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Karishma Parikh, Andre Tomasino, Jared Knopman, John Boockvar and Roger Härtl

Object

The authors present their clinical results and the learning curve associated with the use of tubular retractors for 1- and 2-level lumbar microscope-assisted discectomies and laminectomies.

Methods

The study involves a retrospective and prospective analysis of 230 patients who underwent noninstrumented minimally invasive procedures for degenerative lumbar spinal disease between 2004 and 2007. Data on patient demographic characteristics and operative results, including length of stay, blood loss, operative times, and surgical complications were collected. Clinical outcomes were assessed based on pre- and postoperative Visual Analog Scale scores, Oswestry Disability Index values, and the Macnab outcome scale scores.

Results

The results showed characteristic differences in blood loss and operating times between 1- and 2-level procedures and between discectomies and laminectomies. A significant learning curve was seen by a decrease in operating time for 1- level discectomies and 2-level laminectomies. Major complications were not observed.

Conclusions

The use of tubular retractors for microsurgical decompression of degenerative spinal disease is a safe and effective treatment modality. As with other techniques, minimally invasive procedures are associated with a significant learning curve. As surgeons become more comfortable with the procedure, its applications can be expanded to include, for example, spinal instrumentation and deformity correction.

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Andre Tomasino, Harry Gebhard, Karishma Parikh, Christian Wess and Roger Härtl

Object

The authors present the radiological and clinical outcome data obtained in patients who underwent single-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) for cervical spondylosis and/or disc herniation; bioabsorbable plates were used for instrumentation. The use of metallic plates in ACDF has gained acceptance as a stabilizing part of the procedure to increase fusion rates, but when complications occur with these devices, the overall effectiveness of the procedure is compromised. As a possible solution, bioabsorbable implants for ACDF have been developed. This study investigates the feasibility and radiological and clinical outcomes of the bioabsorbable plates for ACDF.

Methods

The radiological and clinical outcomes of 30 patients were investigated retrospectively. All patients presented with cervical radiculopathy or myelopathy and underwent single-level ACDF in which a bioabsorbable anterior cervical plate and an allograft bone spacer were placed at a level between C-3 and C-7. Radiological outcome was assessed based on the fusion rate, subsidence, and Cobb angle of the surgical level. Clinical outcome was determined by using a visual analog scale, the Neck Disability Index, and the Odom criteria.

Results

There were no intraoperative complications, and no hardware failure was observed. No signs or symptoms of adverse tissue reaction caused by the implant were seen. Two reoperations were necessary due to postoperative blood collections. The overall complication rate was 16.7%. After 6 months, radiographic fusion was seen in 92.3% of patients. Subsidence at 11.3 ± 7.2 months was 3.1 ± 5.8 mm (an 8.2% change over the immediately postoperative results), and the change in the sagittal curvature was –2.7 ± 2.7°. The visual analog scale score for neck and arm pain and Neck Disability Index improved significantly after surgery (p < 0.001). Overall at 19.5 months postoperatively, 83% of the patients had favorable outcomes based on the Odom criteria.

Conclusions

Absorbable instrumentation provides better stability than the absence of a plate but graft subsidence and deformity rates may be higher than those associated with metal implants. There were no device-related complications, but adverse late effects cannot be excluded. The fusion rate and outcome are comparable to the results achieved with metallic plates. The authors were satisfied with the use of bioabsorbable plates as a reasonable alternative to metal, avoiding the need for lifelong metallic implants.

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Andre Tomasino, Karishma Parikh, Heiko Koller, Walter Zink, A. John Tsiouris, Jeremy Steinberger and Roger Härtl

Object

The purpose of this retrospective study was to quantify the anatomical relationship between the vertebral artery (VA), the cervical pedicle, and its surrounding structures, including the incidence of irregularities. Additionally, data delineating a “safe zone,” and these data's application during instrumentation with transpedicular cervical screw fixation were considered. The anatomical proximity of the VA to the cervical pedicle prevents spine surgeons from preferring cervical pedicle screws (CPSs) over lateral mass screws at levels C3–6. Accurate placement of CPSs is often difficult to determine, because this definition can vary between 1 and 4 mm of lateral “noncritical” and “critical” pedicle breaches. No previous study in a western population has investigated the VA's proximity to the cervical pedicle, its percentage of occupancy in the transverse foramen (TF), and the incidence of irregular VA pathways.

Methods

One hundred twenty-seven consecutive patients who underwent CT angiography of the neck were enrolled in this study. The measurements included the following: medial pedicle border to VA; lateral pedicle border to VA; pedicle diameter (PD); sagittal diameter of the VA; coronal diameter of the VA; sagittal diameter of the TF; and coronal diameter of the TF. The cross-sections of the VA and the TF were measured to determine the occupation ratio of the VA. In addition, a safe zone was defined based on all lateral pedicle border to VA measurements in which the VA was within the TF. The level of entry of the VA into the TF as well as irregularities of the VA and the cervical pedicles were recorded.

Results

Vertebral artery dominance on the left side was seen in 69.3% of cases. The mean PD increased from 4.9 to 6.5 mm (from C-3 to C-7, respectively). Statistically significantly bigger PDs were seen in males. The mean PD at C-2 was 5.6 mm. Entry of the VA at C-6 was seen in approximately 80% of cases. The TF occupation ratio of the VA was found to be the greatest in C-4 and C-7 (37.1 and 74.2%, respectively). The safe zone increased from C-2 to C-6 (1.1 to 1.7 mm, respectively), but was only 0.65 mm at C-7. In 23.6% of cases, an irregular pathway of the VA or irregular anatomy of a cervical pedicle was seen, with the highest incidence of irregularities found at C-2.

Conclusions

Computed tomography angiography is a valuable tool that can help determine the relationships between cervical pedicles and the VA as well as irregular VA pathways. Pedicle diameter, safe zone, and occupational ratio of the VA in the foramen determine the risk associated with instrumentation and should be assessed individually. Based on the authors' measurements, C-4 and C-7 can be considered critical levels for CPS placement. Because of this and the high incidence of irregular VA pathways and different entry points, it may be helpful to review neck CT angiography studies before considering posterior instrumentation procedures in the cervical spine.