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Paige Lundy, Christopher Miller and Sarah Woodrow

OBJECTIVE

It is estimated that nearly 47 million preventable deaths occur annually due the current worldwide deficit in surgical care; subsequently, the World Health Organization resolved unanimously to endorse a decree to address this deficit. Neurosurgeons from industrialized nations can help address the needs of underserved regions. Exposure during training is critical for young neurosurgeons to gain experience in international work and to cultivate career-long interest. Here, the authors explore the opinions of current residents and interest in global neurosurgery as well as the current state of international involvement, opportunities, and barriers in North American residency training.

METHODS

An internet-based questionnaire was developed using the authors’ university’s REDCap database and distributed to neurosurgical residents from US ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education)–approved programs. Questions focused on the resident’s program’s involvement and logistics regarding international rotations and the resident’s interest level in pursuing these opportunities.

RESULTS

A 15% response rate was obtained from a broad range of training locations. Twenty-nine percent of respondents reported that their residency program offered elective training opportunities in developing countries, and 7.6% reported having participated in these programs. This cohort unanimously felt that the international rotation was a beneficial experience and agreed that they would do it again. Of those who had not participated, 81.3% reported interest or strong interest in international rotations.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors’ results indicate that, despite a high level of desire for involvement in international rotations, there is limited opportunity for residents to become involved. Barriers such as funding and rotation approval were recognized. It is the authors’ hope that governing organizations and residency programs will work to break down these barriers and help establish rotations for trainees to learn abroad and begin to join the cause of meeting global surgical needs. To meet overarching international neurosurgical needs, neurosurgeons of the future must be trained in global neurosurgery.

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Robert J. Hacker and Christopher G. Miller

Object. Anterior cervical foraminotomy has been advocated as a procedure that preserves the motion segment while treating radiculopathy due to degenerative cervical disc disease. Because the medical literature contains no long-term follow up or randomized studies related to this procedure, the authors reviewed their results, specifically examining cases of failure to determine the efficacy of the approach.

Methods. The authors identified 23 patients in whom unilateral cervical radiculopathy due to degenerative cervical disc disease was refractory to conservative therapy and in whom anterior cervical foraminotomy was performed between 1998 and 2000. The procedure involves ipsilateral exposure, microsurgical removal of the uncovertebral joint to identify the nerve root, and partial removal of the lateral anulus and or disc fragments. Data in those patients who underwent reoperation(s) were reviewed specifically for the procedure type, interval between index procedure and reoperation, and whether multiple procedures were performed. Of the 23 patients, 30% required at least one additional procedure. A good or excellent outcome at last follow-up examination was achieved in only 12 patients.

Conclusions. In the current study the authors found a reoperation rate that is considerably higher than that in most series of anterior cervical surgery for radiculopathy. The presumed benefit of anterior cervical foraminotomy is preservation of the disc interspace; however, in this study, a significant number of patients failed to experience a satisfying outcome. Currently the authors do not recommend anterior cervical foraminotomy as a stand-alone procedure.

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Christopher Miller, Paige Lundy and Sarah Woodrow

OBJECTIVE

The burden of neurosurgical disease in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) has emerged as a significant factor in global health. Additionally, calls have been growing for first-world neurosurgeons to find ways to help address the international need. Allowing residents to pursue international elective opportunities in LMICs can help alleviate the burden while also providing unique educational opportunities. However, pursuing international work while in residency requires overcoming significant logistical and regulatory barriers. To better understand the general perspectives, perceived barriers, and current availability of international rotations, a survey was sent out to program directors at Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)–approved residencies.

METHODS

An anonymous survey was sent to all program directors at ACGME-approved residencies. The survey included branch points designed to separate programs into program directors with an existing international rotation, those interested in starting an international rotation, and those not interested in starting an international rotation. All participants were asked about the perceived value of international training and whether residents should be encouraged to train internationally on a 5-point Likert scale. The survey ended with open-response fields, encouraging thoughts on international rotations and overcoming barriers.

RESULTS

Forty-four percent of recipients (50/113) responded; of the 50 programs, 13 had an established international elective. Of programs without a rotation, 54% (20/37) noted that they were interested in starting an international elective. Key barriers to starting international training included funding, the Residency Review Committee approval process, call conflicts, and the establishment of international partners. Perceived learning opportunities included cultural awareness, unique pathology, ingenuity, physical examination skills, and diagnosis skills. The majority of respondents thought that international rotations were valuable (74%, 37/50) and that residents should be encouraged to pursue international educational opportunities (70%, 35/50). Program directors who maintained an existing international rotation or were interested in starting an international elective were more likely to perceive international rotations as valuable.

CONCLUSIONS

Recent calls from The Lancet Commission on Global Surgery for increased surgical interventions in the developing world have been expanded by neurosurgical leadership to include neurosurgical diseases. Resident involvement in international electives represents an opportunity to increase treatment of neurosurgical disease in LMICs and develop the next generation of international neurosurgeons. To increase opportunities for residents at international sites, attention should be focused on overcoming the practical and regulatory barriers at a local and national level.

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Hae-Dong Jho

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Catherine Miller, Daniel Guillaume, Kathryn Dusenbery, H. Brent Clark and Christopher Moertel

Brain tumors are the most common solid tumor in childhood, and astrocytomas account for the largest proportion of these tumors. Increasing sophistication in genetic testing has allowed for the detection of specific mutations within tumor subtypes that may represent targets for individualized tumor treatment. The mitogen-activating protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and, more specifically, BRAF mutations have been shown to be prevalent in pediatric pilocytic astrocytomas and may represent one such area to target. Herein, the authors describe 2 cases of inoperable, chemotherapy-resistant pediatric pilocytic astrocytomas with a documented response to trametinib, an MAPK pathway inhibitor. While these cases were not treated in the setting of a clinical trial, their data support further ongoing clinical trial investigation to evaluate the safety and efficacy of this agent in pediatric low-grade gliomas.

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Anil K. Roy, , Brandon A. Miller, Christopher M. Holland, Arthur J. Fountain Jr., Gustavo Pradilla and Faiz U. Ahmad

OBJECT

The craniovertebral junction (CVJ) is unique in the spinal column regarding the degree of multiplanar mobility allowed by its bony articulations. A network of ligamentous attachments provides stability to this junction. Although ligamentous injury can be inferred on CT scans through the utilization of craniometric measurements, the disruption of these ligaments can only be visualized directly with MRI. Here, the authors review the current literature on MRI evaluation of the CVJ following trauma and present several illustrative cases to highlight the utility and limitations of craniometric measures in the context of ligamentous injury at the CVJ.

METHODS

A retrospective case review was conducted to identify patients with cervical spine trauma who underwent cervical MRI and subsequently required occipitocervical or atlantoaxial fusion. Craniometric measurements were performed on the CT images in these cases. An extensive PubMed/MEDLINE literature search was conducted to identify publications regarding the use of MRI in the evaluation of patients with CVJ trauma.

RESULTS

The authors identified 8 cases in which cervical MRI was performed prior to operative stabilization of the CVJ. Craniometric measures did not reliably rule out ligamentous injury, and there was significant heterogeneity in the reliability of different craniometric measurements. A review of the literature revealed several case series and descriptive studies addressing MRI in CVJ trauma. Three papers reported the inadequacy of the historical Traynelis system for identifying atlantooccipital dislocation and presented 3 alternative classification schemes with emphasis on MRI findings.

CONCLUSIONS

Recognition of ligamentous instability at the CVJ is critical in directing clinical decision making regarding surgical stabilization. Craniometric measures appear unreliable, and CT alone is unable to provide direct visualization of ligamentous injury. Therefore, while the decision to obtain MR images in CVJ trauma is largely based on clinical judgment with craniometric measures used as an adjunct, a high degree of suspicion is warranted in the care of these patients as a missed ligamentous injury can have devastating consequences.

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Tsz Lau, Raul Olivera, Timothy Miller Jr., Katheryne Downes, Christopher Danner, Harry R. van Loveren and Siviero Agazzi

Object

Recent natural history studies of vestibular schwannomas (VSs) suggest that most of these tumors do not grow. The impact of these new data on management trends in the US is currently unknown. The aim in the present study was to evaluate current trends in the treatment of VS in the US by analyzing a national cancer database.

Methods

The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program is a national database maintained by the National Cancer Institute representing 26% of the US population. Data from the database were downloaded using provided software. Cases were isolated based on histology codes and the site code. Data from 2004 to 2007 were included in the analysis. The number of patients undergoing resection was compared with the number treated with beam radiation and observation, based on tumor size.

Results

Three thousand six hundred fifty cases were identified in the database. Over the study period, management choices for VSs showed a significant change only for tumors with a diameter < 2 cm. In this tumor category, a decrease in resection and an increase in radiation were observed, with observation showing a modest increase but remaining low at an average of 25%.

Conclusions

Study data demonstrated a shift in the management of small VSs in the US between 2004 and 2007, with microsurgical removal giving way to radiation treatment and the overall rate for observation remaining low and stable. With recent literature suggesting that the majority of small tumors do not grow, the authors assert that VSs are being overtreated in the US.

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The far lateral/combined supra- and infratentorial approach

A human cadaveric prosection model for routes of access to the petroclival region and ventral brain stem

Hillel Z. Baldwin, Christopher G. Miller, Harry R. van Loveren, Jeffrey T. Keller, C. Phillip Daspit and Robert F. Spetzler

✓ A far lateral approach to the ventral brain stem, lower clivus, and anterior foramen magnum is described. Methods for further exposure of the superior petroclival region by incorporating a subtemporal craniotomy and posterior petrosectomy are also demonstrated. Eight sequentially illustrated steps depict this technique. The far lateral/combined supra- and infratentorial exposure is a comprehensive surgical approach that provides direct access to the entire anterior and lateral brain stem and craniovertebral junction. It minimizes brain-stem retraction and maximizes visualization of the neurovascular structures.

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Janice A. Miller, DeWitte T. Cross, Christopher J. Moran, Ralph G. Dacey Jr., Janice G. McFarland and Michael N. Diringer

✓ Selective intraarterial infusion of papaverine is used in the treatment of symptomatic cerebral vasospasm. The authors report two episodes of severe thrombocytopenia in a patient that were related to intraarterial administration of papaverine. A 70-year-old man with a right internal carotid artery aneurysm underwent craniotomy and aneurysm clipping. He became lethargic 8 days after the hemorrhage occurred. Cerebral angiography revealed moderate vasospasm. In addition to hypervolemic—hypertensive therapy, the patient was treated on two occasions with intraarterial administration of papaverine. Within 24 hours of both treatments he developed severe thrombocytopenia. On one occasion epistaxis requiring transfusion of blood products occurred. Laboratory data support the diagnosis of immune-mediated papaverine-induced thrombocytopenia. The authors conclude that intraarterial administration of papaverine for treatment of vasospasm can be associated with severe, rapidly reversible thrombocytopenia.

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Emily K. Miller, Brian J. Neuman, Amit Jain, Alan H. Daniels, Tamir Ailon, Daniel M. Sciubba, Khaled M. Kebaish, Virginie Lafage, Justin K. Scheer, Justin S. Smith, Shay Bess, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Christopher P. Ames and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

The goal of this study was to analyze the value of an adult spinal deformity frailty index (ASD-FI) in preoperative risk stratification. Preoperative risk assessment is imperative before procedures known to have high complication rates, such as ASD surgery. Frailty has been associated with risk of complications in trauma surgery, and preoperative frailty assessments could improve the accuracy of risk stratification by providing a comprehensive analysis of patient factors that contribute to an increased risk of complications.

METHODS

Using 40 variables, the authors calculated frailty scores with a validated method for 417 patients (enrolled between 2010 and 2014) with a minimum 2-year follow-up in an ASD database. On the basis of these scores, the authors categorized patients as not frail (NF) (< 0.3 points), frail (0.3–0.5 points), or severely frail (SF) (> 0.5 points). The correlation between frailty category and incidence of complications was analyzed.

RESULTS

The overall mean ASD-FI score was 0.33 (range 0.0–0.8). Compared with NF patients (n = 183), frail patients (n = 158) and SF patients (n = 109) had longer mean hospital stays (1.2 and 1.6 times longer, respectively; p < 0.001). The adjusted odds of experiencing a major intraoperative or postoperative complication were higher for frail patients (OR 2.8) and SF patients ( 4.1) compared with NF patients (p < 0.01). For frail and SF patients, respectively, the adjusted odds of developing proximal junctional kyphosis (OR 2.8 and 3.1) were higher than those for NF patients. The SF patients had higher odds of developing pseudarthrosis (OR 13.0), deep wound infection (OR 8.0), and wound dehiscence (OR 13.4) than NF patients (p < 0.05), and they had 2.1 times greater odds of reoperation (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

Greater patient frailty, as measured by the ASD-FI, was associated with worse outcome in many common quality and value metrics, including greater risk of major complications, proximal junctional kyphosis, pseudarthrosis, deep wound infection, wound dehiscence, reoperation, and longer hospital stay.