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Jawad M. Khalifeh, Christopher F. Dibble, Ammar H. Hawasli, and Wilson Z. Ray

OBJECTIVE

The Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) is an adaptive, self-reported outcomes assessment tool that utilizes item response theory and computer adaptive testing to efficiently and precisely evaluate symptoms and perceived health status. Efforts to implement and report PROMIS outcomes in spine clinical practice remain limited. The objective of this retrospective cohort study is to evaluate the performance and psychometric properties of PROMIS physical function (PF) and pain interference (PI) among patients undergoing spine surgery.

METHODS

The authors identified all patients who underwent spine surgery at their institution between 2016 and 2018, and for whom there was retrievable PROMIS data. Descriptive statistics were calculated to summarize demographics, operative characteristics, and patient-reported outcomes. Assessments were evaluated preoperatively, and postoperatively within 2 months (early), 6 months (intermediate), and up to 2 years (late). Pairwise change scores were calculated to evaluate within-subjects differences and construct responsiveness over time. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were used to evaluate the association between PROMIS PF and PI domains. Subgroup analysis was performed based on the primary diagnoses of cervical radiculopathy, cervical myelopathy, or lumbar degenerative disease.

RESULTS

A total of 2770 patients (1395 males, 50.4%) were included in the analysis. The mean age at the time of surgery was 57.3 ± 14.4 years. Mean postoperative follow-up duration was 7.6 ± 6.2 months. Preoperatively, patients scored an average 15.1 ± 7.4 points below the normative population (mean 50 ± 10 points) in PF, and 15.8 ± 6.8 points above the mean in PI. PROMIS PF required a mean of 4.1 ± 0.6 questions and median 40 seconds (interquartile range [IQR] 29–58 seconds) to be completed, which was similar to PI (median 4.3 ± 1.1 questions and 38 seconds [IQR 27–59 seconds]). Patients experienced clinically meaningful improvements in PF and PI, which were sustained throughout the postoperative course. PROMIS instruments were able to capture anticipated changes in PF and PI, although to a lesser degree in PF early postoperatively. There was a strong negative correlation between PROMIS PF and PI scores at baseline (Pearson’s r = −0.72) and during follow-up appointments (early, intermediate, and late |r| > 0.6, each). Subgroup analysis demonstrated similar results within diagnostic groups compared to the overall cohort. However, the burden of PF limitations and PI was greater within the lumbar spine disease subgroup, compared to patients with cervical radiculopathy and myelopathy.

CONCLUSIONS

Patients receiving care at a tertiary spine surgery outpatient clinic experience significant overall disability and PI, as measured by PROMIS PF and PI computer adaptive tests. PROMIS PF and PI health domains are strongly correlated, responsive to changes over time, and facilitate time-efficient evaluations of perceived health status outcomes in patients undergoing spine surgery.

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

BACKGROUND

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.

OBSERVATIONS

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.

LESSONS

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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*Christopher F. Dibble, Saad Javeed, Jawad M. Khalifeh, Rajiv Midha, Lynda J. S. Yang, Neringa Juknis, and Wilson Z. Ray

OBJECTIVE

Nerve transfers are increasingly being utilized in the treatment of chronic tetraplegia, with increasing literature describing significant improvements in sensorimotor function up to years after injury. However, despite technical advances, clinical outcomes remain heterogenous. Preoperative electrodiagnostic testing is the most direct measure of nerve health and may provide prognostic information that can optimize preoperative patient selection. The objective of this study in patients with spinal cord injury (SCI) was to determine various zones of injury (ZOIs) via electrodiagnostic assessment (EDX) to predict motor outcomes after nerve transfers in tetraplegia.

METHODS

This retrospective review of prospectively collected data included all patients with tetraplegia from cervical SCI who underwent nerve transfer at the authors’ institution between 2013 and 2020. Preoperative demographic data, results of EDX, operative details, and postoperative motor outcomes were extracted. EDX was standardized into grades that describe donor and recipient nerves. Five zones of SCI were defined. Motor outcomes were then compared based on various zones of innervation.

RESULTS

Nineteen tetraplegic patients were identified who underwent 52 nerve transfers targeting hand function, and 75% of these nerve transfers were performed more than 1 year postinjury, with a median interval to surgery following SCI of 24 (range 8–142) months. Normal recipient compound muscle action potential and isolated upper motor neuron injury on electromyography (EMG) were associated with greater motor recovery. When nerve transfers were stratified based on donor EMG, greater motor gains were associated with normal than with abnormal donor EMG motor unit recruitment patterns. When nerve transfers were separated based on donor and recipient nerves, normal flexor donors were more crucial than normal extensor donors in powering their respective flexor recipients.

CONCLUSIONS

This study elucidates the relationship of the preoperative innervation zones in SCI patients to final motor outcomes. EDX studies can be used to tailor surgical therapies for nerve transfers in patients with tetraplegia. The authors propose an algorithm for optimizing nerve transfer strategies in tetraplegia, whereby understanding the ZOI and grade of the donor/recipient nerve is critical to predicting motor outcomes.

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Jawad M. Khalifeh, Christopher F. Dibble, Anna Van Voorhis, Michelle Doering, Martin I. Boyer, Mark A. Mahan, Thomas J. Wilson, Rajiv Midha, Lynda J. S. Yang, and Wilson Z. Ray

OBJECTIVE

Patients with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI)/tetraplegia consistently rank restoring arm and hand function as their top functional priority to improve quality of life. Motor nerve transfers traditionally used to treat peripheral nerve injuries are increasingly being used to treat patients with cervical SCIs. In this study, the authors performed a systematic review summarizing the published literature on nerve transfers to restore upper-extremity function in tetraplegia.

METHODS

A systematic literature search was conducted using Ovid MEDLINE 1946–, Embase 1947–, Scopus 1960–, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and clinicaltrials.gov to identify relevant literature published through January 2019. The authors included studies that provided original patient-level data and extracted information on clinical characteristics, operative details, and strength outcomes after nerve transfer procedures. Critical review and synthesis of the articles were performed.

RESULTS

Twenty-two unique studies, reporting on 158 nerve transfers in 118 upper limbs of 92 patients (87 males, 94.6%) were included in the systematic review. The mean duration from SCI to nerve transfer surgery was 18.7 months (range 4 months–13 years) and mean postoperative follow-up duration was 19.5 months (range 1 month–4 years). The main goals of reinnervation were the restoration of thumb and finger flexion, elbow extension, and wrist and finger extension. Significant heterogeneity in transfer strategy and postoperative outcomes were noted among the reports. All but one case report demonstrated recovery of at least Medical Research Council grade 3/5 strength in recipient muscle groups; however, there was greater variation in the results of larger case series. The best, most consistent outcomes were demonstrated for restoration of wrist/finger extension and elbow extension.

CONCLUSIONS

Motor nerve transfers are a promising treatment option to restore upper-extremity function after SCI. Flexor reinnervation strategies show variable treatment effect sizes; however, extensor reinnervation may provide more consistent, meaningful recovery. Despite numerous published case reports describing good patient outcomes with nerve transfers, there remains a paucity in the literature regarding optimal timing and long-term clinical outcomes with these procedures.

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Jawad M. Khalifeh, Christopher F. Dibble, Anna Van Voorhis, Michelle Doering, Martin I. Boyer, Mark A. Mahan, Thomas J. Wilson, Rajiv Midha, Lynda J. S. Yang, and Wilson Z. Ray

OBJECTIVE

Patients with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI)/tetraplegia consistently rank restoring arm and hand function as their top functional priority to improve quality of life. Motor nerve transfers traditionally used to treat peripheral nerve injuries are increasingly used to treat patients with cervical SCIs. In this article, the authors present early results of a prospective clinical trial using nerve transfers to restore upper-extremity function in tetraplegia.

METHODS

Participants with American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade A–C cervical SCI/tetraplegia were prospectively enrolled at a single institution, and nerve transfer(s) was performed to improve upper-extremity function. Functional recovery and strength outcomes were independently assessed and prospectively tracked.

RESULTS

Seventeen participants (94.1% males) with a median age of 28.4 years (range 18.2–76.3 years) who underwent nerve transfers at a median of 18.2 months (range 5.2–130.8 months) after injury were included in the analysis. Preoperative SCI levels ranged from C2 to C7, most commonly at C4 (35.3%). The median postoperative follow-up duration was 24.9 months (range 12.0–29.1 months). Patients who underwent transfers to median nerve motor branches and completed 18- and 24-month follow-ups achieved finger flexion strength Medical Research Council (MRC) grade ≥ 3/5 in 4 of 15 (26.7%) and 3 of 12 (25.0%) treated upper limbs, respectively. Similarly, patients achieved MRC grade ≥ 3/5 wrist flexion strength in 5 of 15 (33.3%) and 3 of 12 (25.0%) upper limbs. Among patients who underwent transfers to the posterior interosseous nerve (PIN) for wrist/finger extension, MRC grade ≥ 3/5 strength was demonstrated in 5 of 9 (55.6%) and 4 of 7 (57.1%) upper limbs 18 and 24 months postoperatively, respectively. Similarly, grade ≥ 3/5 strength was demonstrated in 5 of 9 (55.6%) and 4 of 7 (57.1%) cases for thumb extension. No meaningful donor site deficits were observed. Patients reported significant postoperative improvements from baseline on upper-extremity–specific self-reported outcome measures.

CONCLUSIONS

Motor nerve transfers are a promising treatment option to restore upper-extremity function after SCI. In the authors’ experience, nerve transfers for the reinnervation of hand and finger flexors showed variable functional recovery; however, transfers for the reinnervation of arm, hand, and finger extensors showed a more consistent and meaningful return of strength and function.

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Thomas J. Wilson, Forrest Hamrick, Saud Alzahrani, Christopher F. Dibble, Sravanthi Koduri, Courtney Pendleton, Sara Saleh, Zarina S. Ali, Mark A. Mahan, Rajiv Midha, Wilson Z. Ray, Lynda J. S. Yang, Eric L. Zager, and Robert J. Spinner

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to examine the role of intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) during resection of benign peripheral nerve sheath tumors in achieving gross-total resection (GTR) and in reducing postoperative neurological complications.

METHODS

Data from consecutive adult patients who underwent resection of a benign peripheral nerve sheath tumor at 7 participating institutions were combined. Propensity score matching was used to balance covariates. The primary outcomes of interest were the association between IONM and GTR and the association of IONM and the development of a permanent postoperative neurological complication. The secondary outcomes of interest were the association between IONM and GTR and the association between IONM and the development of a permanent postoperative neurological complication in the subgroup of patients with tumors involving a motor or mixed nerve. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression were then performed on the propensity score–matched samples to assess the ability of the independent variables to predict the outcomes of interest.

RESULTS

A total of 337 patients who underwent resection of benign nerve sheath tumors were included. In multivariate analysis, the use of IONM (OR 0.460, 95% CI 0.199–0.978; p = 0.047) was a significant negative predictor of GTR, whereas none of the variables, including IONM, were associated with the occurrence of a permanent postoperative neurological complication. Within the subgroup of motor/mixed nerve tumors, in the multivariate analysis, IONM (OR 0.263, 95% CI 0.096–0.723; p = 0.010) was a significant negative predictor of a GTR, whereas IONM (OR 3.800, 95% CI 1.925–7.502; p < 0.001) was a significant positive predictor of a permanent postoperative motor deficit.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, 12% of the cohort had a permanent neurological complication, with new or worsened paresthesias most common, followed by pain and then weakness. The authors found that formal IONM was associated with a reduced likelihood of GTR and had no association with neurological complications. The authors believe that these data argue against IONM being considered standard of care but do not believe that these data should be used to universally argue against IONM during resection of benign nerve sheath tumors.

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Jacob K. Greenberg, Stephen Shelby Burks, Christopher F. Dibble, Saad Javeed, Vivek P. Gupta, Alexander T. Yahanda, Roberto J. Perez-Roman, Vaidya Govindarajan, Andrew T. Dailey, Sanjay Dhall, Daniel J. Hoh, Daniel E. Gelb, Adam S. Kanter, Eric O. Klineberg, Michael J. Lee, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Paul Park, Charles A. Sansur, Khoi D. Than, Jon J. W. Yoon, Michael Y. Wang, and Wilson Z. Ray

OBJECTIVE

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) techniques can effectively stabilize and decompress many thoracolumbar injuries with decreased morbidity and tissue destruction compared with open approaches. Nonetheless, there is limited direction regarding the breadth and limitations of MIS techniques for thoracolumbar injuries. Consequently, the objectives of this study were to 1) identify the range of current practice patterns for thoracolumbar trauma and 2) integrate expert opinion and literature review to develop an updated treatment algorithm.

METHODS

A survey describing 10 clinical cases with a range of thoracolumbar injuries was sent to 12 surgeons with expertise in spine trauma. The survey results were summarized using descriptive statistics, along with the Fleiss kappa statistic of interrater agreement. To develop an updated treatment algorithm, the authors used a modified Delphi technique that incorporated a literature review, the survey results, and iterative feedback from a group of 14 spine trauma experts. The final algorithm represented the consensus opinion of that expert group.

RESULTS

Eleven of 12 surgeons contacted completed the case survey, including 8 (73%) neurosurgeons and 3 (27%) orthopedic surgeons. For the 4 cases involving patients with neurological deficits, nearly all respondents recommended decompression and fusion, and the proportion recommending open surgery ranged from 55% to 100% by case. Recommendations for the remaining cases were heterogeneous. Among the neurologically intact patients, MIS techniques were typically recommended more often than open techniques. The overall interrater agreement in recommendations was 0.23, indicating fair agreement. Considering both literature review and expert opinion, the updated algorithm indicated that MIS techniques could be used to treat most thoracolumbar injuries. Among neurologically intact patients, percutaneous instrumentation without arthrodesis was recommended for those with AO Spine Thoracolumbar Classification System subtype A3/A4 (Thoracolumbar Injury Classification and Severity Score [TLICS] 4) injuries, but MIS posterior arthrodesis was recommended for most patients with AO Spine subtype B2/B3 (TLICS > 4) injuries. Depending on vertebral body integrity, anterolateral corpectomy or mini-open decompression could be used for patients with neurological deficits.

CONCLUSIONS

Spine trauma experts endorsed a range of strategies for treating thoracolumbar injuries but felt that MIS techniques were an option for most patients. The updated treatment algorithm may provide a foundation for surgeons interested in safe approaches for using MIS techniques to treat thoracolumbar trauma.