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Spine surgery in the International Security Assistance Force Role 3 combat support hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan, 2007–2014

Chris Schulz, Uwe Max Mauer, Renè Mathieu, and Gregor Freude

OBJECTIVE

Since 2007, a continuous neurosurgery emergency service has been available in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) field hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif (MeS), Afghanistan. The object of this study was to assess the number and range of surgical procedures performed on the spine in the period from 2007 to 2014.

METHODS

This is a retrospective analysis of the annual neurosurgical caseload statistics from July 2007 to October 2014 (92 months). The distribution of surgical urgency (emergency, delayed urgency, or elective), patient origin (ISAF, Afghan National Army, or civilian population), and underlying causes of diseases and injuries (penetrating injury, blunt injury/fracture, or degenerative disease) was analyzed. The range and pattern of diagnoses in the neurosurgical outpatient department from 2012 and 2013 were also evaluated.

RESULTS

A total of 341 patients underwent neurosurgical operations in the period from July 2007 to October 2014. One hundred eighty-eight (55.1%) of the 341 procedures were performed on the spine, and the majority of these surgeries were performed for degenerative diseases (127/188; 67.6%). The proportion of spinal fractures and penetrating injuries (61/188; 32.4%) increased over the study period. These spinal trauma diagnoses accounted for 80% of the cases in which patients had to undergo operations within 12 hours of presentation (n = 70 cases). Spinal surgeries were performed as an emergency in 19.8% of cases, whereas 17.3% of surgeries had delayed urgency and 62.9% were elective procedures. Of the 1026 outpatient consultations documented, 82% were related to spinal issues.

CONCLUSIONS

Compared to the published numbers of cases from neurosurgery units in the rest of the ISAF area, the field hospital in MeS had a considerably lower number of operations. In addition, MeS had the highest rates of both elective neurosurgical operations and Afghan civilian patients. In comparison with the field hospital in MeS, none of the other ISAF field hospitals showed such a strong concentration of degenerative spinal conditions in their surgical spectrum. Nevertheless, the changing pattern of spine-related diagnoses and surgical therapies in the current conflict represents a challenge for future training and material planning in comparable missions.

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German military neurosurgery at home and abroad

Uwe Max Mauer, Chris Schulz, Ronny Rothe, and Ulrich Kunz

For many years, the experience of neurosurgeons from the German Armed Forces was limited to the peacetime care of patients in Germany. In 1995, German military neurosurgeons were deployed abroad for the first time. Since the beginning of the International Security Assistance Force mission, there has been a rapidly increasing number of opportunities for military neurosurgeons to broaden their experience during deployments abroad.

Since the first deployment of a neurosurgeon to the German field hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, a total of 140 neurosurgical procedures have been performed there. Sixty-four surgeries were performed for cranial or spinal neurotrauma management. During the entire period, only 10 International Security Assistance Force members required acute or urgent neurosurgical interventions. The majority of neurosurgical procedures were performed in Afghan patients who received acute and elective treatment whenever the necessary infrastructure was available in the field hospital. Fifteen patients from the Afghan National Army and Police and 115 local patients underwent neurosurgery. Sixty-two procedures were carried out under acute or urgent conditions, and 78 operations were elective.

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Treatment of unresectable skull base meningiomas with somatostatin analogs

Chris Schulz, René Mathieu, Ulrich Kunz, and Uwe Max Mauer

Object

The standard surgical treatment for meningiomas is total resection, but the complete removal of skull base meningiomas can be difficult for several reasons. Thus, the management of certain meningiomas of the skull base—for example, those involving basal vessels and cranial nerves—remains a challenge. In recent reports it has been suggested that somatostatin (SST) administration can cause growth inhibition of unresectable and recurrent meningiomas. The application of SST and its analogs is not routinely integrated into standard treatment strategies for meningiomas, and clinical studies proving growth-inhibiting effects do not exist. The authors report on their experience using octreotide in patients with recurrent or unresectable meningiomas of the skull base.

Methods

Between January 1996 and December 2010, 13 patients harboring a progressive residual meningioma (as indicated by MR imaging criteria) following operative therapy were treated with a monthly injection of the SST analog octreotide (Sandostatin LAR [long-acting repeatable] 30 mg, Novartis). Eight of 13 patients had a meningioma of the skull base and were analyzed in the present study. Postoperative tumor enlargement was documented in all patients on MR images obtained before the initiation of SST therapy. All tumors were benign. No patient received radiation or chemotherapy before treatment with SST. The growth of residual tumor was monitored by MR imaging every 12 months.

Results

Three of the 8 patients had undergone surgical treatment once; 3, 2 times; and 2, 3 times. The mean time after the last meningioma operation (before starting SST treatment) and tumor enlargement as indicated by MR imaging criteria was 24 months. A total of 643 monthly cycles of Sandostatin LAR were administered. Five of the 8 patients were on SST continuously and stabilized disease was documented on MR images obtained in these patients during treatment (median 115 months, range 48–180 months). Three of the 8 patients interrupted treatment: after 60 months in 1 case because of tumor progression, after 36 months in 1 case because of side effects, and after 36 months in 1 case because the health insurance company denied cost absorption.

Conclusions

Although no case of tumor regression was detected on MR imaging, the study results indicated that SST analogs can arrest the progression of unresectable or recurrent benign meningiomas of the skull base in some patients. It remains to be determined whether a controlled prospective clinical trial would be useful.

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Arachnoscopy: a special application of spinal intradural endoscopy

Uwe Max Mauer, Andreas Gottschalk, Ulrich Kunz, and Chris Schulz

Object

The microsurgical removal of obstructions to CSF flow is the treatment of choice in the surgical management of intradural arachnoid cysts. Cardiac-gated phase-contrast MR imaging is an effective tool for the primary diagnosis and localization of arachnoid cysts. Microsurgery, however, does not lend itself to assessments of further adhesions beyond the borders of the exposed area. The use of a thin endoscope allows surgeons to assess intraoperatively whether the exposure is wide enough.

Methods

Between 2006 and 2010, a single neurosurgeon performed 31 consecutive microsurgical procedures with endoscopic assistance in 28 patients with spinal arachnoid adhesions. A MurphyScope endoscope was used for this purpose. The CSF flow was studied before and after surgery in all patients by using phase-contrast MR imaging in the region of the craniocervical junction, the cervical spine, the thoracic spine, and the lumbar spine.

Results

In all 31 procedures, CSF flow obstructions were detected at the level identified by phase-contrast MR imaging. In 29 procedures, image quality was sufficient for an inspection of the adjacent subarachnoid space. In 6 cases, the surgeon detected further adhesions that obstructed CSF flow in the adjacent subarachnoid space that were not visualized with the microscope. In all cases, these adhesions were identified and removed during microsurgery.

Conclusions

Arachnoscopy is a helpful adjunct to microsurgery and can be performed safely and easily. It allows the surgeon to detect further adhesions in the subarachnoid space that would remain undetected by microscopy alone.

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Standard and cardiac-gated phase-contrast magnetic resonance imaging in the clinical course of patients with Chiari malformation Type I

Uwe Max Mauer, Andreas Gottschalk, Carolin Mueller, Linda Weselek, Ulrich Kunz, and Chris Schulz

Object

The causal treatment of Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) consists of removing the obstruction of CSF flow at the level of the foramen magnum. Cerebrospinal fluid flow can be visualized using dynamic phase-contrast MR imaging. Because there is only a paucity of studies evaluating CSF dynamics in the region of the spinal canal on the basis of preoperative and postoperative measurements, the authors investigated the clinical usefulness of cardiacgated phase-contrast MR imaging in patients with CM-I.

Methods

Ninety patients with CM-I underwent preoperative MR imaging of CSF pulsation. Syringomyelia was present in 59 patients and absent in 31 patients. Phase-contrast MR imaging of the entire CNS was used to investigate 22 patients with CM-I before surgery and after a mean postoperative period of 12 months (median 12 months, range 3–33 months). In addition to the dynamic studies, absolute flow velocities, the extension of the syrinx, and tonsillar descent were also measured.

Results

The changes in pulsation were highly significant in the region of the (enlarged) cistern (p = 0.0005). Maximum and minimum velocities (the pulsation amplitude) increased considerably in the region where the syrinx was largest in diameter. The changes of pulsation in these patients were significant in the subarachnoid space in all spinal segments but not in the syrinx itself and in the central canal.

Conclusions

The demonstration of CSF flow pulsation can contribute to assessments of surgical outcomes. The results presented here, however, raise doubts about current theories on the pathogenesis of syringomyelia.