Daniel Lubelski, Andrew T. Healy, Alan Friedman, Dyan Ferraris, Edward C. Benzel and Richard Schlenk
Neurosurgery is among the most competitive residencies, as evidenced by the high number of applicants for relatively few positions. Although it is important to recruit candidates who have the intellectual capacity and drive to succeed, traditional objective selection criteria, such as US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) (also known as Step 1) score, number of publications, and class ranking, have not been shown to consistently predict clinical and academic success. Furthermore, these traditional objective parameters have not been associated with specific personality traits.
The authors sought to determine the efficacy of a personality assessment in the selection of neurosurgery residents. Specifically, the aim was to determine the correlation between traditional measures used to evaluate an applicant (e.g., USMLE score, number of publications, MD/PhD status) and corresponding validated personality traits.
Fifty-four neurosurgery residency applicants were interviewed at the Cleveland Clinic during the 2014–2015 application cycle. No differences in validated personality scores were identified between the 46 MD applicants and 8 MD/PhD applicants. The mean USMLE score (± SD) was 252.3 ± 11.9, and those in the high-USMLE-score category (USMLE score ≥ 260) had a significantly lower “imaginative” score (a stress measure of eccentric thinking and impatience with those who think more slowly). The average number of publications per applicant was 8.6 ± 7.9, and there was a significant positive correlation (r = 0.339, p = 0.016) between greater number of publications and a higher “adjustment” score (a measure of being even-tempered, having composure under pressure). Significant negative correlations existed between the total number of publications and the “excitable” score (a measure of being emotionally volatile) (r = −0.299, p = 0.035) as well as the “skeptical” score (measure of being sensitive to criticism) (r = −0.325, p = 0.021). The average medical school rank was 25.8, and medical school rankings were positively correlated with the “imaginative” score (r = 0.287, p = 0.044).
This is the first study to investigate the use of personality scores in the selection of neurosurgical residents. The use of personality assessments has the potential to provide insight into an applicant's future behavior as a resident and beyond. This information may be useful in the selection of neurosurgical residents and can be further used to customize the teaching of residents and for enabling them to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses for self-improvement.
Varun R. Kshettry, Andrew T. Healy, Robb Colbrunn, Dylan T. Beckler, Edward C. Benzel and Pablo F. Recinos
The far lateral transcondylar approach to the ventral foramen magnum requires partial resection of the occipital condyle. Early biomechanical studies suggest that occipitocervical (OC) fusion should be considered if 50% of the condyle is resected. In clinical practice, however, a joint-sparing condylectomy has often been employed without the need for OC fusion. The biomechanics of the joint-sparing technique have not been reported. Authors of the present study hypothesized that the clinically relevant joint-sparing condylectomy would result in added stability of the craniovertebral junction as compared with earlier reports.
Multidirectional in vitro flexibility tests were performed using a robotic spine-testing system on 7 fresh cadaveric spines to assess the effect of sequential unilateral joint-sparing condylectomy (25%, 50%, 75%, 100%) in comparison with the intact state by using cardinal direction and coupled moments combined with a simulated head weight “follower load.”
The percent change in range of motion following sequential condylectomy as compared with the intact state was 5.2%, 8.1%, 12.0%, and 27.5% in flexion-extension (FE); 8.4%, 14.7%, 39.1%, and 80.2% in lateral bending (LB); and 24.4%, 31.5%, 49.9%, and 141.1% in axial rotation (AR). Only values at 100% condylectomy were statistically significant (p < 0.05). With coupled motions, however, −3.9%, 6.6%, 35.8%, and 142.4% increases in AR+F and 27.3%, 32.7%, 77.5%, and 175.5% increases in AR+E were found. Values for 75% and 100% condyle resection were statistically significant in AR+E.
When tested in the traditional cardinal directions, a 50% joint-sparing condylectomy did not significantly increase motion. However, removing 75% of the condyle may necessitate fusion, as a statistically significant increase in motion was found when E was coupled with AR. Clinical correlation is ultimately needed to determine the need for OC fusion.
Andrew T. Healy, Prasath Mageswaran, Daniel Lubelski, Benjamin P. Rosenbaum, Virgilio Matheus, Edward C. Benzel and Thomas E. Mroz
The degenerative process of the spinal column results in instability followed by a progressive loss of segmental motion. Segmental degeneration is associated with intervertebral disc and facet changes, which can be quantified. Correlating this degeneration with clinical segmental motion has not been investigated in the thoracic spine. The authors sought to determine if imaging-determined degeneration would correlate with native range of motion (ROM) or the change in ROM after decompressive procedures, potentially guiding clinical decision making in the setting of spine trauma or following decompressive procedures in the thoracic spine.
Multidirectional flexibility tests with image analysis were performed on thoracic cadaveric spines with intact ib cage. Specimens consisted of 19 fresh frozen human cadaveric spines, spanning C-7 to L-1. ROM was obtained for each specimen in axial rotation (AR), flexion-extension (FE), and lateral bending (LB) in the intact state and following laminectomy, unilateral facetectomy, and unilateral costotransversectomy performed at either T4–5 (in 9 specimens) or T8–9 (in 10 specimens). Image grading of segmental degeneration was performed utilizing 3D CT reconstructions. Imaging scores were obtained for disc space degeneration, which quantified osteophytes, narrowing, and endplate sclerosis, all contributing to the Lane disc summary score. Facet degeneration was quantified using the Weishaupt facet summary score, which included the scoring of facet osteophytes, narrowing, hypertrophy, subchondral erosions, and cysts.
The native ROM of specimens from T-1 to T-12 (n = 19) negatively correlated with age in AR (Pearson’s r coefficient = -0.42, p = 0.070) and FE (r = -0.42, p = 0.076). When regional ROM (across 4 adjacent segments) was considered, the presence of disc osteophytes negatively correlated with FE (r = −0.69, p = 0.012), LB (r = −0.82, p = 0.001), and disc narrowing trended toward significance in AR (r = −0.49, p = 0.107). Facet characteristics, scored using multiple variables, showed minimal correlation to native ROM (r range from −0.45 to +0.19); however, facet degeneration scores at the surgical level revealed strong negative correlations with regional thoracic stability following decompressive procedures in AR and LB (Weishaupt facet summary score: r = −0.52 and r = −0.71; p = 0.084 and p = 0.010, respectively). Disc degeneration was not correlated (Lane disc summary score: r = −0.06, p = 0.861).
Advanced age was the most important determinant of decreasing native thoracic ROM, whereas imaging characteristics (T1–12) did not correlate with the native ROM of thoracic specimens with intact rib cages. Advanced facet degeneration at the surgical level did correlate to specimen stability following decompressive procedures, and is likely indicative of the terminal stages of segmental degeneration.
Swetha J. Sundar, Andrew T. Healy, Varun R. Kshettry, Thomas E. Mroz, Richard Schlenk and Edward C. Benzel
Pedicle and lateral mass screw placement is technically demanding due to complex 3D spinal anatomy that is not easily visualized. Neurosurgical and orthopedic surgery residents must be properly trained in such procedures, which can be associated with significant complications and associated morbidity. Current training in pedicle and lateral mass screw placement involves didactic teaching and supervised placement in the operating room. The objective of this study was to assess whether teaching residents to place pedicle and lateral mass screws using navigation software, combined with practice using cadaveric specimens and Sawbones models, would improve screw placement accuracy.
This was a single-blinded, prospective, randomized pilot study with 8 junior neurosurgical residents and 2 senior medical students with prior neurosurgery exposure. Both the study group and the level of training-matched control group (each group with 4 level of training-matched residents and 1 senior medical student) were exposed to a standardized didactic education regarding spinal anatomy and screw placement techniques. The study group was exposed to an additional pilot program that included a training session using navigation software combined with cadaveric specimens and accessibility to Sawbones models.
A statistically significant reduction in overall surgical error was observed in the study group compared with the control group (p = 0.04). Analysis by spinal region demonstrated a significant reduction in surgical error in the thoracic and lumbar regions in the study group compared with controls (p = 0.02 and p = 0.04, respectively). The study group also was observed to place screws more optimally in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions (p = 0.02, p = 0.04, and p = 0.04, respectively).
Surgical resident education in pedicle and lateral mass screw placement is a priority for training programs. This study demonstrated that compared with a didactic-only training model, using navigation simulation with cadavers and Sawbones models significantly reduced the number of screw placement errors in a laboratory setting.
Andrew T. Healy, Swetha J. Sundar, Raul J. Cardenas, Prasath Mageswaran, Edward C. Benzel, Thomas E. Mroz and Todd B. Francis
Single-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is an established surgical treatment for cervical myelopathy. Within 10 years of undergoing ACDF, 19.2% of patients develop symptomatic adjacent-level degeneration. Performing ACDF adjacent to prior fusion requires exposure and removal of previously placed hardware, which may increase the risk of adverse outcomes. Zero-profile cervical implants combine an interbody spacer with an anterior plate into a single device that does not extend beyond the intervertebral disc space, potentially obviating the need to remove prior hardware. This study compared the biomechanical stability and adjacent-level range of motion (ROM) following placement of a zero-profile device (ZPD) adjacent to a single-level ACDF against a standard 2-level ACDF.
In this in vitro biomechanical cadaveric study, multidirectional flexibility testing was performed by a robotic spine system that simulates flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation by applying a continuous pure moment load. Testing conditions were as follows: 1) intact, 2) C5–6 ACDF, 3) C4–5 ZPD supraadjacent to simulated fusion at C5–6, and 4) 2-level ACDF (C4–6). The sequence of the latter 2 test conditions was randomized. An unconstrained pure moment of 1.5 Nm with a 40-N simulated head weight load was applied to the intact condition first in all 3 planes of motion and then using the hybrid test protocol, overall intact kinematics were replicated subsequently for each surgical test condition. Intersegmental rotations were measured optoelectronically. Mean segmental ROM for operated levels and adjacent levels was recorded and normalized to the intact condition and expressed as a percent change from intact. A repeated-measures ANOVA was used to analyze the ROM between test conditions with a 95% level of significance.
No statistically significant differences in immediate construct stability were found between construct Patterns 3 and 4, in all planes of motion (p > 0.05). At the operated level, C4–5, the zero-profile construct showed greater decreases in axial rotation (–45% vs –36%) and lateral bending (–55% vs –38%), whereas the 2-level ACDF showed greater decreases in flexion-extension (–40% vs –34%). These differences were marginal and not statistically significant. Adjacent-level motion was nearly equivalent, with minor differences in flexion-extension.
When treating degeneration adjacent to a single-level ACDF, a zero-profile implant showed stabilizing potential at the operated level statistically similar to that of the standard revision with a 2-level plate. Revision for adjacent-level disease is common, and using a ZPD in this setting should be investigated clinically because it may be a faster, safer alternative.
Roy Xiao, Jacob A. Miller, Navin C. Sabharwal, Daniel Lubelski, Vincent J. Alentado, Andrew T. Healy, Thomas E. Mroz and Edward C. Benzel
Improvements in imaging technology have steadily advanced surgical approaches. Within the field of spine surgery, assistance from the O-arm Multidimensional Surgical Imaging System has been established to yield superior accuracy of pedicle screw insertion compared with freehand and fluoroscopic approaches. Despite this evidence, no studies have investigated the clinical relevance associated with increased accuracy. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to investigate the clinical outcomes following thoracolumbar spinal fusion associated with O-arm–assisted navigation. The authors hypothesized that increased accuracy achieved with O-arm–assisted navigation decreases the rate of reoperation secondary to reduced hardware failure and screw misplacement.
A consecutive retrospective review of all patients who underwent open thoracolumbar spinal fusion at a single tertiary-care institution between December 2012 and December 2014 was conducted. Outcomes assessed included operative time, length of hospital stay, and rates of readmission and reoperation. Mixed-effects Cox proportional hazards modeling, with surgeon as a random effect, was used to investigate the association between O-arm–assisted navigation and postoperative outcomes.
Among 1208 procedures, 614 were performed with O-arm–assisted navigation, 356 using freehand techniques, and 238 using fluoroscopic guidance. The most common indication for surgery was spondylolisthesis (56.2%), and most patients underwent a posterolateral fusion only (59.4%). Although O-arm procedures involved more vertebral levels compared with the combined freehand/fluoroscopy cohort (4.79 vs 4.26 vertebral levels; p < 0.01), no significant differences in operative time were observed (4.40 vs 4.30 hours; p = 0.38). Patients who underwent an O-arm procedure experienced shorter hospital stays (4.72 vs 5.43 days; p < 0.01). O-arm–assisted navigation trended toward predicting decreased risk of spine-related readmission (0.8% vs 2.2%, risk ratio [RR] 0.37; p = 0.05) and overall readmissions (4.9% vs 7.4%, RR 0.66; p = 0.07). The O-arm was significantly associated with decreased risk of reoperation for hardware failure (2.9% vs 5.9%, RR 0.50; p = 0.01), screw misplacement (1.6% vs 4.2%, RR 0.39; p < 0.01), and all-cause reoperation (5.2% vs 10.9%, RR 0.48; p < 0.01). Mixed-effects Cox proportional hazards modeling revealed that O-arm–assisted navigation was a significant predictor of decreased risk of reoperation (HR 0.49; p < 0.01). The protective effect of O-arm–assisted navigation against reoperation was durable in subset analysis of procedures involving < 5 vertebral levels (HR 0.44; p = 0.01) and ≥ 5 levels (HR 0.48; p = 0.03). Further subset analysis demonstrated that O-arm–assisted navigation predicted decreased risk of reoperation among patients undergoing posterolateral fusion only (HR 0.39; p < 0.01) and anterior lumbar interbody fusion (HR 0.22; p = 0.03), but not posterior/transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion.
To the authors' knowledge, the present study is the first to investigate clinical outcomes associated with O-arm–assisted navigation following thoracolumbar spinal fusion. O-arm–assisted navigation decreased the risk of reoperation to less than half the risk associated with freehand and fluoroscopic approaches. Future randomized controlled trials to corroborate the findings of the present study are warranted.