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Shaun D. Rodgers, Bryan J. Marascalchi, Russell G. Strom and Paul P. Huang

Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache attacks with conjunctival injection and tearing (SUNCT) syndrome is classified under trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias. This rare headache syndrome is infrequently associated with secondary pathologies. In this paper the authors report on a patient with paroxysmal left retroorbital pain with associated autonomic symptoms of ipsilateral conjunctival injection and lacrimation, suggestive of SUNCT syndrome. After failed medical treatment an MRI sequence was obtained in this patient, demonstrating an epidermoid tumor in the left cerebellopontine angle. The patient's symptoms completely resolved after a gross-total resection of the tumor. This case demonstrates the effectiveness of resection as definitive treatment for SUNCT syndrome associated with tumoral compression of the trigeminal nerve. Early MRI studies should be considered in all patients with SUNCT, especially those with atypical signs and symptoms.

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Shaun D. Rodgers, Bryan J. Marascalchi, Bartosz T. Grobelny, Michael L. Smith and Uzma Samadani

Recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) promotes the induction of bone growth and is widely used in spine surgery to enhance arthrodesis. Recombinant human BMP-2 has been associated with a variety of complications including ectopic bone formation, adjacent-level fusion, local bone resorption, osteolysis, and radiculitis. Some of the complications associated with rhBMP-2 may be the result of rhBMP-2 induction of the inflammatory host response. In this paper the authors report on a patient with prior transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) using an interbody cage packed with rhBMP-2, in which rhBMP-2 possibly contributed to vascular injury during an attempted anterior lumbar interbody fusion. This 63-year-old man presented with a 1-year history of worsening refractory low-back pain and radiculopathy caused by a Grade 1 spondylolisthesis at L4–5. He underwent an uncomplicated L4–5 TLIF using an rhBMP-2–packed interbody cage. Postoperatively, he experienced marginal improvement of his symptoms. Within the next year and a half the patient returned with unremitting low-back pain and neurogenic claudication that failed to respond to conservative measures. Radiological imaging of the patient revealed screw loosening and pseudarthrosis. He underwent an anterior retroperitoneal approach with a plan for removal of the previous cage, complete discectomy, and placement of a femoral ring. During the retroperitoneal approach the iliac vein was adhered with scarring and fibrosis to the underlying previously operated L4–5 interbody space. During mobilization the left iliac vein was torn, resulting in significant blood loss and cardiac arrest requiring chest compression, defibrillator shocks, and blood transfusion. The patient was stabilized, the operation was terminated, and he was transferred to the intensive care unit. He recovered over the next several days and was discharged at his neurological baseline. The authors propose that the rhBMP-2–induced host inflammatory response partially contributed to vessel fibrosis and scarring, resulting in the life-threatening vascular injury during the reoperation. Spine surgeons should be aware of this potential inflammatory fibrosis in addition to other reported complications related to rhBMP-2.

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Peter G. Passias, Bassel G. Diebo, Bryan J. Marascalchi, Cyrus M. Jalai, Samantha R. Horn, Peter L. Zhou, Karen Paltoo, Olivia J. Bono, Nancy Worley, Gregory W. Poorman, Vincent Challier, Anant Dixit, Carl Paulino and Virginie Lafage


It is becoming increasingly necessary for surgeons to provide evidence supporting cost-effectiveness of surgical treatment for cervical spine pathology. Anticipating surgical risk is critical in accurately evaluating the risk/benefit balance of such treatment. Determining the risk and cost-effectiveness of surgery, complications, revision procedures, and mortality rates are the most significant limitations. The purpose of this study was to determine independent risk factors for medical complications (MCs), surgical complications (SCs), revisions, and mortality rates following surgery for patients with cervical spine pathology. The most relevant risk factors were used to structure an index that will help quantify risk and anticipate failure for such procedures.


The authors of this study performed a retrospective review of the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) database for patients treated surgically for cervical spine pathology between 2001 and 2010. Multivariate models were performed to calculate the odds ratio (OR) of the independent risk factors that led to MCs and repeated for SCs, revisions, and mortality. The models controlled for age (< and > 65 years old), sex, race, revision status (except for revision analysis), surgical approach, number of levels fused/re-fused (2–3, 4–8, ≥ 9), and osteotomy utilization. ORs were weighted based on their predictive category: 2 times for revision surgery predictors and 4 times for mortality predictors. Fifty points were distributed among the predictors based on their cumulative OR to establish a risk index.


Discharges for 362,989 patients with cervical spine pathology were identified. The mean age was 52.65 years, and 49.47% of patients were women. Independent risk factors included medical comorbidities, surgical parameters, and demographic factors. Medical comorbidities included the following: pulmonary circulation disorder, coagulopathy, metastatic cancer, renal failure, congestive heart failure, alcohol abuse, neurological disorder, nonmetastatic cancer, liver disease, rheumatoid arthritis/collagen vascular diseases, and chronic blood loss/anemia. Surgical parameters included posterior approach to fusion/re-fusion, ≥ 9 levels fused/re-fused, corpectomy, 4–8 levels fused/re-fused, and osteotomy; demographic variables included age ≥ 65 years. These factors increased the risk of at least 1 of MC, SC, revision, or mortality (risk of death). A total of 50 points were distributed among the factors based on the cumulative risk ratio of every factor in proportion to the total risk ratios.


This study proposed an index to quantify the potential risk of morbidity and mortality prior to surgical intervention for patients with cervical spine pathology. This index may be useful for surgeons in patient counseling efforts as well as for health insurance companies and future socioeconomics studies in assessing surgical risks and benefits for patients undergoing surgical treatment of the cervical spine.