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Paul S. Page and Darnell T. Josiah

OBJECTIVE

Traumatic vertebral artery injuries (TVAIs) are a common finding in cervical spine trauma and can predispose patients to posterior circulation infarction. While extensive research has been conducted regarding the management and criteria for imaging in patients with suspected blunt vascular injury, little research has been conducted highlighting these injuries in the geriatric population.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective review of all patients evaluated at a level 1 trauma center and found to have TVAIs between January 1, 2010, and January 1, 2018. Biometric, clinical, and imaging data were obtained from a trauma registry database. Patients were divided into 2 groups on the basis of age, a geriatric group (age ≥ 65 years) and an adult group (age 18 to < 65 years). Variables evaluated included type of trauma, mortality, Injury Severity Score (ISS), and ICU length of stay. The Student t-test was used for continuous variables, and Pearson’s chi-square test was used for categorical variables.

RESULTS

Of the 2698 of patients identified with traumatic cervical spine injuries, 103 patients demonstrated evidence of TVAI. Of these patients, 69 were < 65 and 34 were ≥ 65 years old at the time of their trauma. There was no difference in the incidence of TVAIs between the 2 groups. The ICU length of stay (4.71 vs 4.32 days, p > 0.05), hospital length of stay (10.71 vs 10.72 days, p > 0.05), and the ISS (21.50 vs 21.32, p > 0.05) did not differ significantly between the 2 groups. Mortality was significantly higher in the geriatric group, occurring in 9 of 34 patients (26.5%) compared with only 3 of 69 patients (4.4%) in the adult group (p < 0.001). Ground-level falls were the most common inciting event in the geriatric group (44% vs 14.5%, p < 0.001), whereas motor vehicle accidents were the most common etiology in the younger population (72.5% vs 38.2%, p < 0.001). Incidence of ischemic stroke did not vary significantly between the 2 groups (p > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

TVAI in the older adult population is associated with a significantly greater risk of mortality than in the younger adult population, despite the 2 groups having similar ISSs. Additionally, low-velocity mechanisms of injury, such as ground-level falls, are a greater risk factor for acquired TVAI in older adults than in younger adults, in whom it is a significantly less common etiology.

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Darnell T. Josiah, SoHyun Boo, Abdul Tarabishy, and Sanjay Bhatia

OBJECTIVE

The objective of this study was to investigate the neurovascular and anatomical differences in patients with lumbosacral transitional vertebrae (LSTV) and the associated risk of neurovascular injury in minimally invasive spine surgery.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective study of CT and MR images of the lumbar spine obtained at their institution between 2010 and 2014. The following characteristics were evaluated: level of the iliac crest in relation to the L4–5 disc space, union level of the iliac veins and arteries in relation to the L4–5 disc space, distribution of the iliac veins and inferior vena cava according to the different Moro zones (A, I, II, III, IV, P) at the L4–5 disc space, and the location of the psoas muscle at the L4–5 disc space. The findings were compared with findings on images obtained in 28 age- and sex-matched patients without LSTV who underwent imaging studies during the same time period.

RESULTS

Twenty-eight patients (12 male, 16 female) with LSTV and the required imaging studies were identified; 28 age- and sex-matched patients who had undergone CT and MRI studies of the thoracic and lumbar spine imaging but did not have LSTV were selected for comparison (control group). The mean ages of the patients in the LSTV group and the control group were 52 and 49 years, respectively. The iliac crest was located at a mean distance of 12 mm above the L4–5 disc space in the LSTV group and 4 mm below the L4–5 disc space in the controls. The iliac vein union was located at a mean distance of 8 mm above the L4–5 disc space in the LSTV group and 2.7 mm below the L4–5 disc space in the controls. The iliac artery bifurcation was located at a mean distance of 23 mm above the L4–5 disc space in the LSTV group and 11 mm below the L4–5 disc space in controls. In patients with LSTV, the distribution of iliac vein locations was as follows: Zone A, 7.1%; Zone I only, 78.6%; Zone I encroaching into Zone II, 7.1%; and Zone II only, 7.1%. In the control group, the distribution was as follows: Zone A only, 17.9%; Zone A encroaching into Zone I, 75%; and Zone I only, 7.1%. There were no iliac vessels in Zone II in the control group. The psoas muscle was found to be rising away laterally and anteriorly from the vertebral body more often in patients with LSTV, resulting in the iliac veins being found in the “safe zone” only 14% of the time, greatly increasing the risk of vascular injury.

CONCLUSIONS

In patients with LSTV, the iliac crest is more likely to be above the L4–5 disc space, which increases the technical challenges of a lateral approach. The location of the psoas muscle rising away laterally and ventrally in patients with LSTV compared with controls and with the union of the iliac veins occurring more often above the L4–5 disc space increases the risk for iatrogenic vascular injury at the L4–5 level in this patient population.

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Paul S. Page, Garret P. Greeneway, Wendell B. Lake, Nathaniel P. Brooks, Darnell T. Josiah, Amgad S. Hanna, and Daniel K. Resnick

OBJECTIVE

Extension fractures in the setting of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH) represent highly unstable injuries. As a result, these fractures are most frequently treated with immediate surgical fixation to limit any potential risk of associated neurological injury. Although this represents the standard of care, patients with significant comorbidities, advanced age, or medical instability may not be surgical candidates. In this paper, the authors evaluated a series of patients with extension DISH fractures who were treated with orthosis alone and evaluated their outcomes.

METHODS

A retrospective review from 2015 to 2022 was conducted at a large level 1 trauma center. Patients with extension-type DISH fractures without neurological deficits were identified. All patients were treated conservatively with orthosis alone. Baseline patient characteristics and adverse outcomes are reported.

RESULTS

Twenty-seven patients were identified as presenting with extension fractures associated with DISH without neurological deficit. Of these, 22 patients had complete follow-up on final chart review. Of these 22 patients, 21 (95.5%) were treated successfully with external orthosis. One patient (4.5%) who was noncompliant with the brace had an acute spinal cord injury 1 month after presentation, requiring immediate surgical fixation and decompression. No other complications, including skin breakdown or pressure ulcers related to bracing, were reported.

CONCLUSIONS

Treatment of extension-type DISH fractures may be a reasonable option for patients who are not candidates for safe surgical intervention; however, a risk of neurological injury secondary to delayed instability remains, particularly if patients are noncompliant with the bracing regimen. This risk should be balanced against the high complication rate and potential mortality associated with surgical intervention in this patient population.