nerves and showed the linear extent and time course of image hyperintensity associated with nerve injury. These findings confirm and precisely localize focal nerve compressions, thus avoiding some exploratory surgery and allowing for smaller targeted exposures when surgery is indicated.

Direct nerve imaging can demonstrate nerve continuity, distinguish intraneural from perineural masses, and localize nerve compressions prior to surgical exploration. Magnetic resonance neurography can add clinically useful diagnostic information in many situations in which physical examinations, electrodiagnostic tests, and existing image techniques are inconclusive.