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Editorial. Anterior cervical fusion and rhBMP-2: a prospective study is needed to assess optimal dosing and delivery

Thomas J. Buell and Christopher I. Shaffrey

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Editorial: Facet joint locking

Christopher I. Shaffrey

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Introduction Spinal Deformity

J. Patrick Johnson and Christopher I. Shaffrey

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Editorial: Incremental cost-effectiveness of adult spinal deformity surgery

Christopher I. Shaffrey and Justin S. Smith

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Editorial: Stabilization of the sacroiliac joint

Christopher I. Shaffrey and Justin S. Smith

Lower back pain and pain involving the area of the posterior iliac spine are extremely common. Degeneration of the sacroiliac joint (SIJ) is one potential cause for lower back pain and pain radiating into the groin or buttocks. Degenerative changes to the lumbar spine and sacroiliac joints are common. A recent study evaluating SIJ abnormalities in a primary low back pain population demonstrated 31.7% of patients demonstrated SI joint abnormalities. 4 As is the case for the evaluation and management of isolated lower back pain, the evaluation, management, and role for surgical intervention in SIJ pain is very controversial.

Many patients have degenerative changes of the disc, facet joints, and SIJs. A recent systematic review performed to determine the diagnostic accuracy of tests available to clinicians to identify the disc, facet joint, or SIJ as the source of low back pain concluded that tests do exist that change the probability of the disc or SIJ (but not the facet joint) as the source of low back pain. 3 It was also concluded that the usefulness of these tests in clinical practice, particularly for guiding treatment selection, remains unclear. 3

Although there is general agreement that SIJ pathological changes are a potential cause of pain, there is far less agreement about the optimal management of these conditions. A variety of conditions can cause SIJ dysfunction including degenerative and inflammatory arthritis, trauma, prior lumbosacral fusion, hip arthritis, limb length inequality, infections, and neoplasia. 8 There is increasing evidence that image intensifier-guided single periarticular injection can correctly localize pain to the SIJ but the optimal management strategy remains controversial. Recent publications have compared surgical versus injection treatments and fusion versus denervation procedures. 1,8 A systematic review found improvement regardless of the treatment, with most studies reporting over 40% improvement in pain as measured by VAS or NRS scores. 8 It cautioned that one of the studies reported 17.6% of patients experiencing mild/no pain compared with 82.4% experiencing marked/severe pain at 39 months after SIJ fusion procedures. 6,8 This systematic review also noted that despite improvements in reported pain, less than half of patients who had work status reported as returning to work. 8

Because of the functional and socioeconomic consequences of chronic lower back pain, numerous surgical treatments to improve this condition have been attempted by spinal surgeons through the years. Arthrodesis of the SIJ is a surgical procedure with a long history dating to the beginnings of spinal surgery. 7 Poor results, high complication rates and the need for additional surgical procedures have generally diminished the enthusiasm for this procedure until recently. 6

A variety of “minimally invasive” procedures have been recently introduced that have rekindled enthusiasm for the surgical management of SIJ pathology. The technique demonstrated in the “Stabilization of the SIJ with SI-Bone” is one of these new techniques. There has been a recent publication detailing the very short term clinical outcomes with this technique that reported encouraging results. 5 In this series of 50 patients, quality of life questionnaires were available for 49 patients preoperatively, 41 patients at 3 months, 40 at 6 months and only 27 at 12 months, complicating the ability to accurately assess true outcomes.

Although the focus of this video by Geisler is on the surgical technique, there should have been more information provided on the expected surgical outcomes and potential complications of SIJ fusion. 2 The video only gives minimal information on how to appropriately select patients with potential SIJ pathology for surgical intervention. There are insufficient recommendations on the clinical and radiographic follow-up needed for this procedure. A concern with this implant is whether the porous plasma spray coating on the implant actually results in bone growth across the SIJ or only serves as a stabilizer. If true fusion does not result, deterioration in the clinical result could occur over time.

This video nicely demonstrates the surgical technique of stabilization of the SIJ with SI-Bone product. There are numerous unanswered questions regarding patient selection for SIJ fusion or stabilization. There are an increasing number of surgical techniques for treating SIJ pathology and it is not clear which method may provide the best outcomes. Without prospective trials with nonconflicted surgeons and standardized selection criteria, the true role for SIJ fusion procedures in the management of chronic lower back pain will remain murky. The consequences of the unsupported enthusiasm for the surgical management of discogenic back pain still negatively impacts the public perception of spinal surgeons. Much more high quality information is needed regarding the surgical management of SIJ pathology before widespread use of this technique should be adopted.

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Triage for the neurosurgeon

Diana Barrett Wiseman, Richard Ellenbogen, and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Triage for the neurosurgeon is a misnomer. The neurosurgeon's role within a mass-casualty situation is one of a subspecialist surgeon instead of a triage officer. Unfortunately because of the events of September 11, 2001, civilian neurosurgeons and other medical specialists have been questioning their role within a mass-casualty situation or, worse, a situation created by biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons. There is no single triage system used exclusively within the United States, and different systems have differing sensitivities, specificities, and labeling methods. The purpose of this article is to discuss varying aspects of triage for both military personnel and civilians and suggest how the neurosurgeon may help shape this process within his or her community. Furthermore, the effects of biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons will be discussed in relation to the triage system.

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Two-portal endoscopic carpal tunnel release surgery: report of early experience

Cynthia B. Piccirilli, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Jacob N. Young, and LaVerne R. Lovell

Endoscopic carpal tunnel release is increasingly performed to treat median nerve entrapment neuropathy at the transverse carpal ligament. Proponents of these procedures claim that there are early postoperative advantages to be gained by the patient in the form of decreased pain and weakness, thus facilitating an earlier return to function. However, serious complications associated with the use of these techniques have been reported, especially during the surgeon's purported initial steep learning curve. A prospective analysis of the authors' first 51 cases using a two-portal endoscopic technique was conducted to determine whether these learning curve complications occurred. The authors did experience a learning curve; however, it was not significant. They encountered no serious complications and patient satisfaction was very high. It is concluded that the procedure is relatively easy to learn and safe to perform.

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Pediatric spinal deformities

Gregory C. Wiggins, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Mark F. Abel, and Arnold H. Menezes

Pediatric spinal deformity results from multiple conditions including congenital anomalies, neuromuscular disorders, skeletal dysplasia, and developmental disorders (idiopathic). Pediatric spinal deformities can be progressive and cause pulmonary compromise, neurological deficits, and cardiovascular compromise. The classification and treatment of these disorders have evolved since surgical treatment was popularized when Harrington distraction instrumentation was introduced.

The advent of anterior-spine instrumentation systems has challenged the concepts of length of fusion needed to arrest curvature progression. Segmental fixation revolutionized the surgical treatment of these deformities. More recently, pedicle screw–augmented segmental fixation has been introduced and promises once again to shift the standard of surgical therapy. Recent advances in thoracoscopic surgery have made this technique applicable to scoliosis surgery.

Not only has surgical treatment progressed but also the classification of different forms of pediatric deformity continues to evolve. Recently, Lenke and associates proposed a new classification for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. This classification attempts to address some of the shortcomings of the King classification system.

In this article the authors review the literature on pediatric spinal deformities and highlight recent insights into classification, treatment, and surgery-related complications.

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Management of iatrogenic flat-back syndrome

Gregory C. Wiggins, Stephen L. Ondra, and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Iatrogenic loss of lordosis is now frequently recognized as a complication following placement of thoracolumbar instrumentation, especially with distraction instrumentation. Flat-back syndrome is characterized by forward inclination of the trunk, inability to stand upright, and back pain. Evaluation of the deformity should include a full-length lateral radiograph obtained with the patient's knees and hips fully extended. The most common cause of the deformity includes the use of distraction instrumentation in the lumbar spine and pseudarthrosis.

Surgical treatment described in the literature includes opening (Smith-Petersen) osteotomy, polysegmental osteotomy, and closing wedge osteotomy. The authors will review the literature, cause, clinical presentation, prevention, and surgical management of flat-back syndrome.

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Editorial: Recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2

Christopher I. Shaffrey and Justin S. Smith