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Ryan Planchard, Daniel Lubelski, Jeff Ehresman and Daniel Sciubba

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Surgical management of giant presacral schwannoma: systematic review of published cases and meta-analysis

Presented at the 2019 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Zach Pennington, Erick M. Westbroek, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Giant presacral schwannomas are rare sacral tumors found in less than 1 of every 40,000 hospitalizations. Current management of these tumors is based solely upon case reports and small case series. In this paper the authors report the results of a systematic review of the available English literature on presacral schwannoma, focused on identifying the influence of tumor size, tumor morphology, surgical approach, and extent of resection (EOR) on recurrence-free survival and postoperative complications.

METHODS

The medical literature (PubMed and EMBASE) was queried for reports of surgically managed sacral schwannoma, either involving 2 or more contiguous vertebral levels or with a diameter ≥ 5 cm. Tumor size and morphology, surgical approach, EOR, intraoperative and postoperative complications, and survival data were recorded.

RESULTS

Seventy-six articles were included, covering 123 unique patients (mean age 44.1 ± 1.4 years, 50.4% male). The most common presenting symptoms were leg pain (28.7%), lower back pain (21.3%), and constipation (15.7%). Most surgeries used an open anterior-only (40.0%) or posterior-only (30%) approach. Postoperative complications occurred in 25.6% of patients and local recurrence was noted in 5.4%. En bloc resection significantly improved progression-free survival relative to subtotal resection (p = 0.03). No difference existed between en bloc and gross-total resection (GTR; p = 0.25) or among the surgical approaches (p = 0.66). Postoperative complications were more common following anterior versus posterior approaches (p = 0.04). Surgical blood loss was significantly correlated with operative duration and tumor volume on multiple linear regression (both p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Presacral schwannoma can reasonably be treated with either en bloc or piecemeal GTR. The approach should be dictated by lesion morphology, and recurrence is infrequent. Anterior approaches may increase the risk of postoperative complications.

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Daniel Lubelski, Andrew T. Healy, Prasath Mageswaran, Robb Colbrunn and Richard P. Schlenk

OBJECTIVE

Lateral mass fixation stabilizes the cervical spine while causing minimal morbidity and resulting in high fusion rates. Still, with 2 years of follow-up, approximately 6% of patients who have undergone posterior cervical fusion have worsening kyphosis or symptomatic adjacent-segment disease. Based on the length of the construct, the question of whether to extend the fixation system to undisrupted levels has not been answered for the cervical spine. The authors conducted a study to quantify the role of construct length and the terminal dorsal ligamentous complex in the adjacent-segment kinematics of the subaxial cervical spine.

METHODS

In vitro flexibility testing was performed using 6 human cadaveric specimens (C2–T8), with the upper thoracic rib cage and osseous and ligamentous integrity intact. An industrial robot was used to apply pure moments and to measure segmental motion at each level. The authors tested the intact state, followed by 9 postsurgical permutations of laminectomy and lateral mass fixation spanning C2 to C7.

RESULTS

Constructs spanning a single level exerted no significant effects on immediate adjacent-segment motion. The addition of a second immobilized segment, however, created significant changes in flexion-extension range of motion at the supradjacent level (+164%). Regardless of construct length, resection of the terminal dorsal ligaments did not greatly affect adjacent-level motion except at C2–3 and C7–T1 (increasing by +794% and +607%, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

Dorsal ligamentous support was found to contribute significant stability to the C2–3 and C7–T1 segments only. Construct length was found to play a significant role when fixating two or more segments. The addition of a fused segment to support an undisrupted cervical level is not suggested by the present data, except potentially at C2–3 and C7–T1. The study findings emphasize the importance of the C2–3 segment and its dorsal support.

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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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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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Ethan Cottrill, Zach Pennington, A. Karim Ahmed, Daniel Lubelski, Matthew L. Goodwin, Alexander Perdomo-Pantoja, Erick M. Westbroek, Nicholas Theodore, Timothy Witham and Daniel Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Nonunion is a common complication of spinal fusion surgeries. Electrical stimulation technologies (ESTs)—namely, direct current stimulation (DCS), capacitive coupling stimulation (CCS), and inductive coupling stimulation (ICS)—have been suggested to improve fusion rates. However, the evidence to support their use is based solely on small trials. Here, the authors report the results of meta-analyses of the preclinical and clinical data from the literature to provide estimates of the overall effect of these therapies at large and in subgroups.

METHODS

A systematic review of the English-language literature was performed using PubMed, Embase, and Web of Science databases. The query of these databases was designed to include all preclinical and clinical studies examining ESTs for spinal fusion. The primary endpoint was the fusion rate at the last follow-up. Meta-analyses were performed using a Freeman-Tukey double arcsine transformation followed by random-effects modeling.

RESULTS

A total of 33 articles (17 preclinical, 16 clinical) were identified, of which 11 preclinical studies (257 animals) and 13 clinical studies (2144 patients) were included in the meta-analysis. Among preclinical studies, the mean fusion rates were higher among EST-treated animals (OR 4.79, p < 0.001). Clinical studies similarly showed ESTs to increase fusion rates (OR 2.26, p < 0.001). Of EST modalities, only DCS improved fusion rates in both preclinical (OR 5.64, p < 0.001) and clinical (OR 2.13, p = 0.03) populations; ICS improved fusion in clinical studies only (OR 2.45, p = 0.014). CCS was not effective at increasing fusion, although only one clinical study was identified. A subanalysis of the clinical studies found that ESTs increased fusion rates in the following populations: patients with difficult-to-fuse spines, those who smoke, and those who underwent multilevel fusions.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that electrical stimulation devices may produce clinically significant increases in arthrodesis rates among patients undergoing spinal fusion. They also found that the pro-arthrodesis effects seen in preclinical studies are also found in clinical populations, suggesting that findings in animal studies are translatable. Additional research is needed to analyze the cost-effectiveness of these devices.

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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.

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Daniel Lubelski, Nicolas R. Thompson, Sachin Bansal, Thomas E. Mroz, Daniel J. Mazanec, Edward C. Benzel and Tagreed Khalaf

OBJECT

The goal of this study was to determine whether pretreatment depression is predictive of quality of life (QOL) improvement for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) who are treated conservatively.

METHODS

This retrospective cohort study included patients with LSS and concordant neurogenic claudication who were treated nonoperatively at a single institution between September 2010 and March 2013. Patient QOL measures were recorded pretreatment and then 4 months after treatment. Pretreatment depression was assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire–9 (PHQ-9). Successful outcome was defined as posttreatment improvement in EuroQol-5D (EQ-5D) index or in Pain and Disability Questionnaire (PDQ) scores. Regression analysis was performed to identify independent predictors of outcome while controlling for confounding variables.

RESULTS

A total of 502 patients were included in the study. The average age for these patients was 66.1 years, with 51% female and 90.6% white. After adjusting for baseline demographic and clinical variables, there was a statistically significant association between baseline PHQ-9 score and posttreatment change in EQ-5D index (β = −0.007, p = 0.0002). All other things being equal, a patient with a baseline PHQ-9 score of 0 (no depression) would be expected to improve in the EQ-5D index by 0.14 points (greater than the minimum clinically important difference) more than would a patient with a baseline PHQ-9 score of 20 (major depression). There was no significant association between baseline PHQ-9 score and change in Pain and Disability Questionnaire scores.

CONCLUSIONS

When controlling for other baseline characteristics, severely depressed patients with LSS who are treated nonoperatively have significantly less improvement in their QOL compared with those with little or no depression. These data are similar to the negative predictive effects of depression on posttreatment QOL following lumbar fusion surgery.

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Yumeng Li, Daniel Lubelski, Kalil G. Abdullah, Thomas E. Mroz and Michael P. Steinmetz

Object

Bertolotti's syndrome consists of low-back pain caused by lumbosacral transitional vertebrae (LSTVs) and LSTV-associated biomechanical spinal changes. There is a lack of consensus regarding the cause, clinical significance, and treatment of this condition. The authors aim to characterize the clinical presentation of patients with Bertolotti's syndrome and describe a minimally invasive surgical treatment for this condition.

Methods

Seven patients who underwent minimally invasive paramedian tubular-based resection of the LSTV for Bertolotti's syndrome were identified over the course of 5 years. Diagnosis was based on patient history of chronic low-back pain, radiographic findings of LSTV, and pain relief on trigger-site injection with steroid and/or anesthetics. Electronic medical records were reviewed to identify demographics, operative data, and outcomes.

Results

All patients presented with severe, chronic low-back pain lasting an average of 8 years that was resistant to nonoperative care. At presentation, 6 (86%) of 7 patients experienced radicular pain that was ipsilateral to the LSTV. Radiographic evidence showed a presence of LSTV in all patients on the left (43%), right (29%), or bilaterally (29%). Degenerative disc changes at the L4–5 level immediately above the anomalous LSTV were observed in 6 of 7 (86%) patients; these changes were not seen at the level below the LSTV. Following pseudo-joint injection, all patients experienced temporary relief of their symptoms. All patients underwent a minimally invasive, paramedian tubular-based approach for resection of the LSTV. Three (43%) of 7 patients reported complete resolution of low-back pain, 2 (29%) of 7 patients had reduced low-back pain, and 2 patients (29%) experienced initial relief but return of low-back pain at 1 and 4 years postoperatively. Three (50%) of the 6 patients with radicular pain had complete relief of this symptom. The median follow-up time was 12 months. No intraoperative complication was reported. Two (29%) of 7 patients developed postoperative complications including one with a wound hematoma and another with new L-5 radiculopathy that resolved 2 years after surgery.

Conclusions

Diagnosis of Bertolotti's syndrome should be considered with adequate patient history, imaging studies, and diagnostic injections. A minimally invasive surgical approach for resection of the LSTV is presented here for symptomatic treatment of select patients with Bertolotti's syndrome whose conditions are refractory to conventional therapy and who have pain that can be attributed to the LSTV. Several short-term complications were noted with this procedure, but overall this procedure is effective for treating symptoms related to Bertolotti's syndrome.

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Daniel Lubelski, Roy Xiao, Debraj Mukherjee, William W. Ashley, Timothy Witham, Henry Brem, Judy Huang and Stacey Quintero Wolfe

OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgery seeks to attract the best and brightest medical students; however, there is often a lack of early exposure to the field, among other possible barriers. The authors sought to identify successful practices that can be implemented to improve medical student recruitment to neurosurgery.

METHODS

United States neurosurgery residency program directors were surveyed to determine the number of medical student rotators and medical students matching into a neurosurgery residency from their programs between 2010 and 2016. Program directors were asked about the ways their respective institutions integrated medical students into departmental clinical and research activities.

RESULTS

Complete responses were received from 30/110 institutions. Fifty-two percent of the institutions had neurosurgery didactic lectures for 1st- and 2nd-year medical students (MS1/2), and 87% had didactics for MS3/4. Seventy-seven percent of departments had a neurosurgery interest group, which was the most common method used to integrate medical students into the department. Other forms of outreach included formal mentorship programs (53%), lecture series (57%), and neurosurgery anatomy labs (40%). Seventy-three percent of programs provided research opportunities to medical students, and 57% indicated that the schools had a formal research requirement. On average, 3 medical students did a rotation in each neurosurgery department and 1 matched into neurosurgery each year. However, there was substantial variability among programs. Over the 2010–2016 period, the responding institutions matched as many as 4% of the graduating class into neurosurgery per year, whereas others matched 0%–1%. Departments that matched a greater (≥ 1% per year) number of medical students into neurosurgery were significantly more likely to have a neurosurgery interest group and formal research requirements. A greater percentage of high-matching programs had neurosurgery mentorship programs, lecture series, and cadaver training opportunities compared to the other institutions.

CONCLUSIONS

In recent decades, the number of applicants to neurosurgery has decreased. A major deterrent may be the delayed exposure of medical students to neurosurgery. Institutions with early preclinical exposure, active neurosurgery interest groups, research opportunities, and strong mentorship recruit and match more students into neurosurgery. Implementing such initiatives on a national level may increase the number of highly qualified medical students pursuing neurosurgery.