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Olumide A. Danisa, Christopher I. Shaffrey, John A. Jane, Richard Whitehill, Gwo-Jaw Wang, Thomas A. Szabo, Carolyn A. Hansen, Mark E. Shaffrey and Donald P. K. Chan

✓ The authors retrospectively studied 49 nonparaplegic patients who sustained acute unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures. All patients underwent surgical treatment and were followed for an average of 27 months. All but one patient achieved solid radiographic fusion. Three treatment groups were studied: the first group of 16 patients underwent anterior decompression and fusion with instrumentation; the second group of 27 patients underwent posterior decompression and fusion; and the third group of six patients had combined anterior—posterior surgery. Prior to surgical intervention, these groups were compared and found to be similar in age, gender, level of injury, percentage of canal compromise, neurological function, and kyphosis. Patients treated with posterior surgery had a statistically significant diminution in operative time and blood loss and number of units transfused. There were no significant intergroup differences when considering postoperative kyphotic correction, neurological function, pain assessment, or the ability to return to work. Posterior surgery was found to be as effective as anterior or anterior—posterior surgery when treating unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures. Posterior surgery, however, takes the least time, causes the least blood loss, and is the least expensive of the three procedures.

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Charles G. diPierro, Gregory A. Helm, Christopher I. Shaffrey, James B. Chadduck, Scott L. Henson, Jacek M. Malik, Thomas A. Szabo, Nathan E. Simmons and John A. Jane

✓ A new surgical technique for the treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis features extensive unilateral decompression with undercutting of the spinous process and, to preserve stability, uses contralateral autologous bone fusion of the spinous processes, laminae, and facets. The operation was performed in 29 patients over a 19-month period ending in December of 1991. All individuals had been unresponsive to conservative treatment and presented with low-back pain in addition to signs and symptoms consistent with neurogenic claudication or radiculopathy. Nine had undergone previous lumbar decompressive surgery. The minimum and mean postoperative follow-up times were 2 and 2 1/2 years, respectively. The mean patient age was 64 years; only two patients were younger than 50 years of age.

Of the patients with neurogenic claudication, 69% reported complete pain relief at follow-up review. Of those with radicular symptoms, 41% had complete relief and 23% had mild residual pain that was rated 3 or less on a pain—functionality scale of 0 to 10. For the entire sample, this surgery decreased pain from 9.2 to 3.3 (p < 0.0001) on the scale. Sixty-nine percent of patients were satisfied with surgery. Low-back pain was significantly relieved in 62% of all patients (p < 0.0001). Low-back pain relief correlated negatively with number of levels decompressed (p < 0.05). To assess fusion, follow-up flexion/extension radiographs were obtained, and no motion was detected at the surgically treated levels in any patient.

The results suggest that this decompression procedure safely and successfully treats not only the radicular symptoms caused by lateral stenosis but also the neurogenic claudication symptoms associated with central stenosis. In addition, the procedure, by using contralateral autologous bone fusion along the laminae and spinous processes, can preserve stability without instrumentation.

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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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John A. Jane Jr., Charles G. diPierro, Gregory A. Helm, Christopher I. Shaffrey and John A. Jane Sr.

Stenosis of the central and lateral lumbar vertebral canal can be congenital or acquired; the latter is most often caused by a degenerative process. The associated neurogenic claudication and/or radiculopathic symptom complexes are thought to result from compression of the cauda equina and lumbosacral nerve roots by hypertrophy of or encroachment by any combination of the following: canal walls, ligamenta flava, intervertebral discs, posterior longitudinal ligament, or epidural fat.

The authors' technique for the treatment of lumbar stenosis involves extensive unilateral decompression with undercutting of the spinous process and obviates the need for instrumentation by using a contralateral autologous bone fusion. The results in a series of 29 patients in whom the procedure was performed suggest that this decompression method safely and successfully treats not only the radicular symptoms caused by lateral stenosis but also the neurogenic claudication symptoms associated with central stenosis. In addition, the procedure can preserve spinal stability without instrumentation by using contralateral autologous bone fusion along the laminae and spinous processes.

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Anna Kristina E. Hart, John H. Greinwald JR., Christopher I. Shaffrey and Gregory N. Postma

✓ Chylous fistula resulting from intraoperative injury to the cervical thoracic duct is well described as a complication of neck dissection. However, injury to the thoracic duct during spinal surgery is rarely reported. The authors present the first case of thoracic duct injury occurring during cervical discectomy and fusion via an anterior approach. The anomalous location of the terminal arch of the thoracic duct in this patient contributed to the complication. The morbidity of chyle leakage is minimized by its early recognition, a thorough understanding of lymphatic system anatomy, and aggressive management of the thoracic duct injury.

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George J. Kaptain, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Tord D. Alden, Jacob N. Young and Richard Whitehill

Although the expectation of monetary compensation has been associated with failures in lumbar discectomy, the issue has not been investigated in patients undergoing cervical disc surgery. The authors analyzed the relationship between economic forms of secondary gain and surgical outcome in a group of patients with a common pay scale, retirement plan, and disability program.

All procedures were performed at the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center between 1993 and 1995; active-duty military servicepersons treated for cervical radiculopathy were prospectively included. Clinical, demographic, and financial factors were analyzed to determine which were predictive of outcome. Financial data were used to create a compensation incentive, which is proportional to the patient's rank, years of service, potential disability, retirement eligibility, and base pay and reflects the monetary incentive of disability. The results of cervical surgery were compared to a previously reported companion population of patients treated for lumbar disc disease. A good outcome was defined as a return to active duty, whereas a referral for disability was considered a poor surgical result. A 100% follow-up rate was obtained for 269 patients who underwent 307 cervical operations. Only 16% (43 of 269) of patients who underwent cervical operation received disability, whereas 24.7% (86 of 348) of patients who underwent lumbar discectomy obtained a poor result (p = 0.0082). Although economic forms of secondary gain were not associated with a poor outcome in cervical disease, both the rank (p = 0.002) and duration (p = 0.03) of an individual's military career were significant factors (p = 0.02). Of the medical variables tested, multilevel surgery (p = 0.03) and revision operations at the same level (p = 0.03) were associated with referral for medical discharge.

Secondary gain in the form of economic compensation influences outcome in lumbar but not cervical disc surgery patients; the increased rate of disability referral in patients who underwent lumbar discectomy may reflect an expectation of economic compensation. Social factors that are independent of the anticipation of economic compensation seem to influence the outcome in cervical disc surgery patients.

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

Object. Multilevel anterior cervical decompressive surgery and fusion effectively treats cervical myeloradiculopathy that is caused by severe cervical spinal stenosis, but degenerative changes at adjacent vertebral levels frequently result in long-term morbidity.

The authors performed a modified open-door laminoplasty procedure in which allograft bone and titanium miniplates were used to treat cervical myeloradiculopathy in younger patients with congenital canal stenosis while maintaining functional cervical motion segments. Pre- and postoperative magnetic resonance imaging and/or computerized tomography myelography were performed to assess changes in cervical spinal canal dimensions. Pre- and postoperative flexion—extension radiographs were compared to determine the residual motion of the targeted operative segments.

Methods. Twenty younger patients (average age 37.7 years) underwent modified open-door laminoplasty for treatment of myelopathy or myeloradiculopathy related to significant cervical spinal stenosis with or without associated central or lateral disc herniation or foraminal stenosis. These surgeries were performed during a 2-year period and follow-up review remains ongoing (average follow-up period 21.6 months). Reconstructive procedures were performed on an average of 4.1 levels (range three—six). Operative time averaged 186 minutes (range 93–229 minutes). Average blood loss was 305 ml (range 100–650 ml). No cases were complicated by neurological deterioration, infection, wound breakdown, graft displacement, or hardware failure. The patients' Nurick Scale grade improved from a preoperative average of 1.8 to a postoperative average of 0.5.

Pre- and postoperative sagittal spinal diameter averaged 11.2 mm (8–14 mm) and 16.6 mm (13–19 mm), respectively. The sagittal compression ratio (sagittal/lateral × 100%) increased from 48% pre- to 72% postoperatively. The spinal canal area increased an average of 55% (range 19–127%). In patients in whom pre- and postoperative flexion—extension radiographs were obtained, 72.7% residual neck motion was maintained. No patient developed increased neck or shoulder pain. Neurological symptoms improved in all patients, with total relief of myelopathy in 50% and partial improvement in 50%.

Conclusions. Modified open-door laminoplasty with allograft bone and titanium miniplates effectively treats neurological deficits in younger patients with congenital and spinal stenosis. Although long-term results are unknown, short-term results are good and there is a low incidence of complications.

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Michael J. Rauzzino, Christopher I. Shaffrey, James Wagner, Russ Nockels and Mark Abel

The indications for surgical intervention in patients with idiopathic scoliosis have been well defined. The goals of surgery are to achieve fusion and arrest progressive curvature while restoring normal coronal and sagittal balance. As first introduced by Harrington, posterior fusion, the gold standard of treatment, has a proven record of success. More recently, anterior techniques for performing fusion procedures via either a thoracotomy or a retroperitoneal approach have been popularized in attempts to achieve better correction of curvature, preserve motion segments, and avoid some of the complications of posterior fusion such as the development of the flat-back syndrome. Anterior instrumentation alone, although effective, can be kyphogenic and has been shown to be associated with complications such as pseudarthrosis and instrumentation failure. Performing a combined approach in patients with scoliosis and other deformities has become an increasingly popular procedure to achieve superior correction of deformity and to minimize later complications. Indications for a combined approach (usually consisting of anterior release, arthrodesis with or without use of instrumentation, and posterior segmental fusion) include: prevention of crankshaft phenomenon in juvenile or skeletally immature adolescents; correction of large curves (75°) or excessively rigid curves in skeletally mature or immature patients; correction of curves with large sagittal-plane deformities such as thoracic kyphosis (> 90°) or thoracic lordosis (> 20°); and correction of thoracolumbar curves that need to be fused to the sacrum. Surgery may be performed either in a staged proceedure or, more commonly, in a single sitting. The authors discuss techniques for combined surgery and complication avoidance.

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Gregory C. Wiggins, Michael J. Rauzzino, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Russ P. Nockels, Richard Whitehill, Mark E. Shaffrey, James Wagner and Tord D. Alden

This study was conducted to determine the safety, efficacy, and complication rate associated with the anterior approach in the use of a new titanium mesh interbody fusion cage for the treatment of unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures. The experience with this technique is compared with the senior authors' (C.S., R.W., and M.S.) previously published results in the management of patients with unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures.

Between 1996 and 1999, 21 patients with unstable thoracolumbar (T12-L3) burst fractures underwent an anterolateral decompressive procedure in which a titanium cage and Kaneda device were used. Eleven of the 21 patients had sustained a neurological deficit, and all patients improved at least one Frankel grade (average 1.2 grades). There was improvement in outcome in terms of blood loss, correction of kyphosis, and pain, as measured on the Denis Pain and Work Scale, in our current group of patients treated via an anterior approach when compared with the results in those who underwent a posterior approach.

In our current study the anterior approach was demonstrated to be a safe and effective technique for the management of unstable thoracolumbar burst fractures. It offers superior results compared with the posterior approach. The addition of the new titanium mesh interbody cage to our previous anterior technique allows the patient's own bone to be harvested from the corpectomy site and used as a substrate for fusion, thereby obviating the need for iliac crest harvest. The use of the cage in association with the Kaneda device allows for improved correction of kyphosis and restoration of normal sagittal alignment in addition to improved functional outcomes.

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Michael J. Rauzzino, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Russ P. Nockels, Gregory C. Wiggins, Jack Rock and James Wagner

The authors report their experience with 42 patients in whom anterior lumbar fusion was performed using titanium cages as a versatile adjunct to treat a wide variety of spinal deformity and pathological conditions. These conditions included congenital, degenerative, iatrogenic, infectious, traumatic, and malignant disorders of the thoracolumbar spine. Fusion rates and complications are compared with data previously reported in the literature.

Between July 1996 and July 1999 the senior authors (C.I.S., R.P.N., and M.J.R.) treated 42 patients by means of a transabdominal extraperitoneal (13 cases) or an anterolateral extraperitoneal approach (29 cases), 51 vertebral levels were fused using titanium cages packed with autologous bone. All vertebrectomies (27 cases) were reconstructed using a Miami Moss titanium mesh cage and Kaneda instrumentation. Interbody fusion (15 cases) was performed with either the BAK titanium threaded interbody cage (in 13 patients) or a Miami Moss titanium mesh cage (in two patients). The average follow-up period was 14.3 months. Seventeen patients had sustained a thoracolumbar burst fracture, 12 patients presented with degenerative spinal disorders, six with metastatic tumor, four with spinal deformity (one congenital and three iatrogenic), and three patients presented with spinal infections. In five patients anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) was supplemented with posterior segmental fixation at the time of the initial procedure. Of the 51 vertebral levels treated, solid arthrodesis was achieved in 49, a 96% fusion rate. One case of pseudarthrosis occurred in the group treated with BAK cages; the diagnosis was made based on the patient's continued mechanical back pain after undergoing L4–5 ALIF. The patient was treated with supplemental posterior fixation, and successful fusion occurred uneventfully with resolution of her back pain. In the group in which vertebrectomy was performed there was one case of fusion failure in a patient with metastatic breast cancer who had undergone an L-3 corpectomy with placement of a mesh cage. Although her back pain was immediately resolved, she died of systemic disease 3 months after surgery and before fusion could occur.

Complications related to the anterior approach included two vascular injuries (two left common iliac vein lacerations); one injury to the sympathetic plexus; one case of superficial phlebitis; two cases of prolonged ileus (greater than 48 hours postoperatively); one anterior femoral cutaneous nerve palsy; and one superficial wound infection. No deaths were directly related to the surgical procedure. There were no cases of dural laceration and no nerve root injury. There were no cases of deep venous thrombosis, pulmonary embolus, retrograde ejaculation, abdominal hernia, bowel or ureteral injury, or deep wound infection. Fusion-related complications included an iliac crest hematoma and prolonged donor-site pain in one patient. There were no complications related to placement or migration of the cages, but there was one case of screw fracture of the Kaneda device that did not require revision.

The authors conclude that anterior lumbar fusion performed using titanium interbody or mesh cages, packed with autologous bone, is an effective, safe method to achieve fusion in a wide variety of pathological conditions of the thoracolumbar spine. The fusion rate of 96% compares favorably with results reported in the literature. The complication rate mirrors the low morbidity rate associated with the anterior approach. A detailed study of clinical outcomes is in progress. Patient selection and strategies for avoiding complication are discussed.