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Derek A. Taggard, Arnold H. Menezes, and Timothy C. Ryken

Object. Operative intervention for craniovertebral junction (CVJ) instability in patients with Down syndrome has become controversial, with reports of a low incidence of associated neurological dysfunction and high surgical morbidity rates. The authors analyzed their experience in light of these poor results and attempted to evaluate differences in management.

Methods. Medical and radiographic records of 36 consecutive patients with Down syndrome and CVJ abnormalities were reviewed. The most common clinical complaints included neck pain (15 patients) and torticollis (12 patients). Cervicomedullary compression was associated with ataxia and progressive weakness. Hyperreflexia was documented in a majority of patients (24 cases), and 13 patients suffered from varying degrees of quadriparesis. Upper respiratory tract infection precipitated the presentation in five patients. Four patients suffered acute neurological insults after a minor fall and two after receiving a general anesthetic agent.

Atlantoaxial instability was the most common radiographically observed abnormality (23 patients), with a rotary component present in 14 patients. Occipitoatlantal instability was also frequently observed (16 patients) and was coexistent with atlantoaxial dislocation in 15 patients. Twenty individuals had bone anomalies, the most frequent of which was os odontoideum (12 patients) followed by atlantal arch hypoplasia and bifid anterior or posterior arches (eight patients).

Twenty-seven patients underwent surgical procedures without subsequent neurological deterioration, and a 96% fusion rate was observed. In five of 11 patients basilar invagination was irreducible and required transoral decompression. Overall, 24 patients enjoyed good or excellent outcomes.

Conclusions. The results of this series highlight the clinicopathological characteristics of CVJ instability in patients with Down syndrome and suggest that satisfactory outcomes can be achieved with low surgical morbidity rates.

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Derek A. Taggard, Arnold H. Menezes, and Timothy C. Ryken

Operative intervention for the treatment of instability at the craniovertebral junction in patients with Down's syndrome has become somewhat controversial because some authors have reported high surgery-related complication rates and suggested that the incidence of neurological abnormality associated with this abnormal motion may be low. In this report, the authors describe the clinical and radiographic findings in 33 patients treated at their institution. Common presenting symptoms included neck pain (14 patients), torticollis (12 patients), and myelopathy manifested as hyperreflexia (21 patients), or varying degrees of quadriparesis (11 patients). Four patients suffered acute neurological insults, two after receiving routine general anesthetics for minor surgical procedures and two other patients following minor falls. Atlantoaxial instability was the most common abnormality documented on radiography (22 patients). Atlantooccipital instability (15 patients) was also frequently observed and was coexistent with the presence of atlantoaxial luxations in 14 patients. A rotary component of the atlantoaxial luxation was present in 13 cases. In 17 patients bony anomalies were present, the most frequent of which was os odontoideum (10 patients). Twenty-four patients underwent operative intervention, and successful fusion was achieved in 23. In six of nine patients with basilar invagination, reduction was achieved with preoperative traction and thus avoided the need for ventral decompressive procedures. There were no cases of postoperative deterioration, and 22 patients made excellent or good recoveries. The results of this series highlight the clinicopathological phenomena of craniovertebral instability in patients with Down's syndrome and suggest that satisfactory outcomes can be achieved with a low rate of surgical morbidity.

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Patrick W. Hitchon, Vijay Goel, John Drake, Derek Taggard, Matthew Brenton, Thomas Rogge, and James C. Torner

Object. Polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) has long been used in the stabilization and reconstruction of traumatic and pathological fractures of the spine. Recently, hydroxyapatite (HA), an osteoconductive, biocompatible cement, has been used as an alternative to PMMA. In this study the authors compare the stabilizing effects of the HA product, BoneSource, with PMMA in an experimental compression fracture of L-1.

Methods. Twenty T9—L3 cadaveric spine specimens were mounted individually on a testing frame. Light-emitting diodes were placed on the neural arches as well as the base. Motion was tracked by two video cameras in response to applied loads of 0 to 6 Nm. The weight-drop technique was used to induce a reproducible compression fracture of T-11 after partially coring out the vertebra. Load testing was performed on the intact spine, postfracture, after unilateral transpedicular vertebroplasty with 7 to 10 ml of PMMA or HA, and after flexion—extension fatiguing to 5000 cycles at ± 3 Nm.

No significant difference between the HA- and PMMA cemented—fixated spines was demonstrated in flexion, extension, left lateral bending, or right and left axial rotation. The only difference between the two cements was encountered before and after fatiguing in right lateral bending (p ≤ 0.05).

Conclusions. The results of this study suggest that the same angular rigidity can be achieved using either HA or PMMA. This is of particular interest because HA is osteoconductive, undergoes remodeling, and is not exothermic.

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Brian T. Ragel, Paul Klimo Jr., Robert J. Kowalski, Randall R. McCafferty, Jeannette M. Liu, Derek A. Taggard, David Garrett Jr., and Sidney B. Brevard

Object

“Operation Enduring Freedom” is the US war effort in Afghanistan in its global war on terror. One US military neurosurgeon is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide care for both battlefield injuries and humanitarian work. Here, the authors analyze a 24-month neurosurgical caseload experience in Afghanistan.

Methods

Operative logs were analyzed between October 2007 and September 2009. Operative cases were divided into minor procedures (for example, placement of an intracranial pressure monitor) and major procedures (for example, craniotomy) for both battle injuries and humanitarian work. Battle injuries were defined as injuries sustained by soldiers while in the line of duty or injuries to Afghan civilians from weapons of war. Humanitarian work consisted of providing medical care to Afghans.

Results

Six neurosurgeons covering a 24-month period performed 115 minor procedures and 210 major surgical procedures cases. Operations for battlefield injuries included 106 craniotomies, 25 spine surgeries, and 18 miscellaneous surgeries. Humanitarian work included 32 craniotomies (23 for trauma, 3 for tumor, 6 for other reasons, such as cyst fenestration), 27 spine surgeries (12 for degenerative conditions, 9 for trauma, 4 for myelomeningocele closure, and 2 for the treatment of infection), and 2 miscellaneous surgeries.

Conclusions

Military neurosurgeons have provided surgical care at rates of 71% (149/210) for battlefield injuries and 29% (61/210) for humanitarian work. Of the operations for battle trauma, 50% (106/210) were cranial and 11% (25/210) spinal surgeries. Fifteen percent (32/210) and 13% (27/210) of operations were for humanitarian cranial and spine procedures, respectively. Overall, military neurosurgeons in Afghanistan are performing life-saving cranial and spine stabilization procedures for battlefield trauma and acting as general neurosurgeons for the Afghan community.

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Rachel E. Tsolinas, John F. Burke, Anthony M. DiGiorgio, Leigh H. Thomas, Xuan Duong-Fernandez, Mark H. Harris, John K. Yue, Ethan A. Winkler, Catherine G. Suen, Lisa U. Pascual, Adam R. Ferguson, J. Russell Huie, Jonathan Z. Pan, Debra D. Hemmerle, Vineeta Singh, Abel Torres-Espin, Cleopa Omondi, Nikos Kyritsis, Jenny Haefeli, Philip R. Weinstein, Carlos A. de Almeida Neto, Yu-Hung Kuo, Derek Taggard, Jason F. Talbott, William D. Whetstone, Geoffrey T. Manley, Jacqueline C. Bresnahan, Michael S. Beattie, and Sanjay S. Dhall

OBJECTIVE

Traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) is a dreaded condition that can lead to paralysis and severe disability. With few treatment options available for patients who have suffered from SCI, it is important to develop prospective databases to standardize data collection in order to develop new therapeutic approaches and guidelines. Here, the authors present an overview of their multicenter, prospective, observational patient registry, Transforming Research and Clinical Knowledge in SCI (TRACK-SCI).

METHODS

Data were collected using the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) common data elements (CDEs). Highly granular clinical information, in addition to standardized imaging, biospecimen, and follow-up data, were included in the registry. Surgical approaches were determined by the surgeon treating each patient; however, they were carefully documented and compared within and across study sites. Follow-up visits were scheduled for 6 and 12 months after injury.

RESULTS

One hundred sixty patients were enrolled in the TRACK-SCI study. In this overview, basic clinical, imaging, neurological severity, and follow-up data on these patients are presented. Overall, 78.8% of the patients were determined to be surgical candidates and underwent spinal decompression and/or stabilization. Follow-up rates to date at 6 and 12 months are 45% and 36.3%, respectively. Overall resources required for clinical research coordination are also discussed.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors established the feasibility of SCI CDE implementation in a multicenter, prospective observational study. Through the application of standardized SCI CDEs and expansion of future multicenter collaborations, they hope to advance SCI research and improve treatment.