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Editorial. Benefits of robotic spine surgery: the future is bright

Daniel Lubelski and Nicholas Theodore

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Telemedicine and remote medical education within neurosurgery

Ryan Planchard, Daniel Lubelski, Jeff Ehresman, and Daniel Sciubba

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Systematic review and meta-analysis of the clinical utility of Enhanced Recovery After Surgery pathways in adult spine surgery

Zach Pennington, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Jeff Ehresman, Nicholas Theodore, and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Spine surgery has been identified as a significant source of healthcare expenditures in the United States. Prolonged hospitalization has been cited as one source of increased spending, and there has been drive from providers and payors alike to decrease inpatient stays. One strategy currently being explored is the use of Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols. Here, the authors review the literature on adult spine ERAS protocols, focusing on clinical benefits and cost reductions. They also conducted a quantitative meta-analysis examining the following: 1) length of stay (LOS), 2) complication rate, 3) wound infection rate, 4) 30-day readmission rate, and 5) 30-day reoperation rate.

METHODS

Using the PRISMA guidelines, a search of the PubMed/Medline, Web of Science, Cochrane Reviews, Embase, CINAHL, and OVID Medline databases was conducted to identify all full-text articles in the English-language literature describing ERAS protocol implementation for adult spine surgery. A quantitative meta-analysis using random-effects modeling was performed for the identified clinical outcomes using studies that directly compared ERAS protocols with conventional care.

RESULTS

Of 950 articles reviewed, 34 were included in the qualitative analysis and 20 were included in the quantitative analysis. The most common protocol types were general spine surgery protocols and protocols for lumbar spine surgery patients. The most frequently cited benefits of ERAS protocols were shorter LOS (n = 12), lower postoperative pain scores (n = 6), and decreased complication rates (n = 4). The meta-analysis demonstrated shorter LOS for the general spine surgery (mean difference −1.22 days [95% CI −1.98 to −0.47]) and lumbar spine ERAS protocols (−1.53 days [95% CI −2.89 to −0.16]). Neither general nor lumbar spine protocols led to a significant difference in complication rates. Insufficient data existed to perform a meta-analysis of the differences in costs or postoperative narcotic use.

CONCLUSIONS

Present data suggest that ERAS protocol implementation may reduce hospitalization time among adult spine surgery patients and may lead to reductions in complication rates when applied to specific populations. To generate high-quality evidence capable of supporting practice guidelines, though, additional controlled trials are necessary to validate these early findings in larger populations.

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Use of diffusion tensor imaging in glioma resection

Kalil G. Abdullah, Daniel Lubelski, Paolo G. P. Nucifora, and Steven Brem

Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) is increasingly used in the resection of both high- and low-grade gliomas. Whereas conventional MRI techniques provide only anatomical information, DTI offers data on CNS connectivity by enabling visualization of important white matter tracts in the brain. Importantly, DTI allows neurosurgeons to better guide their surgical approach and resection. Here, the authors review basic scientific principles of DTI, include a primer on the technology and image acquisition, and outline the modality's evolution as a frequently used tool for glioma resection. Current literature supporting its use is summarized, highlighting important clinical studies on the application of DTI in preoperative planning for glioma resection, preoperative diagnosis, and postoperative outcomes. The authors conclude with a review of future directions for this technology.

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Ventral fusion versus dorsal fusion: determining the optimal treatment for cervical spondylotic myelopathy

Matthew D. Alvin, Daniel Lubelski, Edward C. Benzel, and Thomas E. Mroz

Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) often can be surgically treated by either ventral or dorsal decompression and fusion. However, there is a lack of high-level evidence on the relative advantages and disadvantages for these treatments of CSM. The authors' goal was to provide a comprehensive review of the relative benefits of ventral versus dorsal fusion in terms of quality of life (QOL) outcomes, complications, and costs. They reviewed 7 studies on CSM published between 2003 and 2013 and summarized the findings for each category. Both procedures have been shown to lead to statistically significant improvement in clinical outcomes for patients. Ventral fusion surgery has been shown to yield better QOL outcomes than dorsal fusion surgery. Complication rates for ventral fusion surgery range from 11% to 13.6%, whereas those for dorsal fusion surgery range from 16.4% to 19%. Larger randomized controlled trials are needed, with particular emphasis on QOL and minimum clinically important differences.

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Clinical utility of enhanced recovery after surgery pathways in pediatric spinal deformity surgery: systematic review of the literature

Zach Pennington, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Jeff Ehresman, Kurt Lehner, Mari L. Groves, Paul Sponseller, and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVES

More than 7500 children undergo surgery for scoliosis each year, at an estimated annual cost to the health system of $1.1 billion. There is significant interest among patients, parents, providers, and payors in identifying methods for delivering quality outcomes at lower costs. Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols have been suggested as one possible solution. Here the authors conducted a systematic review of the literature describing the clinical and economic benefits of ERAS protocols in pediatric spinal deformity surgery.

METHODS

The authors identified all English-language articles on ERAS protocol use in pediatric spinal deformity surgery by using the following databases: PubMed/MEDLINE, Web of Science, Cochrane Reviews, EMBASE, CINAHL, and OVID MEDLINE. Quantitative analyses of comparative articles using random effects were performed for the following clinical outcomes: 1) length of stay (LOS); 2) complication rate; 3) wound infection rate; 4) 30-day readmission rate; 5) reoperation rate; and 6) postoperative pain scores.

RESULTS

Of 950 articles reviewed, 7 were included in the qualitative analysis and 6 were included in the quantitative analysis. The most frequently cited benefits of ERAS protocols were shorter LOS, earlier urinary catheter removal, and earlier discontinuation of patient-controlled analgesia pumps. Quantitative analyses showed ERAS protocols to be associated with shorter LOS (mean difference −1.12 days; 95% CI −1.51, −0.74; p < 0.001), fewer postoperative complications (OR 0.37; 95% CI 0.20, 0.68; p = 0.001), and lower pain scores on postoperative day (POD) 0 (mean −0.92; 95% CI −1.29, −0.56; p < 0.001) and POD 2 (−0.61; 95% CI −0.75, −0.47; p < 0.001). There were no differences in reoperation rate or POD 1 pain scores. ERAS-treated patients had a trend toward higher 30-day readmission rates and earlier discontinuation of patient-controlled analgesia (both p = 0.06). Insufficient data existed to reach a conclusion about cost differences.

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this systematic review suggest that ERAS protocols may shorten hospitalizations, reduce postoperative complication rates, and reduce postoperative pain scores in children undergoing scoliosis surgery. Publication biases exist, and therefore larger, prospective, multicenter data are needed to validate these results.

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Predicting nonroutine discharge in patients undergoing surgery for vertebral column tumors

Jeff Ehresman, Zach Pennington, James Feghali, Andrew Schilling, Andrew Hersh, Bethany Hung, Daniel Lubelski, and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

More than 8000 patients are treated annually for vertebral column tumors, of whom roughly two-thirds will be discharged to an inpatient facility (nonroutine discharge). Nonroutine discharge is associated with increased care costs as well as delays in discharge and poorer patient outcomes. In this study, the authors sought to develop a prediction model of nonroutine discharge in the population of vertebral column tumor patients.

METHODS

Patients treated for primary or metastatic vertebral column tumors at a single comprehensive cancer center were identified for inclusion. Data were gathered regarding surgical procedure, patient demographics, insurance status, and medical comorbidities. Frailty was assessed using the modified 5-item Frailty Index (mFI-5) and medical complexity was assessed using the modified Charlson Comorbidity Index (mCCI). Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify independent predictors of nonroutine discharge, and multivariable linear regression was used to identify predictors of prolonged length of stay (LOS). The discharge model was internally validated using 1000 bootstrapped samples.

RESULTS

The authors identified 350 patients (mean age 57.0 ± 13.6 years, 53.1% male, and 67.1% treated for metastatic vs primary disease). Significant predictors of prolonged LOS included higher mCCI score (β = 0.74; p = 0.026), higher serum absolute neutrophil count (β = 0.35; p = 0.001), lower hematocrit (β = −0.34; p = 0.001), use of a staged operation (β = 4.99; p < 0.001), occurrence of postoperative pulmonary embolism (β = 3.93; p = 0.004), and surgical site infection (β = 9.93; p < 0.001). Significant predictors of nonroutine discharge included emergency admission (OR 3.09; p = 0.001), higher mFI-5 score (OR 1.90; p = 0.001), lower serum albumin level (OR 0.43 per g/dL; p < 0.001), and operations with multiple stages (OR 4.10; p < 0.001). The resulting statistical model was deployed as a web-based calculator (https://jhuspine4.shinyapps.io/Nonroutine_Discharge_Tumor/).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that nonroutine discharge of patients with surgically treated vertebral column tumors was predicted by emergency admission, increased frailty, lower serum albumin level, and staged surgical procedures. The resulting web-based calculator tool may be useful clinically to aid in discharge planning for spinal oncology patients by preoperatively identifying patients likely to require placement in an inpatient facility postoperatively.

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Predicting postoperative quality-of-life outcomes in patients with metastatic spine disease: who benefits?

James Feghali, Zach Pennington, Jeff Ehresman, Daniel Lubelski, Ethan Cottrill, A. Karim Ahmed, Andrew Schilling, and Daniel M. Sciubba

Symptomatic spinal metastasis occurs in around 10% of all cancer patients, 5%–10% of whom will require operative management. While postoperative survival has been extensively evaluated, postoperative health-related quality-of-life (HRQOL) outcomes have remained relatively understudied. Available tools that measure HRQOL are heterogeneous and may emphasize different aspects of HRQOL. The authors of this paper recommend the use of the EQ-5D and Spine Oncology Study Group Outcomes Questionnaire (SOSGOQ), given their extensive validation, to capture the QOL effects of systemic disease and spine metastases. Recent studies have identified preoperative QOL, baseline functional status, and neurological function as potential predictors of postoperative QOL outcomes, but heterogeneity across studies limits the ability to derive meaningful conclusions from the data. Future development of a valid and reliable prognostic model will likely require the application of a standardized protocol in the context of a multicenter study design.

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Comparison of operator and patient radiation exposure during fluoroscopy-guided vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Srujan Kopparapu, Daniel Lubelski, Zach Pennington, Majid Khan, Nicholas Theodore, and Daniel Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Percutaneous vertebroplasty (PV) and balloon kyphoplasty (BK) are two minimally invasive techniques used to treat mechanical pain secondary to spinal compression fractures. A concern for both procedures is the radiation exposure incurred by both operators and patients. The authors conducted a systematic review of the available literature to examine differences in interventionalist radiation exposure between PV and BK and differences in patient radiation exposure between PV and BK.

METHODS

The authors conducted a search of the PubMed, Ovid Medline, Cochrane Reviews, Embase, and Web of Science databases according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Full-text articles in English describing one of the primary endpoints in ≥ 5 unique patients treated with PV or BK of the mobile spine were included. Estimates of mean operative time, radiation exposure, and fluoroscopy duration were reported as weighted averages. Additionally, annual occupational dose limits provided by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC) were used to determine the number needed to harm (NNH).

RESULTS

The meta-analysis included 27 articles. For PV, the mean fluoroscopy times were 4.9 ± 3.3 minutes per level without protective measures and 5.2 ± 3.4 minutes with protective measures. The mean operator radiation exposures per level in mrem were 4.6 ± 5.4 at the eye, 7.8 ± 8.7 at the neck, 22.7 ± 62.4 at the torso, and 49.2 ± 62.2 at the hand without protective equipment and 0.3 ± 0.1 at the torso and 95.5 ± 162.5 at the hand with protection. The mean fluoroscopy times per level for BK were 6.1 ± 2.5 minutes without protective measures and 6.0 ± 3.2 minutes with such measures. The mean exposures were 31.3 ± 39.3, 19.7 ± 4.6, 31.8 ± 34.2, and 174.4 ± 117.3 mrem at the eye, neck, torso, and hand, respectively, without protection, and 1, 9.2 ± 26.2, and 187.7 ± 100.4 mrem at the neck, torso, and hand, respectively, with protective equipment. For protected procedures, radiation to the hand was the limiting factor and the NNH estimates were 524 ± 891 and 266 ± 142 for PV and BK, respectively. Patient exposure as measured by flank-mounted dosimeters, entrance skin dose, and dose area product demonstrated lower exposure with PV than BK (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS

Operator radiation exposure is significantly decreased by the use of protective equipment. Radiation exposure to both the operator and patient is lower for PV than BK. NNH estimates suggest that radiation to the hand limits the number of procedures an operator can safely perform. In particular, radiation to the hand limits PV to 524 and BK to 266 procedures per year before surpassing the threshold set by the USNRC.

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To operate, or not to operate? Narrative review of the role of survival predictors in patient selection for operative management of patients with metastatic spine disease

Zach Pennington, Jeff Ehresman, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Kurt Lehner, James Feghali, A. Karim Ahmed, Andrew Schilling, and Daniel M. Sciubba

Accurate prediction of patient survival is an essential component of the preoperative evaluation of patients with spinal metastases. Over the past quarter of a century, a number of predictors have been developed, although none have been accurate enough to be instituted as a staple of clinical practice. However, recently more comprehensive survival calculators have been published that make use of larger data sets and machine learning to predict postoperative survival among patients with spine metastases. Given the glut of calculators that have been published, the authors sought to perform a narrative review of the current literature, highlighting existing calculators along with the strengths and weaknesses of each. In doing so, they identify two “generations” of scoring systems—a first generation based on a priori factor weighting and a second generation comprising predictive tools that are developed using advanced statistical modeling and are focused on clinical deployment. In spite of recent advances, the authors found that most predictors have only a moderate ability to explain variation in patient survival. Second-generation models have a greater prognostic accuracy relative to first-generation scoring systems, but most still require external validation. Given this, it seems that there are two outstanding goals for these survival predictors, foremost being external validation of current calculators in multicenter prospective cohorts, as the majority have been developed from, and internally validated within, the same single-institution data sets. Lastly, current predictors should be modified to incorporate advances in targeted systemic therapy and radiotherapy, which have been heretofore largely ignored.