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Charles L. Schnee and Lee V. Ansell

✓ Criteria for choosing operative techniques for the treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures remain disputed, particularly in neurologically intact patients. A retrospective study of 25 patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures was performed to assess fracture characteristics, operative approaches, fixation, radiographic results, and neurological, functional, and pain outcomes.

Anterior corpectomy, allograft strut, and plate fixation were performed in 14 patients with or without neurological deficit when vertebral compression or canal encroachment was at least 40% or kyphosis was 15° or more with a stable posterior column. In nine cases, an anterior operation and a posterior segmental fixation were combined for similar deformity and three-column instability. Posterior transpedicular decompression, fixation, and fusion were used primarily for two symptomatic patients with less than 40% encroachment and at most 40% compression.

Overall, 21 patients (84%) were walking and 18 (72%) were continent at follow-up evaluation (mean 16.3 months) versus eight (32%) and 11 (44%) at presentation, respectively. Preoperatively, 17 patients experienced neurological deficit; 16 improved and 12 increased one Frankel grade. No patient deteriorated. Prior employment or activity level was resumed by 19 patients (76%) and only four patients professed incapacity. Pain was eliminated after 18 procedures (72%), all anterior or combined approaches. Restoration of anatomical alignment (< 5°) was achieved in 19 cases. No anterior construct failed and only one patient treated posteriorly had postoperative kyphosis progression. Operative morbidity occurred in three cases (12%).

Satisfactory neurological and functional outcomes were achieved in a majority of patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures after correction of canal compromise, middle column compression, and attendant deformity. These results indicate that anterior decompression and a weight-bearing strut graft are critical to clinical success in patients with significant vertebral destruction.

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Charles L. Schnee, Andrew Freese and Lee V. Ansell

✓ The outcomes of 52 adult patients with symptomatic low-grade spondylolisthesis treated with autologous posterolateral arthrodesis and pedicle screw fixation were retrospectively reviewed.

Although a 90% rate of successful fusion was obtained using this technique, only 60% of patients were considered to have good outcomes. Treatment failures consisted mostly of back pain and were not predicted by preoperative symptoms. Compensation claims and smoking had very significant adverse impacts on both employment and pain results despite high fusion rates, particularly in patients under the age of 55 years. Overall, patients who required more than one operation demonstrated poor outcomes compared to those who only needed one. However, patients with at least two prior operations or preoperative pseudoarthrosis fared particularly poorly, whereas those who had undergone only one prior surgery and had no attendant compensation issue reported good results. A trend toward poor outcome was observed in patients with postlaminectomy spondylolisthesis, versus those with isthmic or degenerative etiologies. Gender did not exert an impact on outcome.

The authors conclude that autologous posterolateral arthrodesis combined with pedicle screw fixation resulted in a high fusion rate, and contributed to successful outcomes in the treatment of certain subgroups of adults with spondylolisthesis. In the absence of other risk factors, patients may obtain significant benefit from surgery despite older age and a single failed operation. Careful patient selection appears critical in predicting the maximum benefit from this technique.

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Charles Y. Liu, Brian Lee, Nicholas Boulis and Ali R. Rezai

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Steven J. Goldstein, Charles Lee, A. Byron Young and George J. Guidry

✓ The authors describe the radiographic findings in a patient with Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome who also had aplasia of the left internal carotid artery and a very unusual malformation of the circle of Willis. This constellation of clinical and radiographic findings is unique and has not been previously reported in the medical literature.

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Edward C. Benzel, Charles D. Gross, Theresa A. Hadden, Lee Kesterson and Michael D. Landreneau

✓ By conventional criteria, an apneic patient's PaCO2 must be greater than 60 mm Hg before apnea can be attributed to brain death. The rate of a PaCO2 increase in the apneic patient traditionally has been thought to be in the range of 3 mm Hg/min. In order to assess the validity of these data and the validity of the “apnea test” for determination of brain death, the results of this test were reviewed in 20 patients. In all patients, arterial blood samples were drawn for blood gas measurements every 2 minutes following the cessation of volume ventilation (with an oxygen cannula at 6 liters O2/min passed into the tracheobronchial tree).

The rate of PaCO2 increase was noted to be very erratic. The average rate of rise was 3.7 ± 2.3 mm Hg/min (± standard deviation). This, however, varied from 0.5 to 10.5 mm Hg/min and was not predictable from the variables evaluated. The rate of PaCO2 increase was noted to decline throughout the duration of the test. This ranged from 3.9 ± 1.2 mm Hg/min (for patients with baseline PaCO2 ≤ 30 mm Hg) and 4.5 ± 1.9 mm Hg/min (for patients with baseline PaCO2 ≥ 30 mm Hg) in the first 4 minutes of the test to an average of 0.92 mm Hg/min for patients with test lasted longer than 12 minutes. These unpredictable results might be related to CO2 washout, atelectasis, cardiac ventilations, or other yet-undefined parameters.

The nonlinear relationship between rate of PaCO2 increase and time following onset of apnea resulted in the test being prolonged in several patients. In these patients, the PaCO2 approached 60 mm Hg in an asymptotic fashion. These lengthy tests could have been avoided by utilizing a standardized apnea test with a baseline PaCO2 of 40 mm Hg or greater.

The observation that a high baseline PaCO2 greatly augments the efficiency and safety of the test allows criteria that have previously been based on conjecture to be documented and applied clinically. A standardized apnea test, utilizing these principles, may satisfy many of the criticisms regarding brain-death testing that have been raised by neurologists, neurosurgeons, and transplant surgeons.

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John A. Jane, Charles S. Haworth, William C. Broaddus, Joung H. Lee and Jacek Malik

✓ A technique for exposing far-lateral intervertebral disc herniations without disrupting the facet is described. This technique is a simple modification of the standard neurosurgical approach.

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Takao Hoshino, Michael Prados, Charles B. Wilson, Kyung Gi Cho, Kyu-Sung Lee and Richard L. Davis

✓ This study includes 182 patients with intracranial gliomas who received bromodeoxyuridine (BUdR), 200 mg/sq m intravenously, at the time of craniotomy but before tumor biopsy. The tumor specimens were stained for BUdR using the immunoperoxidase method; the BUdR labeling index (LI), or S-phase fraction, was calculated as the percentage of BUdR-positive cells. The median BUdR LI's for 127 primary moderately anaplastic astrocytomas, highly anaplastic astrocytomas, and glioblastomas (< 1%, 2.7%, and 7.3%, respectively; range 0% to 38.1%) were not significantly different from those of 55 similar recurrent tumors (< 1%, 4.3%, and 7.4%, respectively; range 0% to 30.5%). The mean LI was significantly higher in tumors from patients over 50 years of age than in tumors from younger patients (p < 0.001). This age-related difference in LI's was found in both groups of patients with astrocytomas but not in those with glioblastomas. Kaplan-Meier survival curves showed a significantly greater probability of survival among patients whose tumors had LI's of less than 1% than among those with LI's greater than 5%; survival probability of patients with tumor LI's of 1% to 5% was intermediate between the two extremes. Thus, the BUdR LI appears to reflect the proliferative potential more accurately than the histopathological diagnosis and should therefore be considered an important factor in determining the prognosis of individual patients with intracranial gliomas and in selecting their treatment.

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Michael F. Barbaro, Kelsi Chesney, Daniel R. Kramer, Spencer Kellis, Terrance Peng, Zack Blumenfeld, Angad S. Gogia, Morgan B. Lee, Janet Greenwood, George Nune, Laura A. Kalayjian, Christianne N. Heck, Charles Y. Liu and Brian Lee

Closed-loop brain-responsive neurostimulation via the RNS System is a treatment option for adults with medically refractory focal epilepsy. Using a novel technique, 2 RNS Systems (2 neurostimulators and 4 leads) were successfully implanted in a single patient with bilateral parietal epileptogenic zones. In patients with multiple epileptogenic zones, this technique allows for additional treatment options. Implantation can be done successfully, without telemetry interference, using proper surgical planning and neurostimulator positioning.

Trajectories for the depth leads were planned using neuronavigation with CT and MR imaging. Stereotactic frames were used for coordinate targeting. Each neurostimulator was positioned with maximal spacing to avoid telemetry interference while minimizing patient discomfort. A separate J-shaped incision was used for each neurostimulator to allow for compartmentalization in case of infection. In order to minimize surgical time and risk of infection, the neurostimulators were implanted in 2 separate surgeries, approximately 3 weeks apart.

The neurostimulators and leads were successfully implanted without adverse surgical outcomes. The patient recovered uneventfully, and the early therapy settings over several months resulted in preliminary decreases in aura and seizure frequency. Stimulation by one of the neurostimulators did not result in stimulation artifacts detected by the contralateral neurostimulator.

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Claudio E. Tatsui, R. Jason Stafford, Jing Li, Jonathan N. Sellin, Behrang Amini, Ganesh Rao, Dima Suki, Amol J. Ghia, Paul Brown, Sun-Ho Lee, Charles E. Cowles, Jeffrey S. Weinberg and Laurence D. Rhines

OBJECT

High-grade malignant spinal cord compression is commonly managed with a combination of surgery aimed at removing the epidural tumor, followed by spinal stereotactic radiosurgery (SSRS) aimed at local tumor control. The authors here introduce the use of spinal laser interstitial thermotherapy (SLITT) as an alternative to surgery prior to SSRS.

METHODS

Patients with a high degree of epidural malignant compression due to radioresistant tumors were selected for study. Visual analog scale (VAS) scores for pain and quality of life were obtained before and within 30 and 60 days after treatment. A laser probe was percutaneously placed in the epidural space. Real-time thermal MRI was used to monitor tissue damage in the region of interest. All patients received postoperative SSRS. The maximum thickness of the epidural tumor was measured, and the degree of epidural spinal cord compression (ESCC) was scored in pre- and postprocedure MRI.

RESULTS

In the 11 patients eligible for study, the mean VAS score for pain decreased from 6.18 in the preoperative period to 4.27 within 30 days and 2.8 within 60 days after the procedure. A similar VAS interrogating the percentage of quality of life demonstrated improvement from 60% preoperatively to 70% within both 30 and 60 days after treatment. Imaging follow-up 2 months after the procedure demonstrated a significant reduction in the mean thickness of the epidural tumor from 8.82 mm (95% CI 7.38–10.25) before treatment to 6.36 mm (95% CI 4.65–8.07) after SLITT and SSRS (p = 0.0001). The median preoperative ESCC Grade 2 was scored as 4, which was significantly higher than the score of 2 for Grade 1b (p = 0.04) on imaging follow-up 2 months after the procedure.

CONCLUTIONS

The authors present the first report on an innovative minimally invasive alternative to surgery in the management of spinal metastasis. In their early experience, SLITT has provided local control with low morbidity and improvement in both pain and the quality of life of patients.

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Takao Hoshino, Luis A. Rodriguez, Kyung G. Cho, Kyu S. Lee, Charles B. Wilson, Michael S. B. Edwards, Victor A. Levin and Richard L. Davis

✓ The proliferative potential of low-grade astrocytomas was estimated in 47 patients. Each patient received an intravenous infusion of bromodeoxyuridine (BUdR), 150 to 200 mg/sq m, at the time of craniotomy to label cells in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) synthesis; the percentage of S-phase cells, or BUdR labeling index (LI), of each tumor was determined immunohistochemically. In 29 patients (60%), the tumors had BUdR LI's of less than 1%, indicating a slow growth rate; only three (10%) of these patients died of recurrent tumor during a follow-up period of up to 3½ years. In contrast, of the 18 patients (40%) whose tumors had BUdR LI's of 1% or more, 12 (67%) had a recurrence and nine died during the same follow-up period. These results show that the proliferative potential, as reflected by the BUdR LI, is an important prognostic factor that separates low-grade astrocytomas into two groups and provides a more scientific rationale for selecting treatment for individual patients.