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Paul McMahon, Marina Dididze and Allan D. Levi

Object

Incidental durotomies (IDs) are an unfortunate but anticipated potential complication of spinal surgery. The authors surveyed the frequency of IDs for a single spine surgeon and analyzed the major risk factors as well as the impact on long-term patient outcomes.

Methods

The authors conducted a prospective review of elective spinal surgeries performed over a 15-year period. Any surgery involving peripheral nerve only, intradural procedures, or dural tears due to trauma were excluded from analysis. The incidence of ID was categorized by surgery type including primary surgery, revision surgery, and so forth. Incidence of ID was also examined in the context of years of physician experience and training. Furthermore, the incidence and types of sequelae were examined in patients with an ID.

Results

Among 3000 elective spinal surgery cases, 3.5% (104) had an ID. The incidence of ID during minimally invasive procedures (3.3%) was similar, but no patients experienced long-term sequelae. The incidence of ID during revision surgery (6.5%) was higher. There was a marked difference in incidence between cervical (1.3%) and thoracolumbar (5.1%) cases. The incidence was lower for cases involving instrumentation (2.4%). When physician training was examined, residents were responsible for 49% of all IDs, whereas fellows were responsible for 26% and the attending for 25%. Among all of the cases that involved an ID, 7.7% of patients went on to experience a neurological deficit as compared with 1.5% of those without an ID. The overall failure rate of dural repair was 6.9%, and failure was almost 3 times higher (13%) in revision surgery as compared with a primary procedure (5%).

Conclusions

The authors established a reliable baseline incidence for durotomy after spine surgery: 3.5%. They also identified risk factors that can increase the likelihood of a durotomy, including location of the spinal procedure, type of procedure performed, and the implementation of a new procedure. The years of physician training or resident experience did not appear to be a major risk for ID.

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Michael Y Wang and Allan D. O. Levi

Occipital neuralgia is a result of neuropathic pain transmission in the distribution of the greater occipital nerve. Because it is well anatomically localized, occipital neuralgia has been the focus of various surgical treatments. Ablation, decompression, and modulation of the C-2 nerve have all been described as effective treatments. The C-2 dorsal root ganglionectomy provides effective treatment for this disorder with a low incidence of unpleasant side effects. In this review the authors summarize the current treatment of occipital neuralgia.

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Stephanie Chen, Brandon Gaynor and Allan D. Levi

Pudendal nerve schwannomas are very rare, with only two cases reported in the English-language literature. The surgical approaches described in these two case reports are the transgluteal approach and the laparoscopic approach. The authors present the case of a patient with progressive pelvic pain radiating ipsilaterally into her groin, vagina, and rectum, who was subsequently found to have a pudendal schwannoma. The authors used a transischiorectal fossa approach and intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring and successfully excised the tumor. This approach has the advantage of direct access to Alcock's canal with minimal disruption of the pelvic muscles and ligaments. The patient experienced complete relief of her pelvic pain after the procedure.

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Brian Hood, Howard B. Levene and Allan D. Levi

Peripheral nerve injuries are a source of chronic disability. Incomplete recovery from such injuries results in motor and sensory dysfunction and the potential for the development of chronic pain. The repair of human peripheral nerve injuries with traditional surgical techniques has limited success, particularly when a damaged nerve segment needs to be replaced. An injury to a long segment of peripheral nerve is often repaired using autologous grafting of “noncritical” sensory nerve. Although extensive axonal regeneration can be observed extending into these grafts, recovery of function may be absent or incomplete if the axons fail to reach their intended target. The goal of this review was to summarize the progress that has occurred in developing an artificial neural prosthesis consisting of autologous Schwann cells (SCs), and to detail future directions required in translating this promising therapy to the clinic.

In the authors' laboratory, methods are being explored to combine autologous SCs isolated using cell culture techniques with axon guidance channel (AGC) technology to develop the potential to repair critical gap length lesions within the peripheral nervous system. To test the clinical efficacy of such constructs, it is critically important to characterize the fate of the transplanted SCs with regard to cell survival, migration, differentiation, and myelin production. The authors sought to determine whether the use of SC-filled channels is superior or equivalent to strategies that are currently used clinically (for example, autologous nerve grafts). Finally, although many nerve repair paradigms demonstrate evidence of regeneration within the AGC, the authors further sought to determine if the regeneration observed was physiologically relevant by including electrophysiological, behavioral, and pain assessments. If successful, the development of this reparative approach will bring together techniques that are readily available for clinical use and should rapidly accelerate the process of bringing an effective nerve repair strategy to patients with peripheral nerve injury prior to the development of pain and chronic disability.

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Michael Y. Wang, Gabriel Widi and Allan D. Levi

OBJECT

The aging of the population will require that surgeons increasingly consider operating on elderly patients. Performing surgery safely in the elderly will require an understanding of the factors that predict successful outcomes and avoid complications.

METHODS

Records of patients 85 years and older undergoing elective lumbar spinal surgery were retrospectively reviewed. Microdiscectomies were excluded. Preexisting medical illnesses measured using the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI), American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Physical Status class, age, and surgical parameters were analyzed as factors potentially predictive of complications. Ambulatory function was rated on a 4-point scale.

RESULTS

During the study 26 consecutive patients (mean age 87 years) with a mean ASA class of 2.6 ± 0.65 and CCI of 1.1 ± 1.27 were enrolled. The average number of levels treated was 2.17 ± 1.23, and 73% underwent fusion. The mean follow-up was 41.9 months with a minimum of 24 months, and all patients were alive at last follow-up. Average blood loss was 142 ± 184 ml, and the operative time was 183.3 ± 80.6 minutes. The mean number of levels treated was 2.17 ± 1.13 (range 1–4). Ambulatory function improved significantly by 0.59 ± 1.0 points. Five complications (19.2%) occurred in 4 patients, 2 major and 3 minor. Four complications were temporary and 1 was permanent. Patient age, blood loss, CCI score, ASA class, the number of levels treated, and fusion surgery were not statistically associated with a complication. Operative time of longer than 180 minutes (p = 0.0134) was associated with complications.

CONCLUSIONS

Lumbar spine surgery in patients 85 years and older can be accomplished safely if careful attention is paid to preoperative selection. Prolonged operative times are associated with a higher risk of complications.

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David M. Benglis Jr., Steve Vanni and Allan D. Levi

Object

Minimally invasive anterolateral approaches to the lumbar spine are options for the treatment of a number of adult degenerative spinal disorders. Nerve injuries during these surgeries, although rare, can be devastating complications. With an increasing number of spine surgeons utilizing minimal access retroperitoneal surgery to treat lumbar problems, the frequency of complications associated with this approach will likely increase. The authors sought to better understand the location of the lumbar contribution of the lumbosacral plexus relative to the disc spaces encountered when performing the minimally invasive transpsoas approach, also known as extreme lateral interbody fusion or direct lateral interbody fusion.

Methods

Three fresh cadavers were placed lateral, and a total of 3 dissections of the lumbar contribution of the lumbosacral plexus were performed. Radiopaque soldering wire was then laid along the anterior margin of the nerve fibers and the exiting femoral nerve. Markers were placed at the disc spaces and lateral fluoroscopy was used to measure the location of the lumbar plexus along each respective disc space in the lumbar spine (L1–2, L2–3, L3–4, and L4–5).

Results

The lumbosacral plexus was found lying within the substance of the psoas muscle between the junction of the transverse process and vertebral body and exited along the medial edge of the psoas distally. The lumbosacral plexus was most dorsally positioned at the posterior endplate of L1–2. A general trend of progressive ventral migration of the plexus on the disc space was noted at L2–3, L3–4, and L4–5. Average ratios were calculated at each level (location of the plexus from the dorsal endplate to total disc length) and were 0 (L1–2), 0.11 (L2–3), 0.18 (L3–4), and 0.28 (L4–5).

Conclusions

This anatomical study suggests that positioning the dilator and/or retractor in a posterior position of the disc space may result in nerve injury to the lumbosacral plexus, especially at the L4–5 level. The risk of injuring inherent nerve branches directed to the psoas muscle as well as injury to the genitofemoral nerve do still exist.

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Christoph P. Hofstetter, Anna S. Hofer and Allan D. Levi

OBJECT

Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) is frequently used for spinal arthrodesis procedures in an “off-label” fashion. Whereas complications related to BMP usage are well recognized, the role of dosage is less clear. The objective of this meta-analysis was to assess dose-dependent effectiveness (i.e., bone fusion) and morbidity of BMP used in common spinal arthrodesis procedures. A quantitative exploratory meta-analysis was conducted on studies reporting fusion and complication rates following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), posterior cervical fusion (PCF), anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF), transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF), and posterolateral lumbar fusion (PLF) supplemented with BMP.

METHODS

A literature search was performed to identify studies on BMP in spinal fusion procedures reporting fusion and/or complication rates. From the included studies, a database for each spinal fusion procedure, including patient demographic information, dose of BMP per level, and data regarding fusion rate and complication rates, was created. The incidence of fusion and complication rates was calculated and analyzed as a function of BMP dose. The methodological quality of all included studies was assessed according to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Data were analyzed using a random-effects model. Event rates are shown as percentages, with a 95% CI.

RESULTS

Forty-eight articles met the inclusion criteria: ACDF (n = 7), PCF (n = 6), ALIF (n = 9), TLIF/PLIF (n = 17), and PLF (n = 9), resulting in a total of 5890 patients. In ACDF, the lowest BMP concentration analyzed (0.2–0.6 mg/level) resulted in a fusion rate similar to the highest dose (1.1–2.1 mg/level), while permitting complication rates comparable to ACDF performed without BMP. The addition of BMP to multilevel constructs significantly (p < 0.001) increased the fusion rate (98.4% [CI 95.4%–99.4%]) versus the control group fusion rate (85.8% [CI 77.4%–91.4%]). Studies on PCF were of poor quality and suggest that BMP doses of ≤ 2.1 mg/level resulted in similar fusion rates as higher doses. Use of BMP in ALIF increased fusion rates from 79.1% (CI 57.6%–91.3%) in the control cohort to 96.9% (CI 92.3%–98.8%) in the BMP-treated group (p < 0.01). The rate of complications showed a positive correlation with the BMP dose used. Use of BMP in TLIF had only a minimal impact on fusion rates (95.0% [CI 92.8%–96.5%] vs 93.0% [CI 78.1%–98.0%] in control patients). In PLF, use of ≥ 8.5 mg BMP per level led to a significant increase of fusion rate (95.2%; CI 90.1%–97.8%) compared with the control group (75.3%; CI 64.1%–84.0%, p < 0.001). BMP did not alter the rate of complications when used in PLF.

CONCLUSIONS

The BMP doses used for various spinal arthrodesis procedures differed greatly between studies. This study provides BMP dosing recommendations for the most common spine procedures.

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Laura Bloom, S. Shelby Burks and Allan D. Levi

Postoperative wound infections in spinal surgery remain an important complication to diagnose and treat successfully. In most cases of deep infection, even with instrumentation, aggressive soft-tissue debridement followed by intravenous antibiotics is sufficient. This report presents a patient who underwent L3–S1 laminectomy and pedicle screw placement including bicortical sacral screws. This patient went on to develop multiple (7) recurrent infections at the operative site over a 5-year period. Continued investigation eventually revealed a large presacral abscess, which remained the source of recurrent bacterial seeding via the remaining bone tracts of the bicortical sacral screws placed during the original lumbar surgery. Two years after drainage of this presacral collection via a retroperitoneal approach, the patient remains symptom free.

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Kevin S. Cahill, Paul C. McCormick and Allan D. Levi

The risk of postoperative cancer following the use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)–2 in spinal fusion is one potential complication that has received significant interest. Until recently, there has been little clinical evidence to support the assertion of potential cancer induction after BMP use in spinal surgery. This report aims to summarize the findings from clinical data available to date from the Yale University Open Data Access (YODA) project as well as more recently published large database studies regarding the association of BMP use in spinal fusion and the risk of postoperative cancer. A detailed review was based on online databases, primary studies, FDA reports, and bibliographies of key articles for studies that assessed the efficacy and safety of BMP in spinal fusion. In an analysis of the YODA project, one meta-analysis detected a statistically significant increase in cancer occurrence at 24 months but not at 48 months, and the other meta-analysis did not detect a significant increase in postoperative cancer occurrence. Analysis of 3 large health care data sets (Medicare, MarketScan, and PearlDiver) revealed that none were able to detect a significant increase in risk of malignant cancers when BMP was used compared with controls. The potential risk of postoperative cancer formation following the use of BMP in spinal fusion must be interpreted on an individual basis for each patient by the surgeon. There is no conclusive evidence that application of the common formulations of BMP during spinal surgery results in the formation of cancer locally or at a distant site.

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Rishi N. Sheth, Glen Manzano, Xiuming Li and Allan D. Levi

Object

Human bone marrow stromal cells (hMSCs) constitute a potential source of pluripotent stem cells. In the present study, hMSCs were transplanted into an area of spinal cord contusion in nude rats to determine their survival, differentiation, potential for neuroprotection, and influence on axonal growth and functional recovery.

Methods

Twenty-nine animals received 6 × 105 hMSCs in 6 μl medium 1 week after a contusion, while 14 control animals received an injection of 6 μl medium alone. Basso–Beattie–Bresnahan (BBB) tests were performed weekly. The spinal cords were collected at 6 weeks posttransplantation for histological analysis and assessment of tissue injury.

Results

Immunostaining with anti–human mitochondria antibody and pretransplantation labeling with green fluorescent protein demonstrated that the grafted hMSCs survived and were capable of achieving a flattened appearance in the grafted area; however, none of the transplanted cells stained positively for human-specific neuronal, anti–neurofilament H or glial fibrillary acidic protein within the sites of engraftment. While neuronal or astrocytic differentiation was not seen, cells lining blood vessels in the vicinity of the transplant stained positively for anti–human endothelium CD105 antibody. Staining for anti–neurofilament H antibody demonstrated abundant axonlike structures around the transplanted area in the hMSC group. Tissue sparing analysis showed that animals with grafted hMSCs had a smaller area of contusion cyst compared with controls, but there was no significant difference between the two groups in BBB scores.

Conclusions

The grafted hMSCs survived for ≥ 6 weeks posttransplantation, although they did not differentiate into neural or glial cells. Cells with human endothelial characteristics were observed. Spinal cord–injured rats grafted with hMSCs had smaller contusion cavities, which did not have a significant influence on functional recovery.