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Devender Singh, Eeric Truumees, Dana Hawthorne, John K. Stokes and Matthew J. Geck

Object

The goals of this study were to determine the incidence of occult cervical stenosis in patients over 50 years old with thoracolumbar deformity and to assess the risk of progressive cervical myelopathy after complex thoracolumbar reconstruction in asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients with cervical stenosis.

Methods

Charts and cervical imaging for patients who were over 50 years old when they had undergone thoracolumbar deformity surgery between 2005 and 2008 were reviewed. Patients with primary neurological disorders were excluded from the study.

Results

Seventy-three patients (56 women and 17 men) met the study inclusion criteria. The minimum follow-up time was 2 years. Fifty-eight percent of patients (42 of 73) had cervical stenosis on advanced imaging. Thirty-three patients had mild or moderate stenosis; only 3 of these patients had clinical myelopathy. Nine patients (12%) had critical cervical stenosis, as determined from imaging; among these patients, 3 had moderate or severe myelopathy. Patients with noncritical stenosis and no or mild myelopathy underwent thoracolumbar reconstruction without any postoperative progression of myelopathy. Patients with critical stenosis and/or moderate or severe myelopathy were offered cervical decompression prior to thoracolumbar reconstruction; those who accepted this offer did not have progression of myelopathy. One patient underwent thoracolumbar reconstruction first despite critical cervical stenosis. At 20 months, her cervical myelopathy had progressed, and she ultimately required cervical decompression.

Conclusions

Cervical stenosis, even critical stenosis in some cases, was seen in more than one-half of the patients. Most presented without obvious cervical complaints. In those with mild to moderate stenosis and no or mild myelopathy, lengthy thoracolumbar reconstruction procedures were not associated with progression of the myelopathy. The authors recommend that all adults with thoracolumbar deformity undergo a detailed upper- and lower-extremity neurological examination prior to major thoracolumbar reconstruction.

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Marcella Madera, Jeremy Brady, Sylvia Deily, Trent McGinty, Lee Moroz, Devender Singh, George Tipton and Eeric Truumees

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to provide a systematic and comprehensive review of the existing literature regarding postfusion rehabilitation.

METHODS

Using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines, the authors conducted an exhaustive review of multiple electronic databases. Potential articles were screened using inclusion/exclusion criteria. Two authors independently analyzed these studies using predefined data fields, including study quality indicators such as level of evidence and availability of accepted patient-reported outcomes measures. These findings were synthesized in a narrative format. A third author resolved disagreements regarding the inclusion of a study.

RESULTS

Twenty-one articles with I or II levels of evidence were included in the review. The authors divided the findings of the literature review into several groups: rehabilitation terminology, timing and duration of postfusion rehabilitation, the need for rehabilitation relative to surgery-related morbidity, rehabilitation's relationship to outcomes, and cognitive and psychosocial aspects of postsurgical rehabilitation. Current evidence generally supports formal rehabilitation after lumbar fusion surgery. Starting physical therapy at the 12-week postoperative mark results in better outcomes at lower cost than an earlier, 6-week start. Where available, psychosocial support improves outcomes. However, a number of the questions could not be answered with high-grade evidence. In these cases, the authors used “best evidence available” to make recommendations. There are many cases in which different types of caregivers use clinical terminology differently. The data supporting an optimal protocol for postfusion rehabilitation remains elusive but, using the data available, the authors have crafted recommendations and a model protocol, which is currently undergoing prospective study.

CONCLUSIONS

Rehabilitation has long been a common feature in the postoperative management of patients undergoing spinal fusion. Although caregivers from multiple disciplines agree that the majority of their patients will benefit from this effort, the supporting data remain sparse. In creating a model protocol for postlumbar fusion rehabilitation, the authors hope to share a starting point for future postoperative lumbar fusion rehabilitation research.