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Translaminar screws

Andrew Jea

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Camilo Molina, Daniel M. Sciubba, Christopher Chaput, P. Justin Tortolani, George I. Jallo, and Ryan M. Kretzer


Translaminar screws (TLSs) were originally described as a safer alternative to pedicle and transarticular screw placement at C-2 in adult patients. More recently, TLSs have been used in both the cervical and thoracic spine of pediatric patients as a primary fixation technique and as a bailout procedure when dysplastic pedicle morphology prohibits safe pedicle screw placement. Although authors have reported the anatomical characteristics of the cervical and thoracic lamina in adults as well as those of the cervical lamina in pediatric patients, no such data exist to guide safe TLS placement in the thoracic spine of the pediatric population. The goal of this study was to report the anatomical feasibility of TLS placement in the thoracic spine of pediatric patients.


Fifty-two patients (26 males and 26 females), with an average age of 9.5 ± 4.8 years, were selected by retrospective review of a trauma registry database after institutional review board approval. Study inclusion criteria were an age from 2 to 16 years, standardized axial bone-window CT images of the thoracic spine, and the absence of spinal trauma. For each thoracic lamina the following anatomical features were measured using eFilm Lite software: laminar width (outer cortical and cancellous), laminar height (LH), maximal screw length, and optimal screw trajectory. Patients were stratified by age (an age < 8 versus ≥ 8 years) and sex.


Collected data demonstrate the following general trends as one descends the thoracic spine from T-1 to T-12: 1) increasing laminar width to T-4 followed by a steady decrease to T-12, 2) increasing LH, 3) decreasing maximal screw length, and 4) increasing ideal screw trajectory angle. When stratified by age and sex, male patients older than 8 years of age had significantly larger laminae in terms of both width and height and allowed significantly longer screw placement at all thoracic levels compared with their female counterparts. Importantly, it was found that 78% of individual thoracic laminae, regardless of age or sex, could accept a 4.0-mm screw with 1.0 mm of clearance. As expected, when stratifying by age and sex, it was found that older male patients had the highest acceptance rates.


Data in the present study provide information regarding optimal TLS length, diameter, and trajectory for each thoracic spinal level in pediatric patients. Importantly, the data collected demonstrate no anatomical limitations within the pediatric thoracic spine to TLS instrumentation, although acceptance rates are lower for younger (< 8 years old) and/or female patients. Lastly, given the anatomical variation found in this study, CT scanning can be useful in the preoperative setting when planning TLS use in the thoracic spine of pediatric patients.

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Taylor E. Purvis, C. Rory Goodwin, Camilo A. Molina, Steven M. Frank, and Daniel M. Sciubba


The aim of this study was to characterize the association between percentage change in hemoglobin (ΔHb)—i.e., the difference between preoperative Hb and in-hospital nadir Hb concentration—and perioperative adverse events among spine surgery patients.


Patients who underwent spine surgery at the authors’ institution between December 4, 2008, and June 26, 2015, were eligible for this retrospective study. Patients who underwent the following procedures were included: atlantoaxial fusion, subaxial anterior cervical fusion, subaxial posterior cervical fusion, anterior lumbar fusion, posterior lumbar fusion, lateral lumbar fusion, excision of intervertebral disc, and excision of spinal cord lesion. Data on intraoperative transfusion were obtained from an automated, prospectively collected, anesthesia data management system. Data on postoperative hospital transfusions were obtained through an Internet-based intelligence portal. Percentage ΔHb was defined as: ([preoperative Hb − nadir Hb]/preoperative Hb) × 100. Clinical outcomes included in-hospital morbidity and length of stay associated with percentage ΔHb.


A total of 3949 patients who underwent spine surgery were identified. Of these, 1204 patients (30.5%) received at least 1 unit of packed red blood cells. The median nadir Hb level was 10.6 g/dl (interquartile range 8.7–12.4 g/dl), yielding a mean percentage ΔHb of 23.6% (SD 15.4%). Perioperative complications occurred in 234 patients (5.9%) and were more common in patients with a larger percentage ΔHb (p = 0.017). Hospital-related infection, which occurred in 60 patients (1.5%), was also more common in patients with greater percentage ΔHb (p = 0.001).


Percentage ΔHb is independently associated with a higher risk of developing any perioperative complication and hospital-related infection. The authors’ results suggest that percentage ΔHb may be a useful measure for identifying patients at risk for adverse perioperative events.

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Camilo Molina, C. Rory Goodwin, Nancy Abu-Bonsrah, Benjamin D. Elder, Rafael De la Garza Ramos, and Daniel M. Sciubba

Surgical interventions for spinal metastasis are commonly performed for mechanical stabilization, pain relief, preservation of neurological function, and local tumor reduction. Although multiple surgical approaches can be used for the treatment of metastatic spinal lesions, posterior approaches are commonly performed. In this study, the role of posterior surgical procedures in the treatment of spinal metastases was reviewed, including posterior laminectomy with and without instrumentation for stabilization, transpedicular corpectomy, and costotransversectomy. A review of the literature from 1980 to 2015 was performed using Medline, as was a review of the bibliographies of articles meeting preset inclusion criteria, to identify studies on the role of these posterior approaches among adults with spinal metastasis. Thirty-four articles were ultimately analyzed, including 1 randomized controlled trial, 6 prospective cohort studies, and 27 retrospective case reports and/or series. Some of the reviewed articles had Level II evidence indicating that laminectomy with stabilization can be recommended for improvement in neurological outcome and reduction of pain in selected patients. However, the use of laminectomy alone should be carefully considered. Additionally, transpedicular corpectomy and costotransversectomy can be recommended with the expectation of improving neurological outcomes and reducing pain in properly selected patients with spinal metastases. With improvements in the treatment paradigms for patients with spinal metastasis, as well as survival, surgical therapy will continue to play an important role in the management of spinal metastasis. While this review presents a window into determining the utility of posterior approaches, future prospective studies will provide essential data to better define the roles of the various options now available to surgeons in treating spinal metastases.

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Christopher F. Dibble, Saad Javeed, Justin K. Zhang, Brenton Pennicooke, Wilson Z. Ray, and Camilo Molina


Traumatic atlantoaxial rotatory subluxation after type 3 odontoid fracture is an uncommon presentation that may require complex intraoperative reduction maneuvers and presents challenges to successful instrumentation and fusion.


The authors report a case of a 39-year-old female patient who sustained a type 3 odontoid fracture. She was neurologically intact and managed in a rigid collar. Four months later, she presented again after a second trauma with acute torticollis and type 2 atlantoaxial subluxation, again neurologically intact. Serial cervical traction was placed with minimal radiographic reduction. Ultimately, she underwent intraoperative reduction, instrumentation, and fusion. Freehand C1 lateral mass reduction screws were placed, then C2 translaminar screws, and finally lateral mass screws at C3 and C4. The C2–4 instrumentation was used as bilateral rod anchors to reduce the C1 lateral mass reduction screws engaged onto the subluxated atlantodental complex. As a final step, cortical allograft spacers were inserted at C1–2 under compression to facilitate long-term stability and fusion.


This is the first description of a technique using extended tulip cervical reduction screws to correct traction-irreducible atlantoaxial subluxation. This case is a demonstration of using intraoperative tools available for the spine surgeon managing complex cervical injuries requiring intraoperative reduction that is resistant to traction reduction.

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Camilo A. Molina, Christopher F. Dibble, Sheng-fu Larry Lo, Timothy Witham, and Daniel M. Sciubba

En bloc spinal tumor resections are technically demanding procedures with high morbidity because of the conventionally large exposure area and aggressive resection goals. Stereotactic surgical navigation presents an opportunity to perform the smallest possible resection plan while still achieving an en bloc resection. Augmented reality (AR)–mediated spine surgery (ARMSS) via a mounted display with an integrated tracking camera is a novel FDA-approved technology for intraoperative “heads up” neuronavigation, with the proposed advantages of increased precision, workflow efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. As surgical experience and capability with this technology grow, the potential for more technically demanding surgical applications arises. Here, the authors describe the use of ARMSS for guidance in a unique osteotomy execution to achieve an en bloc wide marginal resection of an L1 chordoma through a posterior-only approach while avoiding a tumor capsule breach. A technique is described to simultaneously visualize the navigational guidance provided by the contralateral surgeon’s tracked pointer and the progress of the BoneScalpel aligned in parallel with the tracked instrument, providing maximum precision and safety. The procedure was completed by reconstruction performed with a quad-rod and cabled fibular strut allograft construct, and the patient did well postoperatively. Finally, the authors review the technical aspects of the approach, as well as the applications and limitations of this new technology.

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Seba Ramhmdani, Marc Comair, Camilo A. Molina, Daniel M. Sciubba, and Ali Bydon

Interspinous process devices (IPDs) have been developed as less-invasive alternatives to spinal fusion with the goal of decompressing the spinal canal and preserving segmental motion. IPD implantation is proposed to treat symptoms of lumbar spinal stenosis that improve during flexion. Recent indications of IPD include lumbar facet joint syndrome, which is seen in patients with mainly low-back pain. Long-term outcomes in this subset of patients are largely unknown. The authors present a previously unreported complication of coflex (IPD) placement: the development of a large compressive lumbar synovial cyst. A 64-year-old woman underwent IPD implantation (coflex) at L4–5 at an outside hospital for low-back pain that occasionally radiates to the right leg. Postoperatively, her back and right leg pain persisted and worsened. MRI was repeated and showed a new, large synovial cyst at the previously treated level, severely compressing the patient’s cauda equina. Four months later, she underwent removal of the interspinous process implant, bilateral laminectomy, facetectomy, synovial cyst resection, interbody fusion, and stabilization. At the 3-month follow-up, she reported significant back pain improvement with some residual leg pain. This case suggests that facet arthrosis may not be an appropriate indication for placement of coflex.

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Camilo A. Molina, Rachel Sarabia-Estrada, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Timothy F. Witham, Ali Bydon, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, and Daniel M. Sciubba


Recombinant human bone morphogenetic proteins (rhBMPs) are FDA-approved for specific spinal fusion procedures, but their use is contraindicated in spine tumor resection beds because of an unclear interaction between tumor tissue and such growth factors. Interestingly, a number of studies have suggested that BMPs may slow the growth of adenocarcinomas in vitro, and these lesions represent the majority of bony spine tumors. In this study, the authors hypothesized that rhBMP-2 placed in an intraosseous spine tumor in the rat could suppress tumor and delay the onset of paresis in such animals.


Twenty-six female nude athymic rats were randomized into an experimental group (Group 1) or a positive control group (Group 2). Group 1 (tumor + 15 μg rhBMP-2 sponge, 13 rats) underwent transperitoneal exposure and implantation of breast adenocarcinoma (CRL-1666) into the L-6 spine segment, followed by the implantation of a bovine collagen sponge impregnated with 15 μg of rhBMP-2. Group 2 (tumor + 0.9% NaCl sponge, 13 rats) underwent transperitoneal exposure and tumor implantation in the lumbar spine but no local treatment with rhBMP-2. An additional 8 animals were randomized into 2 negative control groups (Groups 3 and 4). Group 3 (15 μg rhBMP-2 sponge, 4 rats) and Group 4 (0.9% NaCl sponge, 4 rats) underwent transperitoneal exposure of the lumbar spine along with the implantation of rhBMP-2– and saline-impregnated bovine collagen sponges, respectively. Neither of the negative control groups was implanted with tumor. The Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) scale was used to monitor daily motor function regression and the time to paresis (BBB score ≤ 7).


In comparison with the positive control animals (Group 2), the experimental animals (Group 1) had statistically significant longer mean (25.8 ± 12.2 vs 13 ± 1.4 days, p ≤ 0.001) and median (20 vs 13 days) times to paresis. In addition, the median survival time was significantly longer in the experimental animals (20 vs 13.5 days, p ≤ 0.0001). Histopathological analysis demonstrated bone growth and tumor inhibition in the experimental animals, whereas bone destruction and cord compression were observed in the positive control animals. Neither of the negative control groups (Groups 3 and 4) demonstrated any evidence of neurological deterioration, morbidity, or cord compromise on either gross or histological analysis.


This study shows that the local administration of rhBMP-2 (15 μg, 10 μl of 1.5-mg/ml solution) in a rat spine tumor model of breast cancer not only fails to stimulate local tumor growth, but also decreases local tumor growth and delays the onset of paresis in rats. This preclinical experiment is the first to show that the local placement of rhBMP-2 in a spine tumor bed may slow tumor progression and delay associated neurological decline.

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A. Karim Ahmed, Zachary Pennington, Camilo A. Molina, Yuanxuan Xia, C. Rory Goodwin, and Daniel M. Sciubba

Effective en bloc resection of primary spinal tumors necessitates careful consideration of adjacent anatomical structures in order to achieve negative margins and reduce surgical morbidity. This can be particularly challenging in the cervical spine, where vital neurovascular and connective tissues are present in the region. Early multidisciplinary surgical planning that includes clinicians and engineers can both optimize surgical planning and enable a more feasible resection with oncological margins. The aim of the current work was to demonstrate two cases that involved multidisciplinary surgical planning for en bloc resection of primary cervical spine tumors, successfully utilizing 3D-printed patient models and neoadjuvant therapies.