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Anthony M. DiGiorgio, Caleb S. Edwards, Michael S. Virk, Praveen V. Mummaneni, and Dean Chou

The prepsoas retroperitoneal approach is a minimally invasive technique used for anterior lumbar interbody fusion. The approach may have a more favorable risk profile than the transpsoas approach, decreasing the risks that come with dissecting through the psoas muscle. However, the oblique angle of the spine in the prepsoas approach can be disorienting and challenging. This technical report provides an overview of the use of navigation in prepsoas oblique lateral lumbar interbody fusion in a series of 49 patients.

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Adam G. Podet, Kevin D. Morrow, Jared M. Robichaux, Jessica A. Shields, Anthony M. DiGiorgio, and Gabriel C. Tender

OBJECTIVE

The need for anterior column reconstruction after thoracolumbar burst fractures remains controversial. Here, the authors present their experience with minimally invasive lateral thoracolumbar corpectomies for traumatic fractures.

METHODS

Between 2012 and 2019, 59 patients with 65 thoracolumbar fractures underwent 65 minimally invasive lateral corpectomies (MIS group). This group was compared to 16 patients with single-level thoracolumbar fractures who had undergone open lateral corpectomies with the assistance of general surgery between 2007 and 2011 (open control group). Comparisons of the two groups were made with regard to operative time, estimated blood loss, time to ambulation, and fusion rates at 1 year postoperatively. The authors further analyzed the MIS group with regard to injury mechanism, fracture characteristics, neurological outcome, and complications.

RESULTS

Patients in the MIS group had a significantly shorter mean operative time (228.3 ± 27.9 vs 255.6 ± 34.1 minutes, p = 0.001) and significantly shorter mean time to ambulation after surgery (1.8 ± 1.1 vs 5.0 ± 0.8 days, p < 0.001) than the open corpectomy group. Mean estimated blood loss did not differ significantly between the two groups, though the MIS group did trend toward a lower mean blood loss. There was no significant difference in fusion status at 1 year between the MIS and open groups; however, this comparison was limited by poor follow-up, with only 32 of 59 patients (54.2%) in the MIS group and 8 of 16 (50%) in the open group having available imaging at 1 year. Complications in the MIS group included 1 screw misplacement requiring revision, 2 postoperative femoral neuropathies (one of which improved), 1 return to surgery for inadequate posterior decompression, 4 pneumothoraces requiring chest tube placement, and 1 posterior wound infection. The rate of revision surgery for the failure of fusion in the MIS group was 1.7% (1 of 59 patients).

CONCLUSIONS

The minimally invasive lateral thoracolumbar corpectomy approach for traumatic fractures appears to be relatively safe and may result in shorter operative times and quicker mobilization as compared to those with open techniques. This should be considered as a treatment option for thoracolumbar spine fractures.

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Anthony M. DiGiorgio, Rachel Stein, Kevin D. Morrow, Jared M. Robichaux, Clifford L. Crutcher II, and Gabriel C. Tender

OBJECTIVE

Few studies have been published specifically examining intravenous drug abuse (IVDA)–associated spinal epidural abscesses (SEAs), an unfortunate sequela of the opioid crisis in the United States. Here, the authors examined a series of patients with IVDA-associated SEAs in order to shed light on this challenging disease entity.

METHODS

This study is a retrospective chart review of patients presenting with IVDA-associated SEAs at the authors’ institution from 2013 to 2018, spanning the statewide implementation of opioid-prescribing restrictions.

RESULTS

A total of 45 patients presented with IVDA-associated SEAs; 46.5% presented with a neurological deficit. Thirty-one patients underwent surgery for neurological deficit, failure of medical therapy, or both. Nineteen surgical patients underwent a fusion procedure along with decompression. The complication rate was 41.9%, and the mortality rate was 6.7%. The average length of stay was 27.6 days. Patients who underwent surgery within 24 hours of onset of neurological symptoms trended toward more improvement in their American Spinal Cord Association Impairment Scale grade than those who did not (0.5 vs −0.2, p = 0.068). Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus was isolated as the causative pathogen in 57.8% of patients. Twenty-three patients (51.5%) kept their scheduled clinic follow-up appointments. Of the fusion patients with adequate follow-up, 5 showed bony arthrodesis and 3 had pseudarthrosis. The rate of IVDA-associated SEAs increased after opioid-prescribing restrictions were put in place, from 0.54 cases per month to 1.15 cases per month (p = 0.017).

CONCLUSIONS

Patients with IVDA-associated SEAs are challenging to treat, with high complication rates and poor follow-up. This disease is increasing in frequency, and opioid-prescribing restrictions did not slow that rise. Community outreach to promote prevention, early medical attention, and medication compliance would benefit this largely publicly funded patient population.

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Gabriel C. Tender, Caroline Davidson, Jessica Shields, Jared Robichaux, Joe Park, Clifford L. Crutcher, and Anthony M. DiGiorgio

OBJECTIVE

Axial spinal pain generators are difficult to identify using current diagnostic modalities. Merging CT with SPECT (CT-SPECT) scans allows for accurate identification of areas with increased osteoblastic activity, which may reflect pain generators. In this study, the authors aimed to evaluate the degree of pain improvement in patients who underwent surgery, addressing primary pain generators identified by CT-SPECT.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed all patients with chronic axial spine pain who underwent diagnostic CT-SPECT at their institution and analyzed pain improvement in those who underwent surgical treatment in order to determine whether CT-SPECT correctly identified the primary pain generator.

RESULTS

A total of 315 patients underwent diagnostic CT-SPECT between January 2014 and August 2018. Forty-eight patients underwent either cervical or lumbar fusion; there were 26 women (16 cervical, 10 lumbar) and 22 men (9 cervical, 13 lumbar). The overall axial spinal pain, as assessed through self-reporting of visual analog scale scores at 6 months postoperatively, improved from 9.04 ± 1.4 to 4.34 ± 2.3 (p = 0.026), with cervical fusion patients improving from 8.8 ± 1.8 to 3.92 ± 2.2 (p = 0.019) and lumbar fusion patients improving from 9.35 ± 0.7 to 4.87 ± 2.3 (p = 0.008).

CONCLUSIONS

CT-SPECT may offer a diagnostic advantage over current imaging modalities in identifying the primary pain generator in patients with axial spinal pain.

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Anthony M. DiGiorgio, Michael S. Virk, and Praveen V. Mummaneni

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Kevin D. Morrow, Adam G. Podet, Casey P. Spinelli, Lindsay M. Lasseigne, Clifford L. Crutcher II, Jason D. Wilson, Gabriel C. Tender, and Anthony M. DiGiorgio

OBJECTIVE

While blunt spinal trauma accounts for the majority of spine trauma, penetrating injuries affect a substantial number of patients. The goal of this study was to examine the epidemiology of penetrating spine injuries compared with blunt injuries and review the operative interventions and outcomes in the penetrating spine injury group.

METHODS

The prospectively maintained trauma database was queried for spinal fractures from 2012 to 2018. Charts from patients with penetrating spine trauma were reviewed.

RESULTS

A total of 1130 patients were evaluated for traumatic spinal fractures; 154 injuries (13.6%) were secondary to penetrating injuries. Patients with penetrating injuries were significantly younger (29.2 years vs 44.1 years, p < 0.001), more likely male (87.7% vs 69.2%, p < 0.001), and more commonly African American (80.5% vs 33.3%, p < 0.05). When comparing primary insurers, the penetrating group had a significantly higher percentage of patients covered by Medicaid (60.4% vs 32.6%, p < 0.05) or prison (3.9% vs 0.1%, p < 0.05) or being uninsured (17.5% vs 10.3%, p < 0.05). The penetrating group had a higher Injury Severity Score on admission (20.2 vs 15.6, p < 0.001) and longer hospital length of stay (20.1 days vs 10.3 days, p < 0.001) and were less likely to be discharged home (51.3% vs 65.1%, p < 0.05). Of the penetrating injuries, 142 (92.2%) were due to firearms. Sixty-three patients (40.9%) with penetrating injuries had a concomitant spinal cord or cauda equina injury. Of those, 44 (69.8%) had an American Spinal Injury Association Impairment Scale (AIS) grade of A. Ten patients (15.9%) improved at least 1 AIS grade, while 2 patients (3.2%) declined at least 1 AIS grade. Nine patients with penetrating injuries underwent neurosurgical intervention: 5 for spinal instability, 4 for compressive lesions with declining neurological examination results, and 2 for infectious concerns, with some patients having multiple indications. Patients undergoing neurosurgical intervention did not show a significantly greater change in AIS grade than those who did not. No patient experienced a complication directly related to neurosurgical intervention.

CONCLUSIONS

Penetrating spinal trauma affects a younger, more publicly funded cohort than blunt spinal trauma. These patients utilize more healthcare resources and are more severely injured. Surgery is undertaken for limiting progression of neurological deficit, stabilization, or infection control.

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Alex Y. Lu, Jacob S. Blitstein, Jason F. Talbott, Andrew K. Chan, Sanjay S. Dhall, Ashraf N. El Naga, Lee A. Tan, Aaron J. Clark, Dean Chou, Praveen V. Mummaneni, and Anthony M. DiGiorgio

OBJECTIVE

Ankylosing spondylitis, the most common spondyloarthritis, fuses individual spinal vertebrae into long segments. The unique biomechanics of the ankylosed spine places patients at unusually high risk for unstable fractures secondary to low-impact mechanisms. These injuries are unique within the spine trauma population and necessitate thoughtful management. Therefore, the authors aimed to present a richly annotated data set of operative AS spine fractures with a significant portion of patients with simultaneous dual noncontiguous fractures.

METHODS

Patients with ankylosing spondylitis with acute fractures who received operative management between 2012 and 2020 were reviewed. Demographic, admission, surgical, and outcome parameters were retrospectively collected and reviewed.

RESULTS

In total, 29 patients were identified across 30 different admissions. At admission, the mean age was 71.7 ± 11.8 years. The mechanism of injury in 77% of the admissions was a ground-level fall; 30% also presented with polytrauma. Of admissions, 50% were patient transfers from outside hospitals, whereas the other half presented primarily to our emergency departments. Fifty percent of patients sustained a spinal cord injury, and 35 operative fractures were identified and treated in 32 surgeries. The majority of fractures clustered around the cervicothoracic (C4–T1, 48.6%) and thoracolumbar (T8–L3, 37.11%) junctions. Five patients (17.2%) had simultaneous dual noncontiguous operative fractures; these patients were more likely to have presented with a higher-energy mechanism of injury such as a bicycle or motor vehicle accident compared with patients with a single operative fracture (60% vs 8%, p = 0.024). On preoperative MRI, 56.3% of the fractures had epidural hematomas (EDHs); 25% were compressive of the underlying neural elements, which dictated the number of laminectomy levels performed (no EDH, 2.1 ± 2.36; noncompressive EDH, 2.1 ± 1.85; and compressive EDH, 7.4 ± 4 [p = 0.003]). The mean difference in instrumented levels was 8.7 ± 2.6 with a mean estimated blood loss (EBL) of 1183 ± 1779.5 mL. Patients on a regimen of antiplatelet therapy had a significantly higher EBL (2635.7 mL vs 759.4 mL, p = 0.015). Overall, patients had a mean hospital length of stay of 15.2 ± 18.5 days; 5 patients died during the same admission or after transfer to an outside hospital. Nine of 29 patients (31%) had died by the last follow-up (the mean follow-up was 596.3 ± 878.9 days).

CONCLUSIONS

Patients with AS who have been found to have unstable spine fractures warrant a thorough diagnostic evaluation to identify secondary fractures as well as compressive EDHs. These patients experienced prolonged inpatient hospitalizations with significant morbidity and mortality.

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Darryl Lau, Anthony M. DiGiorgio, Andrew K. Chan, Cecilia L. Dalle Ore, Michael S. Virk, Dean Chou, Erica F. Bisson, and Praveen V. Mummaneni

OBJECTIVE

Understanding what influences pain and disability following anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) in patients with degenerative cervical spine disease is critical. This study examines the timing of clinical improvement and identifies factors (including spinal alignment) associated with worse outcomes.

METHODS

Consecutive adult patients were enrolled in a prospective outcomes database from two academic centers participating in the Quality Outcomes Database from 2013 to 2016. Demographics, surgical details, radiographic data, arm and neck pain (visual analog scale [VAS] scores), and disability (Neck Disability Index [NDI] and EQ-5D scores) were reviewed. Multivariate analysis was used.

RESULTS

A total of 186 patients were included, and 48.4% were male. Their mean age was 55.4 years, and 45.7% had myelopathy. Preoperative cervical sagittal vertical axis (cSVA), cervical lordosis (CL), and T1 slope values were 24.9 mm (range 0–55 mm), 10.4° (range −6.0° to 44°), and 28.3° (range 14.0°–51.0°), respectively. ACDF was performed at 1, 2, and 3 levels in 47.8%, 42.0%, and 10.2% of patients, respectively. Preoperative neck and arm VAS scores were 5.7 and 5.4, respectively. NDI and EQ-5D scores were 22.1 and 0.5, respectively. There was significant improvement in all outcomes at 3 months (p < 0.001) and 12 months (p < 0.001). At 3 months, neck VAS (3.0), arm VAS (2.2), NDI (12.7), and EQ-5D (0.7) scores were improved, and at 12 months, neck VAS (2.8), arm VAS (2.3), NDI (11.7), and EQ-5D (0.8) score improvements were sustained. Improvements occurred within the first 3-month period; there was no significant difference in outcomes between the 3-month and 12-month mark. There was no correlation among cSVA, CL, or T1 slope with any outcome endpoint. The most consistent independent preoperative factors associated with worse outcomes were high neck and arm VAS scores and a severe NDI result (p < 0.001). Similar findings were seen with worse NDI and EQ-5D scores (p < 0.001). A significant linear trend of worse NDI and EQ-5D scores at 3 and 12 months was associated with worse baseline scores. Of the 186 patients, 171 (91.9%) had 3-month follow-up data, and 162 (87.1%) had 12-month follow-up data.

CONCLUSIONS

ACDF is effective in improving pain and disability, and improvement occurs within 3 months of surgery. cSVA, CL, and T1 slope do not appear to influence outcomes following ACDF surgery in the population with degenerative cervical disease. Therefore, in patients with relatively normal cervical parameters, augmenting alignment or lordosis is likely unnecessary. Worse preoperative pain and disability were independently associated with worse outcomes.

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Anthony M. DiGiorgio, Rachel Tsolinas, Mohanad Alazzeh, Jenny Haefeli, Jason F. Talbott, Adam R. Ferguson, Jacqueline C. Bresnahan, Michael S. Beattie, Geoffrey T. Manley, William D. Whetstone, Praveen V. Mummaneni, and Sanjay S. Dhall

OBJECTIVE

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) occur in approximately 17,000 people in the US each year. The average length of hospital stay is 11 days, and deep venous thrombosis (DVT) rates as high as 65% are reported in these patients. There is no consensus on the appropriate timing of chemical DVT prophylaxis for this critically injured patient cohort. The object of this study was to determine if low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) was safe and effective if given within 24 hours of SCI.

METHODS

The Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in SCIs study is a prospective observational study conducted by the UCSF Brain and Spinal Injury Center. Protocol at this center includes administration of LMWH within 24 hours of SCI. Data were retrospectively reviewed to determine DVT rate, pulmonary embolism (PE) rate, and hemorrhagic complications.

RESULTS

Forty-nine patients were enrolled in the study. There were 3 DVTs (6.1%), 2 PEs (4.1%), and no hemorrhagic complications. Regression modeling did not find an association between DVT and/or PE and age, American Spinal Injury Association grade, sex, race, or having undergone a neurosurgical procedure.

CONCLUSIONS

A standardized protocol in which LMWH is given to patients with SCI within 24 hours of injury is effective in keeping venous thromboembolism at the lower end of the reported range, and is safe, with a zero rate of adverse bleeding events.

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Andrew K. Chan, Michele Santacatterina, Brenton Pennicooke, Shane Shahrestani, Alexander M. Ballatori, Katie O. Orrico, John F. Burke, Geoffrey T. Manley, Phiroz E. Tarapore, Michael C. Huang, Sanjay S. Dhall, Dean Chou, Praveen V. Mummaneni, and Anthony M. DiGiorgio

OBJECTIVE

Spine surgery is especially susceptible to malpractice claims. Critics of the US medical liability system argue that it drives up costs, whereas proponents argue it deters negligence. Here, the authors study the relationship between malpractice claim density and outcomes.

METHODS

The following methods were used: 1) the National Practitioner Data Bank was used to determine the number of malpractice claims per 100 physicians, by state, between 2005 and 2010; 2) the Nationwide Inpatient Sample was queried for spinal fusion patients; and 3) the Area Resource File was queried to determine the density of physicians, by state. States were categorized into 4 quartiles regarding the frequency of malpractice claims per 100 physicians. To evaluate the association between malpractice claims and death, discharge disposition, length of stay (LOS), and total costs, an inverse-probability-weighted regression-adjustment estimator was used. The authors controlled for patient and hospital characteristics. Covariates were used to train machine learning models to predict death, discharge disposition not to home, LOS, and total costs.

RESULTS

Overall, 549,775 discharges following spinal fusions were identified, with 495,640 yielding state-level information about medical malpractice claim frequency per 100 physicians. Of these, 124,425 (25.1%), 132,613 (26.8%), 130,929 (26.4%), and 107,673 (21.7%) were from the lowest, second-lowest, second-highest, and highest quartile states, respectively, for malpractice claims per 100 physicians. Compared to the states with the fewest claims (lowest quartile), surgeries in states with the most claims (highest quartile) showed a statistically significantly higher odds of a nonhome discharge (OR 1.169, 95% CI 1.139–1.200), longer LOS (mean difference 0.304, 95% CI 0.256–0.352), and higher total charges (mean difference [log scale] 0.288, 95% CI 0.281–0.295) with no significant associations for mortality. For the machine learning models—which included medical malpractice claim density as a covariate—the areas under the curve for death and discharge disposition were 0.94 and 0.87, and the R2 values for LOS and total charge were 0.55 and 0.60, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Spinal fusion procedures from states with a higher frequency of malpractice claims were associated with an increased odds of nonhome discharge, longer LOS, and higher total charges. This suggests that medicolegal climate may potentially alter practice patterns for a given spine surgeon and may have important implications for medical liability reform. Machine learning models that included medical malpractice claim density as a feature were satisfactory in prediction and may be helpful for patients, surgeons, hospitals, and payers.