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Alex Alfieri and Giampietro Pinna

Object

There is little information about the long-term effectiveness and complications following decompressive surgery for syringomyelia related to Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I).

Methods

Examining long-term clinical and radiological follow-up, the authors studied a mixed retrospective and prospective single-institution cohort of 109 consecutive surgically treated adult patients with syringomyelia and CM-I. All patients underwent a standardized surgical protocol: decompression of the craniocervical junction, arachnoid exploration, and shrinkage of the cerebellar tonsils. Factors predicting outcome were investigated.

Results

The retrospective arm consisted of 41 cases treated between 1990 and 1994, and the prospective arm comprised 68 patients treated between 1994 and 2001. The mean overall age was 45.9 years, and 58.8% of the population was female. The median follow-up period was 12.7 years. The most frequent initial symptoms were pain and sensory and gait disturbances. There was no perioperative death or neurological deterioration. The comprehensive perioperative complication rate was approximately 11%, with 3 cases (2.7%) of CSF leakage. Regression analysis showed that the best combination of clinical and radiological outcome predictors was age and duration of symptoms. Clinical follow-up confirmed surgical result stability with clinical improvement of greater than 90% of the spinal and cranial manifestations over a long-term period. Two patients had radiological recurrences of syringomyelia without clinical signs 85 and 124 months after surgery.

Conclusions

Certain clinical predictors of poor clinical and radiological prognosis were identified—namely, age at time of surgery and symptom duration. The results of the study provide additional long-term data that support the effectiveness and safety of relieving CSF block at the craniocervical junction in CM-I–related syringomyelia.

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Giampietro Pinna, Franco Alessandrini, Alex Alfieri, Marcella Rossi and Albino Bricolo

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow abnormalities are known to be present in Chiari I malformation and to underlie the origin and progression of associated syringomyelia. The incidence of syrinx formation, however, is variable for unknown reasons. The aim of this study was to investigate whether differences in CSF flow dynamics in patients with Chiari I malformation may account for the different clinical and radiological presentation.

Presurgical and postsurgical phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging investigations were prospectively conducted in 47 adult patients with symptomatic Chiari I malformation. Patients were divided into two groups according to the presence (32 cases) or absence (15 cases) of syrinx. Cerebrospinal fluid flow patterns were evaluated at four regions of interest: prebulbar cistern, foramen magnum, and the ventral and dorsal spinal subarachnoid spaces at the C-5 level. A temporal analysis of CSF flow waveforms was performed with measurement of cranial- and caudal-directed flow durations. All patients underwent a craniocervical decompressive procedure. Preoperatively, a prolonged caudal-directed (systolic) flow pattern was observed in patients with syringomyelia, as compared with normal control values obtained in 15 healthy volunteers. Conversely, a decreased systolic duration was observed in Chiari I patients who had malformation without syrinx. These trends were not statistically significant because of the considerable degree of overlap with the control values recorded in both groups. Additional comparison of the observed preoperative values obtained in patients with and those without syringomyelia indicated that the difference in systolic flow duration was significant at the ventral spinal subarachnoid space level (p = 0.003) and remarkable at the other levels, although not reaching statistical significance. Cerebrospinal fluid flow was minimal or absent at the foramen magnum (dorsal aspect) due to tonsillar herniation, precluding reliable quantitative measurement at this level. There was no evidence of communication between the fourth ventricle and syrinx in any case. Postoperatively, unobstructed CSF flow was recorded across the enlarged foramen magnum and into the artificial cisterna magna in all patients. A gradual restoration of near-normal flow patterns was observed in both groups. Inside the syrinx, fluid motion gradually tapered, no longer being detectable in 12 patients (37.5%) 1 year postsurgery.

In patients with Chiari I malformation and associated syringomyelia different CSF flow patterns were demonstrated as compared with patients in whom syrinx was absent. Analysis of this study's findings supports the hypothesis that in Chiari I malformation an elongated systolic flow may prolong the condition of increased spinal subarachnoid pressure caused by the junctional obstruction, thus favoring CSF penetration into the spinal cord. It may be also proposed that a shortened systolic flow may be insufficient to maintain a hypertensive condition for enough time to induce syrinx formation.

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Roberto Gazzeri, Marcelo Galarza, Massimiliano Neroni, Alex Alfieri and Stefano Esposito

The authors describe a minimally invasive technical note for the surgical treatment of primary intracerebral hematoma. Thirty-one patients with supratentorial intracerebral hematomas and no underlying vascular anomalies or bleeding disorders underwent treatment with a single linear skin incision followed by a 3-cm craniotomy. After evacuation of the hematoma, a matrix hemostatic sealant (FloSeal) was injected into the surgical cavity, and immediate hemostasis was achieved in all cases. A second operation was necessary in only 1 case. In this preliminary experience, a small craniotomy combined with FloSeal helped to control operative bleeding, reducing brain exposure and damage to the surrounding tissue while reducing the length of the surgery.

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Jens Rachinger, Stefan Rampp, Julian Prell, Christian Scheller, Alex Alfieri and Christian Strauss

Object

Preservation of cochlear nerve function in vestibular schwannoma (VS) removal is usually dependent on tumor size and preoperative hearing status. Tumor origin as an independent factor has not been systematically investigated.

Methods

A series of 90 patients with VSs, who underwent surgery via a suboccipitolateral route, was evaluated with respect to cochlear nerve function, tumor size, radiological findings, and intraoperatively confirmed tumor origin. All patients were reevaluated 12 months after surgery.

Results

Despite comparable preoperative cochlear nerve status and larger tumor sizes, hearing preservation was achieved in 42% of patients with tumor originating from the superior vestibular nerve, compared with 16% of those with tumor originating from the inferior vestibular nerve.

Conclusions

Tumor origin is an important prognostic factor for cochlear nerve preservation in VS surgery.

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Alex Alfieri, Mauro Campello, Maximilian Broger, Mario Vitale and Andreas Schwarz

Giant sacral tumors present unique challenges to surgeons because there is no established consensus regarding the best treatment options. The authors report on the care of and outcome in a patient presenting with low-back pain only, who underwent preoperative biopsy sampling and subsequent embolization of the feeding vessels of a giant, sacral cellular schwannoma. The main procedure was performed via a combined posterior-anterior approach with complete microsurgical removal of the tumor, without the use of instrumentation, bracing, or adjuvant radio- and chemotherapy. At the 10-year follow-up, no evidence of residual tumor, recurrence, or instability was recognizable. Giant, sacral cellular schwannomas can be aggressively completely removed without any significant morbidity, achieving long-term control of the disease.

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Roberto Gazzeri, Marcelo Galarza, Massimiliano Neroni, Claudio Fiore, Andrea Faiola, Fabrizio Puzzilli, Giorgio Callovini and Alex Alfieri

OBJECT

Spacers placed between the lumbar spinous processes represent a promising surgical treatment alternative for a variety of spinal pathologies. They provide an unloading distractive force to the stenotic motion segment, restoring foraminal height, and have the potential to relieve symptoms of degenerative disc disease. The authors performed a retrospective, multicenter nonrandomized study consisting of 1108 patients to evaluate implant survival and failure modes after the implantation of 8 different interspinous process devices (IPDs).

METHODS

The medical records of patients who had undergone placement of an IPD were retrospectively evaluated, and demographic information, diagnosis, and preoperative pain levels were recorded. Preoperative and postoperative clinical assessments in the patients were based on the visual analog scale. A minimum of 3 years after IPD placement, information on long-term outcomes was obtained from additional follow-up or from patient medical and radiological records.

RESULTS

One thousand one hundred eight patients affected by symptomatic 1- or 2-level segmental lumbar spine degenerative disease underwent placement of an IPD. The complication rate was 7.8%. There were 27 fractures of the spinous process and 23 dura mater tears with CSF leakage. The ultimate failure rate requiring additional surgery was 9.6%. The reasons for revision, which always involved removal of the original implant, were acute worsening of low-back pain or lack of improvement (45 cases), recurrence of symptoms after an initial good outcome (42 cases), and implant dislocation (20 cases).

CONCLUSIONS

The IPD is not a substitute for a more invasive 3-column fusion procedure in cases of major instability and spondylolisthesis. Overdistraction, poor bone density, and poor patient selection may all be factors in the development of complications. Preoperatively, careful attention should be paid to bone density, appropriate implant size, and optimal patient selection.

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Alex Alfieri, Vera Unterhuber, Martina Pircher, Andreas Schwarz, Roberto Gazzeri, Michael Reinert and Hans R. Widmer

Object

In this study, the authors prospectively evaluated long-term psychosocial and neurocognitive performance in patients suffering from nonaneurysmal, nontraumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) and investigated the association between the APOE-ε4 genotype and outcome in these patients.

Methods

All patients admitted to the authors' institution between January 2001 and January 2003 with spontaneous nonaneurysmal SAH were prospectively examined (mean follow-up 59.8 months). The APOE genotype was determined in all patients by polymerase chain reaction from a blood sample. Of the 30 patients included in this study, 11 were carriers of the ε4 allele.

Results

All patients showed a good recovery and regained full independence with no persisting neurological deficits. The patients with the ε4 allele, however, scored significantly higher on the Beck Depression Inventory (22.1 ± 6.3 vs 14.1 ± 5.1). At follow-up, depression was more persistent in the group with the ε4 allele compared with the group that lacked the allele. This finding reached statistical significance (p < 0.05). Selective attention was impaired in all patients during the first year of follow-up, with an earlier recovery noted in the patients without the ε4 allele. Moreover, there was a tendency toward a linear relationship between the Beck Depression Inventory and the d2 Test of Attention. Two patients who carried the ε4 allele did not return to their employment even after 5 years.

Conclusions

The findings in this study suggest that the APOE genotypes may be associated with the psychosocial and neurocognitive performance after spontaneous nonaneurysmal SAH, even in the absence of neurological impairment. Physicians should consider patient genotype in assessing the long-term consequences of nonaneurysmal SAH.

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Julian Prell, Stefan Rampp, Jens Rachinger, Christian Scheller, Alex Alfieri, Liane Marquardt, Christian Strauss and Viktoria Bau

Object

High-grade postoperative facial nerve paresis after surgery for vestibular schwannoma with insufficient eye closure involves a risk for severe ocular complications. When conservative measurements are not sufficient, conventional invasive treatments include tarsorrhaphy and eyelid loading. In this study, injection of botulinum toxin into the levator palpebrae muscle was investigated as an alternative for temporary iatrogenic eye closure.

Methods

Injection of botulinum toxin was indicated by an interdisciplinary decision (neurosurgery and ophthalmology) in patients with a postoperative facial nerve paresis corresponding to a House-Brackmann Grade of IV or greater and documented abnormalities concerning corneal status such as keratopathia or conjunctival redness. Twenty-five IUs of botulinum toxin were injected transcutaneously and transconjunctivally.

Results

Six of 11 patients with high-grade paresis showed abnormal corneal findings in the early postoperative period. In 4 of these patients, botulinum toxin was injected; 1 patient declined the treatment, and in 1 patient it was not performed because of contralateral blindness. Temporary eye closure was achieved for 2 to 6 months in all cases. In all cases, facial nerve function had recovered sufficiently in terms of eye closure when the effect of botulinum toxin subsided.

Conclusion

The application of botulinum toxin for temporary iatrogenic eye closure is an excellent low-risk and temporary alternative to other invasive measures for the treatment of postoperative high-grade facial nerve paresis when the facial nerve is anatomically intact.

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Amadé Bregy, Alex Alfieri, Stefanos Demertzis, Pasquale Mordasini, Anna Katharina Jetzer, Dominique Kuhlen, Thomas Schaffner, Ralph Dacey, Hans-Jakob Steiger and Michael Reinert

Object

The treatment of complex cerebrovascular or skull base pathological conditions necessitates a microsurgical blood flow preservation or augmentative revascularization procedure as either an adjunctive safety measure or a definitive treatment. The brain is susceptible to ischemia, and procedure-related risks can be minimized by the reduction of occlusion time or the use of a nonocclusive technique. The authors therefore analyzed the feasibility of an automatic device (C-Port xA, Cardica) designed for constructing an end-to-side anastomosis with or without flow interruption for a middle cerebral artery (MCA) bypass in a human cadaveric model and in an in vivo craniotomy simulation model.

Methods

Four Thiel-fixated human head specimens were prepared using 8 standard pterional craniotomies. The sylvian fissure was opened to access the anterior circulation and in particular the MCA. The length of the individual vessel segments was measured. The C-Port xA was tested on each of the 8 exposures. In addition the C-Port xA was deployed in an in vivo craniotomy simulator model in 10 New Zealand rabbits (a total of 20 anastomoses) by using the abdominal aorta jump graft model.

Results

Short-term patency was assessed by angiography and histological findings. In all 8 sylvian exposures, construction of an MCA anastomosis with the aid of the C-Port xA was feasible. All 20 jump graft anastomoses performed in the in vivo craniotomy simulator were found to be patent.

Conclusions

The anatomical studies as well as the in vivo craniotomy simulation studies demonstrated that the dimensions of the automated end-to-side anastomosis device are suitable for an extracranial–intracranial high-flow bypass on the MCA. Further miniaturization and special adaptation of this device would allow bypass procedures to more proximal intracranial vessels.

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Julian Prell, Jens Rachinger, Robert Smaczny, Bettina-Maria Taute, Stefan Rampp, Joerg Illert, Gershom Koman, Christian Marquart, Alexandra Rachinger, Sebastian Simmermacher, Alex Alfieri, Christian Scheller and Christian Strauss

Object

The incidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) after craniotomy is reported to be as high as 50%. In outpatients, D-dimer levels of more than 0.5 mg/L indicate venous thromboembolism (VTE, which subsumes DVT and pulmonary embolism [PE]) with a sensitivity of 99.4% and a specificity of 38.2%. However, D-dimer levels are believed to be unreliable in postoperative patients. The authors undertook the present study to test the hypothesis that D-dimer levels would be systematically raised in a postoperative population and to define a feasible threshold for identification of VTE.

Methods

Doppler ultrasonography of the lower extremity was performed pre- and postoperatively to evaluate for DVT in 101 patients who underwent elective craniotomy. D-dimer levels were assessed preoperatively and on the 3rd, 7th, and 10th days after surgery. Statistical analysis was carried out to define a feasible threshold for D-dimer levels.

Results

D-dimer plasma levels were found to be systematically raised postoperatively, and they differed between patients with and without VTE in a highly significant way. On the 3rd day after surgery, D-dimer levels of more than 2 mg/L indicated VTE with a sensitivity of 95.3% and a specificity of 74.1%, allowing for the definition of a feasible threshold. D-dimer levels of more than 4 mg/L were observed in all patients who had PE during the postoperative period (n = 9). Ventilation time and duration of surgery were identified as highly significant risk factors for the development of VTE.

Conclusions

Using a threshold of 2 mg/L, D-dimer levels will indicate VTE with a high degree of sensitivity and specificity in patients who have undergone craniotomy. Pulmonary embolism seems to be indicated by even higher D-dimer levels. Given that the development of D-dimer plasma levels in the postoperative period follows a principle that can be predicted and that deviations from it indicate VTE, this principle might be applicable to other types of surgery.