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Timothy F. Witham, Ethan Cottrill and Zach Pennington

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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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Sakibul Huq, Jeffrey Ehresman, Ethan Cottrill, A. Karim Ahmed, Zach Pennington, Erick M. Westbroek and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Scheuermann kyphosis (SK) is an idiopathic kyphosis characterized by anterior wedging of ≥ 5° at 3 contiguous vertebrae managed with either nonoperative or operative treatment. Nonoperative treatment typically employs bracing, while operative treatment is performed with either a combined anterior-posterior fusion or posterior-only approach. Current evidence for these approaches has largely been derived from retrospective case series or focused reviews. Consequently, no consensus exists regarding optimal management strategies for patients afflicted with this condition. In this study, the authors systematically review the literature on SK with respect to indications for treatment, complications of treatment, differences in correction and loss of correction, and changes in treatment over time.

METHODS

Using PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library, all full-text publications on the operative and nonoperative treatment for SK in the peer-reviewed English-language literature between 1950 and 2017 were screened. Inclusion criteria involved fully published, peer-reviewed, retrospective or prospective studies of the primary medical literature. Studies were excluded if they did not provide clinical outcomes and statistics specific to SK, described fewer than 2 patients, or discussed results in nonhuman models. Variables extracted included treatment indications and methodology, maximum pretreatment kyphosis, immediate posttreatment kyphosis, kyphosis at last follow-up, year of treatment, and complications of treatment.

RESULTS

Of 659 unique studies, 45 met our inclusion criteria, covering 1829 unique patients. Indications for intervention were pain, deformity, failure of nonoperative treatment, and neural impairment. Among operatively treated patients, the most common complications were hardware failure and proximal or distal junctional kyphosis. Combined anterior-posterior procedures were additionally associated with neural, pulmonary, and cardiovascular complications. Posterior-only approaches offered superior correction compared to combined anterior-posterior fusion; both groups provided greater correction than bracing. Loss of correction was similar across operative approaches, and all were superior to bracing. Cross-sectional analysis suggested that surgeons have shifted from anterior-posterior to posterior-only approaches over the past two decades.

CONCLUSIONS

The data indicate that for patients with SK, surgery affords superior correction and maintenance of correction relative to bracing. Posterior-only fusion may provide greater correction and similar loss of correction compared to anterior-posterior approaches along with a smaller complication profile. This posterior-only approach has concomitantly gained popularity over the combined anterior-posterior approach in recent years.

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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, Bowen Jiang, Erick M. Westbroek, Ethan Cottrill, Benjamin Greenberg, Philippe Gailloud, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ying Wei Lum and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Myelopathy selectively involving the lower extremities can occur secondary to spondylotic changes, tumor, vascular malformations, or thoracolumbar cord ischemia. Vascular causes of myelopathy are rarely described. An uncommon etiology within this category is diaphragmatic crus syndrome, in which compression of an intersegmental artery supplying the cord leads to myelopathy. The authors present the operative technique for treating this syndrome, describing their experience with 3 patients treated for acute-onset lower-extremity myelopathy secondary to hypoperfusion of the anterior spinal artery.

METHODS

All patients had compression of a lumbar intersegmental artery supplying the cord; the compression was caused by the diaphragmatic crus. Compression of the intersegmental artery was probably producing the patients’ symptoms by decreasing blood flow through the artery of Adamkiewicz, causing lumbosacral ischemia.

RESULTS

All patients underwent surgery to transect the offending diaphragmatic crus. Each patient experienced substantial symptom improvement, and 2 patients made a full neurological recovery before discharge.

CONCLUSIONS

Diaphragmatic crus syndrome is a rare or under-recognized cause of ischemic myelopathy. Patients present with episodic acute-on-chronic lower-extremity paraparesis, gait instability, and numbness. Angiography confirms compression of an intersegmental artery that gives rise to a dominant radiculomedullary artery. Transecting the offending diaphragmatic crus can produce complete resolution of neurological symptoms.

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Jeff Ehresman, Andrew Schilling, Zach Pennington, Chengcheng Gui, Xuguang Chen, Daniel Lubelski, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Majid Khan, Kristin J. Redmond and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Vertebral compression fractures (VCFs) in patients with spinal metastasis can lead to destabilization and often carry a high risk profile. It is therefore important to have tools that enable providers to predict the occurrence of new VCFs. The most widely used tool for bone quality assessment, dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA), is not often available at a patient’s initial presentation and has limited sensitivity. While the Spinal Instability Neoplastic Score (SINS) has been associated with VCFs, it does not take patients’ baseline bone quality into consideration. To address this, the authors sought to develop an MRI-based scoring system to estimate trabecular vertebral bone quality (VBQ) and to assess this system’s ability to predict the occurrence of new VCFs in patients with spinal metastasis.

METHODS

Cases of adult patients with a diagnosis of spinal metastasis, who had undergone stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to the spine or neurosurgical intervention at a single institution between 2012 and 2019, were retrospectively reviewed. The novel VBQ score was calculated for each patient by dividing the median signal intensity of the L1–4 vertebral bodies by the signal intensity of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify associations of demographic, clinical, and radiological data with new VCFs.

RESULTS

Among the 105 patients included in this study, 56 patients received a diagnosis of a new VCF and 49 did not. On univariable analysis, the factors associated with new VCFs were smoking status, steroid use longer than 3 months, the SINS, and the novel scoring system—the VBQ score. On multivariable analysis, only the SINS and VBQ score were significant predictors of new VCFs and, when combined, had a predictive accuracy of 89%.

CONCLUSIONS

As a measure of bone quality, the novel VBQ score significantly predicted the occurrence of new VCFs in patients with spinal metastases independent of the SINS. This suggests that baseline bone quality is a crucial factor that requires assessment when evaluating these patients’ conditions and that the VBQ score is a novel and simple MRI-based measure to accomplish this.

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Paraspinal muscle size as an independent risk factor for proximal junctional kyphosis in patients undergoing thoracolumbar fusion

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

Zach Pennington, Ethan Cottrill, A. Karim Ahmed, Peter Passias, Themistocles Protopsaltis, Brian Neuman, Khaled M. Kebaish, Jeff Ehresman, Erick M. Westbroek, Matthew L. Goodwin and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) is a structural complication of spinal fusion in 5%–61% of patients treated for adult spinal deformity. In nearly one-third of these cases, PJK is progressive and requires costly surgical revision. Previous studies have suggested that patient body habitus may predict risk for PJK. Here, the authors sought to investigate abdominal girth and paraspinal muscle size as risk factors for PJK.

METHODS

All patients undergoing thoracolumbosacral fusion greater than 2 levels at a single institution over a 5-year period with ≥ 6 months of radiographic follow-up were considered for inclusion. PJK was defined as kyphosis ≥ 20° between the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV) and two supra-adjacent vertebrae. Operative and radiographic parameters were recorded, including pre- and postoperative sagittal vertical axis (SVA), sacral slope (SS), lumbar lordosis (LL), pelvic tilt, pelvic incidence (PI), and absolute value of the pelvic incidence–lumbar lordosis mismatch (|PI-LL|), as well as changes in LL, |PI-LL|, and SVA. The authors also considered relative abdominal girth and the size of the paraspinal muscles at the UIV.

RESULTS

One hundred sixty-nine patients met inclusion criteria. On univariate analysis, PJK was associated with a larger preoperative SVA (p < 0.001) and |PI-LL| (p = 0.01), and smaller SS (p = 0.004) and LL (p = 0.001). PJK was also associated with more positive postoperative SVA (p = 0.01), ΔSVA (p = 0.01), Δ|PI-LL| (p < 0.001), and ΔLL (p < 0.001); longer construct length (p = 0.005); larger abdominal girth–to-muscle ratio (p = 0.007); and smaller paraspinal muscles at the UIV (p < 0.001). Higher postoperative SVA (OR 1.1 per cm), smaller paraspinal muscles at the UIV (OR 2.11), and more aggressive reduction in |PI-LL| (OR 1.03) were independent predictors of radiographic PJK on multivariate logistic regression.

CONCLUSIONS

A more positive postoperative global sagittal alignment and smaller paraspinal musculature at the UIV most strongly predicted PJK following thoracolumbosacral fusion.

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Bowen Jiang, Zach Pennington, Alex Zhu, Stavros Matsoukas, A. Karim Ahmed, Jeff Ehresman, Smruti Mahapatra, Ethan Cottrill, Hailey Sheppell, Amir Manbachi, Neil Crawford and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Robotic spine surgery systems are increasingly used in the US market. As this technology gains traction, however, it is necessary to identify mechanisms that assess its effectiveness and allow for its continued improvement. One such mechanism is the development of a new 3D grading system that can serve as the foundation for error-based learning in robot systems. Herein the authors attempted 1) to define a system of providing accuracy data along all three pedicle screw placement axes, that is, cephalocaudal, mediolateral, and screw long axes; and 2) to use the grading system to evaluate the mean accuracy of thoracolumbar pedicle screws placed using a single commercially available robotic system.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed a prospectively maintained, IRB-approved database of patients at a single tertiary care center who had undergone instrumented fusion of the thoracic or lumbosacral spine using robotic assistance. Patients with preoperatively planned screw trajectories and postoperative CT studies were included in the final analysis. Screw accuracy was measured as the net deviation of the planned trajectory from the actual screw trajectory in the mediolateral, cephalocaudal, and screw long axes.

RESULTS

The authors identified 47 patients, 51% male, whose pedicles had been instrumented with a total of 254 screws (63 thoracic, 191 lumbosacral). The patients had a mean age of 61.1 years and a mean BMI of 30.0 kg/m2. The mean screw tip accuracies were 1.3 ± 1.3 mm, 1.2 ± 1.1 mm, and 2.6 ± 2.2 mm in the mediolateral, cephalocaudal, and screw long axes, respectively, for a net linear deviation of 3.6 ± 2.3 mm and net angular deviation of 3.6° ± 2.8°. According to the Gertzbein-Robbins grading system, 184 screws (72%) were classified as grade A and 70 screws (28%) as grade B. Placement of 100% of the screws was clinically acceptable.

CONCLUSIONS

The accuracy of the discussed robotic spine system is similar to that described for other surgical systems. Additionally, the authors outline a new method of grading screw placement accuracy that measures deviation in all three relevant axes. This grading system could provide the error signal necessary for unsupervised machine learning by robotic systems, which would in turn support continued improvement in instrumentation placement accuracy.

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Jeff Ehresman, Zach Pennington, Aditya V. Karhade, Sakibul Huq, Ravi Medikonda, Andrew Schilling, James Feghali, Andrew Hersh, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Erick M. Westbroek, Joseph H. Schwab and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Incidental durotomy is a common complication of elective lumbar spine surgery seen in up to 11% of cases. Prior studies have suggested patient age and body habitus along with a history of prior surgery as being associated with an increased risk of dural tear. To date, no calculator has been developed for quantifying risk. Here, the authors’ aim was to identify independent predictors of incidental durotomy, present a novel predictive calculator, and externally validate a novel method to identify incidental durotomies using natural language processing (NLP).

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed all patients who underwent elective lumbar spine procedures at a tertiary academic hospital for degenerative pathologies between July 2016 and November 2018. Data were collected regarding surgical details, patient demographic information, and patient medical comorbidities. The primary outcome was incidental durotomy, which was identified both through manual extraction and the NLP algorithm. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify independent predictors of incidental durotomy. Bootstrapping was then employed to estimate optimism in the model, which was corrected for; this model was converted to a calculator and deployed online.

RESULTS

Of the 1279 elective lumbar surgery patients included in this study, incidental durotomy occurred in 108 (8.4%). Risk factors for incidental durotomy on multivariable logistic regression were increased surgical duration, older age, revision versus index surgery, and case starts after 4 pm. This model had an area under curve (AUC) of 0.73 in predicting incidental durotomies. The previously established NLP method was used to identify cases of incidental durotomy, of which it demonstrated excellent discrimination (AUC 0.97).

CONCLUSIONS

Using multivariable analysis, the authors found that increased surgical duration, older patient age, cases started after 4 pm, and a history of prior spine surgery are all independent positive predictors of incidental durotomy in patients undergoing elective lumbar surgery. Additionally, the authors put forth the first version of a clinical calculator for durotomy risk that could be used prospectively by spine surgeons when counseling patients about their surgical risk. Lastly, the authors presented an external validation of an NLP algorithm used to identify incidental durotomies through the review of free-text operative notes. The authors believe that these tools can aid clinicians and researchers in their efforts to prevent this costly complication in spine surgery.

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Jeff Ehresman, Zach Pennington, Andrew Schilling, Ravi Medikonda, Sakibul Huq, Kevin R. Merkel, A. Karim Ahmed, Ethan Cottrill, Daniel Lubelski, Erick M. Westbroek, Salia Farrokh, Steven M. Frank and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Blood transfusions are given to approximately one-fifth of patients undergoing elective lumbar spine surgery, and previous studies have shown that transfusions are accompanied by increased complications and additional costs. One method for decreasing transfusions is administration of tranexamic acid (TXA). The authors sought to evaluate whether the cost of TXA is offset by the decrease in blood utilization in lumbar spine surgery patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed patients who underwent elective lumbar or thoracolumbar surgery for degenerative conditions at a tertiary care center between 2016 and 2018. Patients who received intraoperative TXA (TXA patients) were matched with patients who did not receive TXA (non-TXA patients) by age, sex, BMI, ASA (American Society of Anesthesiologists) physical status class, and surgical invasiveness score. Primary endpoints were intraoperative blood loss, number of packed red blood cell (PRBC) units transfused, and total hemostasis costs, defined as the sum of TXA costs and blood transfusion costs throughout the hospital stay. A subanalysis was then performed by substratifying both cohorts into short-length (1–4 levels) and long-length (5–8 levels) spinal constructs.

RESULTS

Of the 1353 patients who met inclusion criteria, 68 TXA patients were matched to 68 non-TXA patients. Patients in the TXA group had significantly decreased mean intraoperative blood loss (1039 vs 1437 mL, p = 0.01). There were no differences between the patient groups in the total costs of blood transfusion and TXA (p = 0.5). When the 2 patient groups were substratified by length of construct, the long-length construct group showed a significant net cost savings of $328.69 per patient in the TXA group (p = 0.027). This result was attributable to the finding that patients undergoing long-length construct surgeries who were given TXA received a lower amount of PRBC units throughout their hospital stay (2.4 vs 4.0, p = 0.007).

CONCLUSIONS

TXA use was associated with decreased intraoperative blood loss and significant reductions in total hemostasis costs for patients undergoing surgery on more than 4 levels. Furthermore, the use of TXA in patients who received short constructs led to no additional net costs. With the increasing emphasis put on value-based care interventions, use of TXA may represent one mechanism for decreasing total care costs, particularly in the cases of larger spine constructs.