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Andrei F. Joaquim, Wellington K. Hsu and Alpesh A. Patel

Cervical surgery is one of the most common surgical spinal procedures performed around the world. The authors performed a systematic review of the literature reporting the outcomes of cervical spine surgery in high-level athletes in order to better understand the nuances of cervical spine pathology in this population.

A search of the MEDLINE database using the search terms “cervical spine” AND “surgery” AND “athletes” yielded 54 abstracts. After exclusion of publications that did not meet the criteria for inclusion, a total of 8 papers reporting the outcome of cervical spine surgery in professional or elite athletes treated for symptoms secondary to cervical spine pathology (focusing in degenerative conditions) remained for analysis. Five of these involved the management of cervical disc herniation, 3 were specifically about traumatic neurapraxia.

The majority of the patients included in this review were American football players. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) was commonly performed in high-level athletes for the treatment of cervical disc herniation. Most of the studies suggested that return to play is safe for athletes who are asymptomatic after ACDF for cervical radiculopathy due to disc herniation. Surgical treatment may provide a higher rate of return to play for these athletes than nonsurgical treatment. Return to play after cervical spinal cord contusion may be possible in asymptomatic patients. Cervical cord signal changes on MRI may not be an absolute contraindication for return to play in neurologically intact patients, according to some authors. Cervical contusions secondary to cervical stenosis may be associated with a worse outcome and a higher recurrence rate than those those secondary to disc herniation. The evidence is low (Level IV) and individualized treatment must be recommended.

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Andrei F. Joaquim and Alpesh A. Patel

Odontoid fractures comprise as many as 20% of all cervical spine fractures. Fractures at the dens base, classified by the Anderson and D’Alonzo system as Type II injuries, are the most common pattern of all odontoid fractures and are also the most common cervical injuries in patients older than 70 years of age. Surgical treatment is recommended for patients older than 50 years with Type II odontoid fractures, as well as in patients at a high risk for nonunion. Anterior odontoid screw fixation (AOSF) and posterior cervical instrumented fusion (PCIF) are both well-accepted techniques for surgical treatment but with unique indications and contraindications as well as varied reported outcomes. In this paper, the authors review the literature about specific patients and fracture characteristics that may guide treatment toward one technique over the other.

AOSF can preserve atlantoaxial motion, but requires a reduced odontoid, an intact transverse ligament, and a favorable fracture line to achieve adequate fracture compression. Additionally, older patients may have a higher rate of pseudarthrosis using this technique, as well as postoperative dysphagia. PCIF has a higher rate of fusion and is indicated in patients with severe atlantoaxial misalignment and with poor bone quality. PCIF allows direct open reduction of displaced fragments and can reduce any atlantoaxial subluxation. It is also used as a salvage procedure after failed AOSF. However, this technique results in loss of atlantoaxial motion, requires prone positioning, and demands a longer operative duration than AOSF, factors that can be a challenge in patients with severe medical conditions. Although both anterior and posterior approaches are acceptable, many clinical and radiological factors should be taken into account when choosing the best surgical approach. Surgeons must be prepared to perform both procedures to adequately treat these injuries.

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Andrei F. Joaquim and Alpesh A. Patel

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Andrei F. Joaquim, Enrico Ghizoni, Helder Tedeschi, Ulysses Caus Batista and Alpesh A. Patel

Object

The Thoracolumbar Injury Classification and Severity Score (TLICS) was developed to improve injury classification and guide surgical decision making, yet validation remains necessary. This study evaluates the neurological outcome of patients with thoracolumbar spine trauma (TLST) treated according to the TLICS.

Methods

The TLICS was prospectively applied to a consecutive series of patients treated for TLST between 2009 and 2012. Patients with a TLICS of 4 points or more were surgically treated, whereas patients with a TLICS of 3 points or fewer were conservatively managed. The primary outcome was the American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS).

Results

A total of 65 patients were treated. In 37 patients, the TLICS was 3 points or fewer and the patients were treated nonsurgically (Group 1). The remaining 28 patients with a TLICS of 4 or more points underwent surgical treatment (Group 2). In Group 1, 28 patients underwent some follow-up at the authors' institution; all of these patients were neurologically intact with compression or burst fractures (TLICS of 1 or 2 points; median 2). The average age in this group was 44.5 years, and follow-up ranged from 1 to 36 months (mean 6.7 months, median 3 months). Two patients (both with a TLICS of 2 points) underwent late surgery for axial back pain and mild focal kyphosis, without significant clinical improvement. In Group 2, follow-up ranged from 1 to 18 months (mean 4.4 months, median 3 months) and the TLICS ranged from 4 to 10 points (median 7 points). In this group, preoperatively, 9 (32%) patients had AIS Grade E injuries, 6 (21%) had AIS Grade C, 1 (4%) had AIS Grade B, and 12 (43%) had AIS Grade A injuries. At the final follow-up, the AIS grade was E in 11 patients (39%), D in 5 (18%), and A in 12 (43%). No patient had neurological worsening during the follow-up.

Conclusions

The TLICS can be used to guide treatment that is safe with regard to the neurological status of patients treated for TLST.

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Otávio Turolo da Silva, Marcelo Ferreira Sabba, Henrique Igor Gomes Lira, Enrico Ghizoni, Helder Tedeschi, Alpesh A. Patel and Andrei Fernandes Joaquim

OBJECTIVE

The authors evaluated a new classification for subaxial cervical spine trauma (SCST) recently proposed by the AOSpine group based on morphological criteria obtained using CT imaging.

METHODS

Patients with SCST treated at the authors’ institution according to the Subaxial Cervical Spine Injury Classification system were included. Five different blinded researchers classified patients’ injuries according to the new AOSpine system using CT imaging at 2 different times (4-week interval between each assessment). Reliability was assessed using the kappa index (κ), while validity was inferred by comparing the classification obtained with the treatment performed.

RESULTS

Fifty-one patients were included: 31 underwent surgical treatment, and 20 were managed nonsurgically. Intraobserver agreement for subgroups ranged from 0.61 to 0.93, and interobserver agreement was 0.51 (first assessment) and 0.6 (second assessment). Intraobserver agreement for groups ranged from 0.66 to 0.95, and interobserver agreement was 0.52 (first assessment) and 0.63 (second assessment). The kappa index in all evaluations was 0.67 for Type A, 0.08 for Type B, and 0.68 for Type C injuries, and for the facet modifier it was 0.33 (F1), 0.4 (F2), 0.56 (F3), and 0.75 (F4). Complete agreement for all components was attained in 25 cases (49%) (19 Type A and 6 Type C), and for subgroups it was attained in 22 cases (43.1%) (16 Type A0 and 6 Type C). Type A0 injuries were treated conservatively or surgically according to their neurological status and ligamentous status. Type C injuries were treated surgically in almost all cases, except one.

CONCLUSIONS

While the general reliability of the newer AOSpine system for SCST was acceptable for group classification, significant limitations were identified for subgroups. Type B injuries were rarely diagnosed, and only mild (Type A0) and extreme severe (Type C) injuries had a high rate of interobserver agreement. Facet modifiers and intermediate injury patterns require better descriptions to improve their low agreement in cases of SCST.

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Alpesh A. Patel, Peter G. Whang, Andrew P. White, Michael G. Fehlings and Alexander R. Vaccaro

The process of publishing scientific research can be hampered by potential pitfalls for journals and researchers alike; the definition and determination of authorship, legal documentation, data accuracy, and disclosure of financial conflicts of interest are all examples. In the current article, the authors discuss the challenges related to scientific medical writing and provide updated recommendations for both the prevention and management of these issues.

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Barrett S. Boody, Surabhi Bhatt, Aditya S. Mazmudar, Wellington K. Hsu, Nan E. Rothrock and Alpesh A. Patel

OBJECTIVE

The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS), which is funded by the National Institutes of Health, is a set of adaptive, responsive assessment tools that measures patient-reported health status. PROMIS measures have not been validated for surgical patients with cervical spine disorders. The objective of this project is to evaluate the validity (e.g., convergent validity, known-groups validity, responsiveness to change) of PROMIS computer adaptive tests (CATs) for pain behavior, pain interference, and physical function in patients undergoing cervical spine surgery.

METHODS

The legacy outcome measures Neck Disability Index (NDI) and SF-12 were used as comparisons with PROMIS measures. PROMIS CATs, NDI-10, and SF-12 measures were administered prospectively to 59 consecutive tertiary hospital patients who were treated surgically for degenerative cervical spine disorders. A subscore of NDI-5 was calculated from NDI-10 by eliminating the lifting, headaches, pain intensity, reading, and driving sections and multiplying the final score by 4. Assessments were administered preoperatively (baseline) and postoperatively at 6 weeks and 3 months. Patients presenting for revision surgery, tumor, infection, or trauma were excluded. Participants completed the measures in Assessment Center, an online data collection tool accessed by using a secure login and password on a tablet computer. Subgroup analysis was also performed based on a primary diagnosis of either cervical radiculopathy or cervical myelopathy.

RESULTS

Convergent validity for PROMIS CATs was supported with multiple statistically significant correlations with the existing legacy measures, NDI and SF-12, at baseline. Furthermore, PROMIS CATs demonstrated known-group validity and identified clinically significant improvements in all measures after surgical intervention. In the cervical radiculopathy and myelopathic cohorts, the PROMIS measures demonstrated similar responsiveness to the SF-12 and NDI scores in the patients who self-identified as having postoperative clinical improvement. PROMIS CATs required a mean total of 3.2 minutes for PROMIS pain behavior (mean ± SD 0.9 ± 0.5 minutes), pain interference (1.2 ± 1.9 minutes), and physical function (1.1 ± 1.4 minutes) and compared favorably with 3.4 minutes for NDI and 4.1 minutes for SF-12.

CONCLUSIONS

This study verifies that PROMIS CATs demonstrate convergent and known-groups validity and comparable responsiveness to change as existing legacy measures. The PROMIS measures required less time for completion than legacy measures. The validity and efficiency of the PROMIS measures in surgical patients with cervical spine disorders suggest an improvement over legacy measures and an opportunity for incorporation into clinical practice.