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Vivien Chan, Alessandro Marro, Jeremy Rempel and Andrew Nataraj

OBJECTIVE

In this study the authors sought to compare the proportion of patients with lumbar spondylolisthesis detected to have dynamic instability based on flexion and extension standing radiographs versus neutral standing radiograph and supine MRI.

METHODS

This was a single-center retrospective study of all consecutive adult patients diagnosed with spondylolisthesis from January 1, 2013, to July 31, 2018, for whom the required imaging was available for analysis. Two independent observers measured the amount of translation, in millimeters, on supine MRI and flexion, extension, and neutral standing radiographs using the Meyerding technique. Interobserver and intraobserver correlation coefficients were calculated. The difference in amount of translation was compared between 1) flexion and extension standing radiographs and 2) neutral standing radiograph and supine MRI. The proportion of patients with dynamic instability, defined as a ≥ 3 mm difference in the amount of translation measured on different imaging modalities, was reported. Correlation between amount of dynamic instability and change in back pain and leg pain 1 year after decompression and instrumented fusion was analyzed using multivariate regression analysis.

RESULTS

Fifty-six patients were included in this study. The mean patient age was 57.1 years, and 55.4% of patients were female. The most commonly affected levels were L4–5 (60.7%) and L5–S1 (30.4%). The average translations measured on flexion standing radiograph, extension standing radiograph, neutral standing radiograph, and supine MRI were 12.5 mm, 11.9 mm, 10.1 mm, and 7.2 mm, respectively. The average difference between flexion and extension standing radiographs was 0.58 mm, with dynamic instability detected in 21.4% of patients. The average difference between neutral standing radiograph and supine MRI was 3.77 mm, with dynamic instability detected in 60.7% of patients. The intraobserver correlation coefficient ranged from 0.77 to 0.90 mm. The interobserver correlation coefficient ranged from 0.79 to 0.86 mm. In 44 patients who underwent decompression and instrumented fusion, the amount of dynamic instability between standing and supine imaging was significantly correlated with change in back pain (p < 0.001) and leg pain (p = 0.05) at the 12-month postoperative follow-up. There was no correlation between amount of dynamic instability between flexion and extension standing radiographs and postoperative back pain and leg pain.

CONCLUSIONS

More patients were found to have dynamic instability by using neutral standing radiograph and supine MRI. In patients who received decompression and instrumented fusion, there was a significant correlation between dynamic instability on neutral standing radiograph and supine MRI and change in back pain and leg pain at 12 months.

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Mitchell P. Wilson, Andrew S. Jack, Andrew Nataraj and Michael Chow

OBJECTIVE

Readmission to the hospital within 30 days of discharge is used as a surrogate marker for quality and value of care in the United States (US) healthcare system. Concern exists regarding the value of 30-day readmission as a quality of care metric in neurosurgical patients. Few studies have assessed 30-day readmission rates in neurosurgical patients outside the US. The authors performed a retrospective review of all adult neurosurgical patients admitted to a single Canadian neurosurgical academic center and who were discharged to home to assess for the all-cause 30-day readmission rate, unplanned 30-day readmission rate, and avoidable 30-day readmission rate.

METHODS

A retrospective review was performed assessing 30-day readmission rates after discharge to home in all neurosurgical patients admitted to a single academic neurosurgical center from January 1, 2011, to December 31, 2011. The primary outcomes included rates of all-cause, unplanned, and avoidable readmissions within 30 days of discharge. Secondary outcomes included factors associated with unplanned and avoidable 30-day readmissions.

RESULTS

A total of 184 of 950 patients (19.4%) were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge. One-hundred three patients (10.8%) were readmitted for an unplanned reason and 81 (8.5%) were readmitted for a planned or rescheduled operation. Only 19 readmissions (10%) were for a potentially avoidable reason. Univariate analysis identified factors associated with readmission for a complication or persistent/worsening symptom, including age (p = 0.009), length of stay (p = 0.007), general neurosurgery diagnosis (p < 0.001), cranial pathology (p < 0.001), intensive care unit (ICU) admission (p < 0.001), number of initial admission operations (p = 0.01), and shunt procedures (p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis identified predictive factors of readmission, including diagnosis (p = 0.002, OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.4–5.3), cranial pathology (p = 0.002, OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.4–5.3), ICU admission (p = 0.004, OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.3–4.2), and number of first admission operations (p = 0.01, OR 0.51, 95% CI 0.3–0.87). Univariate analysis performed to identify factors associated with potentially avoidable readmissions included length of stay (p = 0.03), diagnosis (p < 0.001), cranial pathology (p = 0.02), and shunt procedures (p < 0.001). Multivariate analysis identified only shunt procedures as a predictive factor for avoidable readmission (p = 0.02, OR 5.6, 95% CI 1.4–22.8).

CONCLUSIONS

Almost one-fifth of neurosurgical patients were readmitted within 30 days of discharge. However, only about half of these patients were admitted for an unplanned reason, and only 10% of all readmissions were potentially avoidable. This study demonstrates unique challenges encountered in a publicly funded healthcare setting and supports the growing literature suggesting 30-day readmission rates may serve as an inappropriate quality of care metric in neurosurgical patients. Potentially avoidable readmissions can be predicted, and further research assessing predictors of avoidable readmissions is warranted.

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Cameron A. Elliott, Richard Fox, Robert Ashforth, Sita Gourishankar and Andrew Nataraj

OBJECT

This study was undertaken to evaluate the impact of postoperative MRI artifact on the assessment of ongoing spinal cord or nerve root compression after anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) using a trabecular tantalum cage or bone autograft or allograft.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective review of postoperative MRI studies of patients treated surgically for cervical disc degenerative disease or cervical instability secondary to trauma. Standard ACDF with either a trabecular tantalum cage or interbody bone graft had been performed. Postoperative MR images were shown twice in random order to each of 3 assessors (2 spine surgeons, 1 neuroradiologist) to determine whether the presence of a tantalum interbody cage and/or anterior cervical fixation plate or screws imparted MRI artifact significant enough to prevent reliable postoperative assessment of ongoing spinal cord or nerve root compression.

RESULTS

A total of 63 patients were identified. One group of 29 patients received a tantalum interbody cage, with 13 patients (45%) undergoing anterior plate fixation. A second group of 34 patients received bone auto- or allograft, with 23 (68%) undergoing anterior plate fixation. The paramagnetic implant construct artifact had minimal impact on visualization of postoperative surgical level spinal cord compression. In the cage group, 98% (171/174) of the cases were rated as assessable versus 99% in the bone graft group (201/204), with high intraobserver reliability. In contrast, for the assessment of ongoing surgical level nerve root compression, the presence of a tantalum cage significantly decreased visualization of nerve roots to 70% (121/174) in comparison with 85% (173/204) in the bone graft group (p < 0.001). When sequences using turbo spin echo (TSE), a T2-weighted axial sequence, were acquired, nerve roots were rated as assessable in 88% (69/78) of cases; when only axial T2-weighted sequences were available, the nerve roots were rated as assessable in 54% (52/96) of cases (p < 0.01). The presence of anterior plate fixation had minimal impact on visualization of the spinal cord (99% [213/216] for plated cases vs 98% [159/162] for nonplated cases; p = 1.0) or nerve roots (79% [170/216] for plated cases vs 77% [124/162] for nonplated cases; p = 0.62).

CONCLUSIONS

Interbody fusion with tantalum cage following anterior cervical discectomy imparts significant paramagnetic artifact, which significantly decreases visualization and assessment of ongoing surgical level nerve root, but not spinal cord, compression. Anterior plate constructs do not affect visualization of these structures. TSE T2-weighted sequences significantly improve nerve root visualization and should be performed as part of a standard postoperative protocol when imaging the cervical spine following interbody implantation of materials with potential for paramagnetic artifact.

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Husam Alhabib, Andrew Nataraj, Mohammed Khashab, James Mahood, Frank Kortbeek and Richard Fox

Object

Pedicle screw fixation is a mainstay of thoracolumbar stabilization. Screw insertion using anatomical landmarks and fluoroscopy is common but can be technically challenging and generally involves substantial exposure to ionizing radiation. Computerized navigation has been reported to improve accuracy but is expensive and complex. The authors undertook this study to evaluate these 3 methods in comparison with a fourth technique using standard cervical distractor screws to mark the entry point and trajectory.

Methods

Four cadaveric human spines were used for this study. After an initial CT scan, 34 pedicle screws were inserted in each intact spine from T-1 to L-5 using the following 4 screw insertion guidance techniques (1 technique per specimen): use of anatomical landmarks, use of cervical distractor screws and spot fluoroscopy, fluoroscopy-based navigation, and fluoroscopy- and CT-based navigation (using merged imaging data). Postprocedural CT and anatomical dissection were then performed to evaluate screw position for site and degree of breach.

Results

The cervical distractor screw method had a breach rate of 5.9% versus 29.4%, 32.4%, and 20.6% for use of anatomical landmarks, fluoroscopic navigation, and fluoroscopic-CT navigation, respectively (p < 0.05). There is also a significant association between degree of medial and distal breach and the method of screw insertion (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Cervical distractor screws as pedicle markers offer favorable insertion accuracy and reduction of radiation exposure compared with the other 3 methods used in clinical practice.

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Chih-Chang Chang, Ching-Lan Wu, Jau-Ching Wu, Hsuan-Kan Chang, Li-Yu Fay, Tsung-Hsi Tu, Wen-Cheng Huang and Henrich Cheng

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Nathan Evaniew, David W. Cadotte, Nicolas Dea, Christopher S. Bailey, Sean D. Christie, Charles G. Fisher, Jerome Paquet, Alex Soroceanu, Kenneth C. Thomas, Y. Raja Rampersaud, Neil A. Manson, Michael Johnson, Andrew Nataraj, Hamilton Hall, Greg McIntosh and W. Bradley Jacobs

OBJECTIVE

Recently identified prognostic variables among patients undergoing surgery for cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) are limited to two large international data sets. To optimally inform shared clinical decision-making, the authors evaluated which preoperative clinical factors are significantly associated with improvement on the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) scale by at least the minimum clinically important difference (MCID) 12 months after surgery, among patients from the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network (CSORN).

METHODS

The authors performed an observational cohort study with data that were prospectively collected from CSM patients at 7 centers between 2015 and 2017. Candidate variables were tested using univariable and multiple binomial logistic regression, and multiple sensitivity analyses were performed to test assumptions about the nature of the statistical models. Validated mJOA MCIDs were implemented that varied according to baseline CSM severity.

RESULTS

Among 205 patients with CSM, there were 64 (31%) classified as mild, 86 (42%) as moderate, and 55 (27%) as severe. Overall, 52% of patients achieved MCID and the mean change in mJOA score at 12 months after surgery was 1.7 ± 2.6 points (p < 0.01), but the subgroup of patients with mild CSM did not significantly improve (mean change 0.1 ± 1.9 points, p = 0.8). Univariate analyses failed to identify significant associations between achieving MCID and sex, BMI, living status, education, smoking, disability claims, or number of comorbidities. After adjustment for potential confounders, the odds of achieving MCID were significantly reduced with older age (OR 0.7 per decade, 95% CI 0.5–0.9, p < 0.01) and higher baseline mJOA score (OR 0.8 per point, 95% CI 0.7–0.9, p < 0.01). The effects of symptom duration (OR 1.0 per additional month, 95% CI 0.9–1.0, p = 0.2) and smoking (OR 0.4, 95% CI 0.2–1.0, p = 0.06) were not statistically significant.

CONCLUSIONS

Surgery is effective at halting the progression of functional decline with CSM, and approximately half of all patients achieve the MCID. Data from the CSORN confirmed that older age is independently associated with poorer outcomes, but novel findings include that patients with milder CSM did not experience meaningful improvement, and that symptom duration and smoking were not important. These findings support a nuanced approach to shared decision-making that acknowledges some prognostic uncertainty when weighing the various risks, benefits, and alternatives to surgical treatment.

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Clinical outcomes research in spine surgery: what are appropriate follow-up times?

Presented at the 2018 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Oliver G. S. Ayling, Tamir Ailon, Greg McIntosh, Alex Soroceanu, Hamilton Hall, Andrew Nataraj, Christopher S. Bailey, Sean Christie, Alexandra Stratton, Henry Ahn, Michael Johnson, Jerome Paquet, Kenneth Thomas, Neil Manson, Y. Raja Rampersaud and Charles G. Fisher

OBJECTIVE

There has been a generic dictum in spine and musculoskeletal clinical research that a minimum 2-year follow-up is necessary for patient-reported outcomes (PROs) to adequately assess the therapeutic effect of surgery; however, the rationale for this duration is not evidence based. The purpose of this study was to determine the follow-up time necessary to ensure that the effectiveness of a lumbar surgical intervention is adequately captured for three lumbar pathologies and three common PROs.

METHODS

Using the different PROs of pain, physical function, and mental quality of life from the Canadian Spine Outcomes and Research Network (CSORN) prospective database, the authors assessed the time course to the recovery plateau following lumbar spine surgery for lumbar disc herniation, degenerative spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis. One-way ANOVA with post hoc testing was used to compare scores on the following standardized PRO measures at baseline and 3, 12, and 24 months postoperatively: Disability Scale (DS), visual analog scale (VAS) for leg and back pain, and SF-12 Mental Component Summary (MCS) and Physical Component Summary (PCS).

RESULTS

Significant differences for all spine pathologies and specific PROs were found with one-way ANOVA (p < 0.0001). The time to plateaued recovery after surgery for lumbar disc herniation (661 patients), lumbar stenosis (913 patients), and lumbar spondylolisthesis (563 patients) followed the same course for the following PRO measures: VAS for back and leg pain, 3 months; DS, 12 months; PCS, 12 months; and MCS, 3 months. Beyond these time points, no further significant improvements in PROs were seen. Patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis who had undergone fusion surgery plateaued at 12 months on the DS and PCS, compared to 3 months in those who had not undergone fusion.

CONCLUSIONS

Specific health dimensions follow distinctly different recovery plateaus, indicating that a 2-year postoperative follow-up is not required for all PROs to accurately assess the treatment effect of lumbar spinal surgery. Ultimately, the clinical research question should dictate the follow-up time and the outcome measure utilized; however, there is now evidence to guide the specific duration of follow-up for pain, physical function, and mental quality of life dimensions.