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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 K. Daniel Riew

Management of intradural spinal tumors requires posterior decompressive techniques. Cervical spine deformity secondary to sagittal and/or coronal imbalance after a laminectomy may result in significant cervical pain and functional deterioration, as well as neurological deficits in the most severe cases. In this paper, the authors discuss the management of cervical spine deformity after intradural tumor resection, with emphasis on the surgical strategies required to reestablish acceptable cervical spine alignment and to correct postoperative deformity. In general, after an oncological evaluation, assessing the alignment, extent, and flexibility of the deformity is mandatory before surgical planning. Rigid deformities require an osteotomy and, most often, combined approaches to restore cervical alignment. Flexible deformities can often be treated with a single approach, although a circumferential approach has its advantages.

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Andrei F. Joaquim and K. Daniel Riew


Cervical disc arthroplasty (CDA) has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment modality for single-level cervical radiculopathy or myelopathy. Its advantages over an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) include motion preservation and decreased reoperations at the index and adjacent segments up to 7 years postoperatively. Considering the fact that many patients have multilevel cervical disc degeneration (CDD), the authors performed a systematic review of the clinical studies evaluating patients who underwent multilevel CDA (2 or more levels).


A systematic review in the MEDLINE database was performed. Clinical studies including patients who had multilevel CDA were selected and included. Case reports and literature reviews were excluded. Articles were then grouped according to their main study objective: 1) studies comparing multilevel CDA versus ACDF; 2) studies comparing single-level CDA versus multilevel CDA; and 3) multilevel CDA after a previous cervical spine surgery.


Fourteen articles met all inclusion criteria. The general conclusions were that multilevel CDA was at least as safe and effective as ACDF, with preservation of cervical motion when compared with ACDF and potentially with fewer reoperations expected in most of the studies. Multilevel CDAs are clinically effective as single-level surgeries, with good clinical and radiological outcomes. Some studies reported a higher incidence of heterotopic ossification in multilevel CDA when compared with single-level procedures, but without clinical relevance during the follow-up period. A CDA may be indicated even after a previous cervical surgery in selected cases.


The current literature supports the use of multilevel CDA. Caution is necessary regarding the more restrictive indications for CDA when compared with ACDF. Further prospective, controlled, multicenter, and randomized studies not sponsored by the device manufactures are desirable to prove the superiority of CDA surgery over ACDF as the treatment of choice for CDD in selected cases.

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Andrei F. Joaquim

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Andrei F. Joaquim, Enrico Ghizoni, Helder Tedeschi, Simone Appenzeller, K. Daniel Riew and MD

Cervical spine involvement commonly occurs in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), especially those with inadequate treatment or severe disease forms. The most common site affected by RA is the atlantoaxial joint, potentially resulting in atlantoaxial instability, with cervical pain and neurological deficits. The second most common site of involvement is the subaxial cervical spine, often with subluxation, resulting in nerve root or spinal cord compression.

In this paper, the authors review the most commonly used plain radiographic criteria to diagnose cervical instabilities seen with RA. Finally, we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of cervical CT and MRI in the setting of cervical involvement in RA.

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Ulysses C. Batista, Andrei F. Joaquim, Yvens B. Fernandes, Roger N. Mathias, Enrico Ghizoni and Helder Tedeschi


Most of the craniometric relationships of the normal craniocervical junction (CCJ), especially those related to angular craniometry, are still poorly studied and based on measurements taken from simple plain radiographs. In this study, the authors performed a craniometric evaluation of the CCJ in a population without known CCJ anomalies. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the normal CCJ craniometry based on measurements obtained from CT scans.


The authors analyzed 100 consecutive CCJ CT scans obtained in adult patients who were admitted at their tertiary hospital for treatment of non-CCJ conditions between 2010 and 2012. A total of 17 craniometrical measurements were performed, including the relation of the odontoid with the cranial base, the atlantodental interval (ADI), the clivus length, the clivus-canal angle (CCA)—the angle formed by the clivus and the upper cervical spine, and the basal angle.


The mean age of the 100 patients was 50.6 years, and the group included 52 men (52%) and 48 women (48%). In 5 patients (5%), the tip of the odontoid process was more than 2 mm above the Chamberlain line, and in one of these 5 patients (1% of the study group). it was more than 5 mm above it. One patient had a Grabb-Oakes measurement above 9 mm (suggesting ventral cervicomedullary encroachment). The mean ADI value was 1.1 mm. The thickness of the external occipital protuberance ranged from 7.42 to 22.36 mm. The mean clivus length was 44.74 mm, the mean CCA was 153.68° (range 132.32°–173.95°), and the mean basal angle was 113.73° (ranging from 97.06°–133.26°).


The data obtained in this study can be useful for evaluating anomalies of the CCJ in comparison with normal parameters, potentially improving the diagnostic criteria of these anomalies. When evaluating CCJ malformations, one should take into account the normal ranges based on CT scans, with more precise bone landmarks, instead of those obtained from simple plain radiographs.