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Neurosurgery and spine: a vital synergy

Chairperson Address, 2007 Annual Meeting of Section of Disorders of Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Charles L. Branch Jr.

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Daniel Couture and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Spinal pseudomeningoceles and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) fistulas are rare extradural collections of CSF that result following a breach in the dural–arachnoid layer. They may occur due to an incidental durotomy, during intradural surgery, or from trauma or congenital abnormality. The majority are iatrogenic and occur in the posterior lumbar region following surgery. Although they are often asymptomatic, they may cause low-back pain, headaches, and even nerve root entrapment. Leakage of CSF from the wound may cause a fistulous tract, which is a conduit for infection and should be repaired immediately.

Diagnosis can be confirmed on clinical examination or imaging studies including magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography myelography, and radionuclide myelography. Treatment must be specific to each patient because the timing, size, symptoms, and location of the dural breach all affect the choice of therapy. Nonsurgical methods may be used, but more frequently operative repair is required.

In this article, the authors review the diagnosis and treatment of spinal pseudomeningoceles and CSF fistulas.

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Domagoj Coric and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Lumbar spinal stenosis is often the result of advanced degeneration of motion segments of the lumbar spine. Loss of disc height, facet displacement and hypertrophy, spondylosis, and spondylolisthesis, as well as buckling of the ligamentum flavum and annulus fibrosus, all contribute to impingement on the spinal canal and intervertebral foramen in lumbar stenosis. There is a subgroup of patients with spinal stenosis in whom the spine is unstable preoperatively or becomes destabilized following decompression who would benefit from an initial fusion procedure. Posterior lumbar interbody fusion (PLIF) addresses several aspects of the multifactorial pathophysiology responsible for spinal stenosis and may arrest the degenerative changes at the fused level. Fusion, in particular PLIF, should be considered in complex cases of lumbar spinal stenosis, most notably in patients with postlaminectomy stenosis or stenosis associated with spondylolisthesis.

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Bryan Barnes, Joseph T. Alexander and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Object

The authors conducted a literature-based review of the etiology, diagnosis, and treatment of cervical vertebral osteomyelitis (CVO).

Methods

A Medline (PubMed) search using the key words “cervical vertebral osteomyelitis” yielded 256 articles. These were further screened for relevance, yielding 15 articles. Each publication was reviewed, and several others not identified in the PubMed search were screened and included in the review according to relevance. Each article was identified as involving either the epidemiology/etiology, diagnosis, or treatment of CVO. Separate categories were created for case reports and general reviews.

Conclusions

Cervical vertebral osteomyelitis has a spectrum of origins, which include spontaneous, postoperative, traumatic, and hematogenously spread causes. The majority of patients have medical risk factors and comorbidities that include diabetes, trauma, drug abuse, and infectious processes in extraspinal areas. The diagnosis of CVO can be accomplished in most cases by using plain x-ray films and computerized tomography scans. Nevertheless, preferential use of magnetic resonance imaging in cases in which there is a neurological deficit is helpful in identifying epidural compressive processes. Treatment for CVO can be successfully initiated with intravenous antibiotic therapy. Nevertheless, in cases in which there is a neurological deficit, spinal deformity and/or progressive lysis, or intractable pain, the earliest feasible surgical intervention with debridement and fusion is warranted.

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Jeffrey D. Jenkins, Domagoj Coric and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Object. The optimal treatment of Type II odontoid fractures is controversial. Various therapies have been used, including nonrigid immobilization, halo orthosis, posterior atlantoaxial arthrodesis, and odontoid screw fixation. Of these, odontoid screw fixation is the only treatment modality that provides immediate stabilization and preserves normal motion at C1–2. It has been suggested in cadaveric biomechanical studies that there is no advantage to using more than one screw for anterior odontoid fixation. The authors compared the clinical safety and efficacy of one- and two-screw anterior odontoid fixation.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records and radiographs of 42 consecutive patients who had undergone fixation for treatment of odontoid fractures at a single institution between 1989 and 1995.

The group treated with a single screw consisted of 20 patients (11 males and nine females) with an average age of 54 years. The union rate in this group, as determined by postoperative dynamic radiographs, was 81%. The group treated with two screws consisted of 22 patients (13 men and nine women) with an average age of 64 years, whose union rate was 85%.

Conclusions. Anterior odontoid screw fixation is a safe and efficacious treatment for odontoid fractures. In the authors' experience there was no significant difference in the successful union rates achieved with either the one- or two-screw fixation techniques (81% and 85%, respectively; χ2 = 0.09, p = 0.76).

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Domagoj Coric, Charles L. Branch Jr. and Jeffrey D. Jenkins

U Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is an efficacious procedure used to treat a variety of cervical spinal disorders, including spondylosis, myelopathy, herniated discs, trauma, and degenerative disc disease. Pseudarthrosis, or failure of fusion, may be the most common complication of spinal fusion procedures. Nineteen consecutive patients with symptomatic pseudarthrosis following failed anterior cervical fusions were treated with anterior cervical revision using iliac crest allografts and either the Cervical Spine Locking Plate system (10 patients) or the Trapezial Osteosynthetic Plate system (nine patients). The mean age of the nine men and 10 women undergoing treatment was 49.1 years (range 25–72 years). Eleven patients (57.9%) exhibited pseudarthrosis at one level, six (31.5%) at two levels, and two (10.5%) at three levels. The indications for revision were intractable neck pain with radiculopathy (17 patients) or myelopathy (two patients), with evidence of pseudarthrosis on plain cervical radiography as well as computerized tomography (CT) or single-photon emission computerized tomography (SPECT) scanning, or both. All eight patients evaluated with SPECT showed increased focal uptake consistent with pseudarthrosis, which was subsequently confirmed intraoperatively in all eight. The average follow-up period was 22.4 months (range 12–42 months).

Solid osseous fusion was achieved over all 28 levels in all 18 patients available for follow-up review (100%). One patient died 4 months postoperatively from myocardial infarction related to preexisting coronary artery disease. There were no intraoperative complications; postoperatively, two patients (10.5%) experienced transient hoarseness.

Anterior revision of failed cervical fusions using allograft interbody fusion material and anterior plating is a safe and efficacious procedure. In this series, the use of allografts avoided donor site morbidity without adversely affecting fusion rates. Rigid internal fixation was achieved by means of anterior plating without increasing surgical morbidity rates. The SPECT imaging technique has the potential to reliably confirm the diagnosis of pseudarthrosis.

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Daniel E. Couture and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Object

The goal of this prospective study was to review a series of 27 patients who underwent bilateral posterior lumbar interbody fusion with instrumented pedicle fixation and two HYDROSORB (known generically as 70:30 poly[L-lactide-co-D,L-lactide]) rectangular cages packed with locally harvested autograft at a total of 48 levels, and to assess the safety and efficacy of this novel technique. This analysis, conducted at a mean of 26 months of follow up, is the first report of a long-term evaluation of this technique. Fusion rates and clinical outcomes are presented.

Methods

A prospective clinical and radiographic review of findings in 27 consecutive patients was performed. Fusion rates and clinical outcome were assessed at 6-month intervals up to the 32-month follow-up end point. Two patients with four corresponding fusion levels were lost to follow up.

Radiographic evidence of satisfactory fusion was achieved in 42 (95.5%) of 44 levels fused. Satisfactory fusion at all levels was achieved in 23 (92%) of 25 patients. Two patients required repeated operations for treatment of symptomatic pseudarthrosis during the study period. The likelihood of all levels attaining fusion in a given patient decreased as the number of levels treated increased, which is consistent with previously published studies. Nonetheless, fusion rates per treated level were similar for patients in whom one to three levels were treated. No significant surgical complication occurred.

Conclusions

Posterior lumbar interbody fusion in which the HYDROSORB bioabsorbable implant packed with locally harvested autograft and segmental internal fixation are used appears to be an interbody fusion alternative whose efficacy is comparable with previously reported procedures.

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Rebekah C. Austin, Charles L. Branch Jr. and Joseph T. Alexander

Object

The authors report the cases of 12 patients with medically refractory mechanical low-back pain and intermittent radicular symptoms in whom radiography demonstrated evidence of multilevel lumbosacral degenerative kyphotic and scoliotic deformity and spondylolisthesis.

Methods

These patients underwent multilevel posterior lumbar interbody fusion in which Macropore bioabsorbable spacers were placed. Each patient underwent at least 1 year of clinical and radiographic follow up.

Conclusions

This series illustrates the novel use of bioabsorbable interbody spacers and fusion technique for correction of spinal deformity due to advanced degenerative kyphoscoliosis and spondylolisthesis.

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Bryan Barnes, Joseph T. Alexander and Charles L. Branch Jr.

Object

The authors conducted a review of the literature to establish reasonable practical guidelines for the management of complications in patients who have undergone recent spinal surgery and who require Level 1 anticoagulation therapy.

Methods

A MEDLINE (PubMed) literature search was performed using the key words “postoperative anticoagulation,” “spinal surgery,” and “postoperative epidural hematoma,” for articles published between 1990 and 2004. The search yielded 148 articles, which were then further screened for relevance and classified according to level-of-evidence guidelines established by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons joint committee for spinal cord injury. A total of 12 relevant articles were reviewed. There were no relevant articles meeting Class 1 standards of evidence, two met Class 2 evidence standards (one was a nonrandomized cohort study, the other was case-controlled), and the remaining 10 articles contained Class 3 evidence.

Conclusions

There are insufficient data to establish evidence-based guidelines for the use of Level 1 heparin or an equivalent anticoagulation protocol in patients who have recently undergone spinal surgery. Nevertheless, a search of the limited peer-reviewed literature on the subject indicates that there is an anecdotally high risk of complications in patients who have undergone spinal surgery and in whom a Level 1 or equivalent heparin protocol is administered. It therefore seems most prudent to arrange for placement of a vena cava filter in patients who have undergone spinal surgery and in whom a pulmonary embolus is found postoperatively. In patients who undergo spinal surgery and who require heparinization therapy for myocardial ischemia or infarction, the use of frequent neurological examinations in conjunction with anticoagulation therapy seems to be the only reasonable option.