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Antonio A. Faundez and Jean Charles Le Huec

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Thomas J. Buell, Shay Bess, Ming Xu, Frank J. Schwab, Virginie Lafage, Christopher P. Ames, Christopher I. Shaffrey, and Justin S. Smith

OBJECTIVE

Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) is, in part, due to altered segmental biomechanics at the junction of rigid instrumented spine and relatively hypermobile non-instrumented adjacent segments. Proper application of posteriorly anchored polyethylene tethers (i.e., optimal configuration and tension) may mitigate adjacent-segment stress and help prevent PJK. The purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of different tether configurations and tensioning (preloading) on junctional range-of-motion (ROM) and other biomechanical indices for PJK in long instrumented spine constructs.

METHODS

Using a validated finite element model of a T7–L5 spine segment, testing was performed on intact spine, a multilevel posterior screw-rod construct (PS construct; T11–L5) without tether, and 15 PS constructs with different tether configurations that varied according to 1) proximal tether fixation of upper instrumented vertebra +1 (UIV+1) and/or UIV+2; 2) distal tether fixation to UIV, to UIV−1, or to rods; and 3) use of a loop (single proximal fixation) or weave (UIV and/or UIV+1 fixation in addition to UIV+1 and/or UIV+2 proximal attachment) of the tether. Segmental ROM, intradiscal pressure (IDP), inter- and supraspinous ligament (ISL/SSL) forces, and screw loads were assessed under variable tether preload.

RESULTS

PS construct junctional ROM increased abruptly from 10% (T11–12) to 99% (T10–11) of baseline. After tethers were grouped by most cranial proximal fixation (UIV+1 vs UIV+2) and use of loop versus weave, UIV+2 Loop and/or Weave most effectively dampened junctional ROM and adjacent-segment stress. Different distal fixation and use of loop versus weave had minimal effect. The mean segmental ROM at T11–12, T10–11, and T9–10, respectively, was 6%, 40%, and 99% for UIV+1 Loop; 6%, 44%, and 99% for UIV+1 Weave; 5%, 23%, and 26% for UIV+2 Loop; and 5%, 24%, and 31% for UIV+2 Weave.

Tethers shared loads with posterior ligaments; consequently, increasing tether preload tension reduced ISL/SSL forces, but screw loads increased. Further attenuation of junctional ROM and IDP reversed above approximately 100 N tether preload, suggesting diminished benefit for biomechanical PJK prophylaxis at higher preload tensioning.

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, finite element analysis demonstrated UIV+2 Loop and/or Weave tether configurations most effectively mitigated adjacent-segment stress in long instrumented spine constructs. Tether preload dampened ligament forces at the expense of screw loads, and an inflection point (approximately 100 N) was demonstrated above which junctional ROM and IDP worsened (i.e., avoid over-tightening tethers). Results suggest tether configuration and tension influence PJK biomechanics and further clinical research is warranted.

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Michael Akbar, Haidara Almansour, Renaud Lafage, Bassel G. Diebo, Bernd Wiedenhöfer, Frank Schwab, Virginie Lafage, and Wojciech Pepke

OBJECTIVE

The goal of this study was to investigate the impact of thoracic and lumbar alignment on cervical alignment in patients with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).

METHODS

Eighty-one patients with AIS who had a Cobb angle > 40° and full-length spine radiographs were included. Radiographs were analyzed using dedicated software to measure pelvic parameters (sacral slope [SS], pelvic incidence [PI], pelvic tilt [PT]); regional parameters (C1 slope, C0–C2 angle, chin-brow vertical angle [CBVA], slope of line of sight [SLS], McRae slope, McGregor slope [MGS], C2–7 [cervical lordosis; CL], C2–7 sagittal vertical axis [SVA], C2–T3, C2–T3 SVA, C2–T1 Harrison measurement [C2–T1 Ha], T1 slope, thoracic kyphosis [TK], lumbar lordosis [LL], and PI-LL mismatch); and global parameters (SVA). Patients were stratified by their lumbar alignment into hyperlordotic (LL > 59.7°) and normolordotic (LL 39.3° to 59.7°) groups and also, based on their thoracic alignment, into hypokyphotic (TK < −33.1°) and normokyphotic (TK −33.1° to −54.9°) groups. Finally, they were grouped based on their global alignment into either an anterior-aligned group or a posterior-aligned group.

RESULTS

The lumbar hyperlordotic group, in comparison to the normolordotic group, had a significantly larger LL, SS, PI (all p < 0.001), and TK (p = 0.014) and a significantly smaller PI-LL mismatch (p = 0.001). Lumbar lordosis had no influence on local cervical parameters.

The thoracic hypokyphotic group had a significantly larger PI-LL mismatch (p < 0.002) and smaller T1 slope (p < 0.001), and was significantly more posteriorly aligned than the normokyphotic group (−15.02 ± 8.04 vs 13.54 ± 6.17 [mean ± SEM], p = 0.006). The patients with hypokyphotic AIS had a kyphotic cervical spine (cervical kyphosis [CK]) (p < 0.001). Furthermore, a posterior-aligned cervical spine in terms of C2–7 SVA (p < 0.006) and C2–T3 SVA (p < 0.001) was observed in the thoracic hypokyphotic group.

Comparing patients in terms of global alignment, the posterior-aligned group had a significantly smaller T1 slope (p < 0.001), without any difference in terms of pelvic, lumbar, and thoracic parameters when compared to the anterior-aligned group. The posterior-aligned group also had a CK (−9.20 ± 1.91 vs 5.21 ± 2.95 [mean ± SEM], p < 0.001) and a more posterior-aligned cervical spine, as measured by C2–7 SVA (p = 0.003) and C2–T3 SVA (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Alignment of the cervical spine is closely related to thoracic curvature and global alignment. In patients with AIS, a hypokyphotic thoracic alignment or posterior global alignment was associated with a global cervical kyphosis. Interestingly, upper cervical and cranial parameters were not statistically different in all investigated groups, meaning that the upper cervical spine was not recruited for compensation in order to maintain a horizontal gaze.

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Justin K. Scheer, Jessica A. Tang, Justin S. Smith, Frank L. Acosta Jr., Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Benjamin Blondel, Shay Bess, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Vedat Deviren, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Christopher P. Ames, and the International Spine Study Group

This paper is a narrative review of normal cervical alignment, methods for quantifying alignment, and how alignment is associated with cervical deformity, myelopathy, and adjacent-segment disease (ASD), with discussions of health-related quality of life (HRQOL). Popular methods currently used to quantify cervical alignment are discussed including cervical lordosis, sagittal vertical axis, and horizontal gaze with the chin-brow to vertical angle. Cervical deformity is examined in detail as deformities localized to the cervical spine affect, and are affected by, other parameters of the spine in preserving global sagittal alignment. An evolving trend is defining cervical sagittal alignment. Evidence from a few recent studies suggests correlations between radiographic parameters in the cervical spine and HRQOL. Analysis of the cervical regional alignment with respect to overall spinal pelvic alignment is critical. The article details mechanisms by which cervical kyphotic deformity potentially leads to ASD and discusses previous studies that suggest how postoperative sagittal malalignment may promote ASD. Further clinical studies are needed to explore the relationship of cervical malalignment and the development of ASD. Sagittal alignment of the cervical spine may play a substantial role in the development of cervical myelopathy as cervical deformity can lead to spinal cord compression and cord tension. Surgical correction of cervical myelopathy should always take into consideration cervical sagittal alignment, as decompression alone may not decrease cord tension induced by kyphosis. Awareness of the development of postlaminectomy kyphosis is critical as it relates to cervical myelopathy. The future direction of cervical deformity correction should include a comprehensive approach in assessing global cervicalpelvic relationships. Just as understanding pelvic incidence as it relates to lumbar lordosis was crucial in building our knowledge of thoracolumbar deformities, T-1 incidence and cervical sagittal balance can further our understanding of cervical deformities. Other important parameters that account for the cervical-pelvic relationship are surveyed in detail, and it is recognized that all such parameters need to be validated in studies that correlate HRQOL outcomes following cervical deformity correction.

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Shay Bess, Jeffrey E. Harris, Alexander W. L. Turner, Virginie LaFage, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Frank J. Schwab, and Regis W. Haid Jr.

OBJECTIVE

Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) remains problematic following multilevel instrumented spine surgery. Previous biomechanical studies indicate that providing less rigid fixation at the cranial aspect of a long posterior instrumented construct, via transition rods or hooks at the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV), may provide a gradual transition to normal motion and prevent PJK. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability of posterior anchored polyethylene tethers to distribute proximal motion segment stiffness in long instrumented spine constructs.

METHODS

A finite element model of a T7–L5 spine segment was created to evaluate range of motion (ROM), intradiscal pressure, pedicle screw loads, and forces in the posterior ligament complex within and adjacent to the proximal terminus of an instrumented spine construct. Six models were tested: 1) intact spine; 2) bilateral, segmental pedicle screws (PS) at all levels from T-11 through L-5; 3) bilateral pedicle screws from T-12 to L-5 and transverse process hooks (TPH) at T-11 (the UIV); 4) pedicle screws from T-11 to L5 and 1-level tethers from T-10 to T-11 (TE-UIV+1); 5) pedicle screws from T-11 to L-5 and 2-level tethers from T-9 to T-11 (TE-UIV+2); and 6) pedicle screws and 3-level tethers from T-8 to T-11 (TE-UIV+3).

RESULTS

Proximal-segment range of motion (ROM) for the PS construct increased from 16% at UIV−1 to 91% at UIV. Proximal-segment ROM for the TPH construct increased from 27% at UIV−1 to 92% at UIV. Posterior tether constructs distributed ROM at the UIV and cranial adjacent segments most effectively; ROM for TE-UIV+1 was 14% of the intact model at UIV−1, 76% at UIV, and 98% at UIV+1. ROM for TE-UIV+2 was 10% at UIV−1, 51% at UIV, 69% at UIV+1, and 97% at UIV+2. ROM for TE-UIV+3 was 7% at UIV−1, 33% at UIV, 45% at UIV+1, and 64% at UIV+2. Proximal segment intradiscal pressures, pedicle screw loads, and ligament forces in the posterior ligament complex were progressively reduced with increasing number of posterior tethers used.

CONCLUSIONS

Finite element analysis of long instrumented spine constructs demonstrated that posterior tethers created a more gradual transition in ROM and adjacent-segment stress from the instrumented to the noninstrumented spine compared with all PS and TPH constructs. Posterior tethers may limit the biomechanical risk factor for PJK; however, further clinical research is needed to evaluate clinical efficacy.

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Bassel G. Diebo, Jonathan H. Oren, Vincent Challier, Renaud Lafage, Emmanuelle Ferrero, Shian Liu, Shaleen Vira, Matthew Adam Spiegel, Bradley Yates Harris, Barthelemy Liabaud, Jensen K. Henry, Thomas J. Errico, Frank J. Schwab, and Virginie Lafage

OBJECTIVE

Sagittal malalignment requires higher energy expenditure to maintain an erect posture. Because the clinical impact of sagittal alignment is affected by both the severity of the deformity and recruitment of compensatory mechanisms, it is important to investigate new parameters that reflect both disability level and compensatory mechanisms for all patients. This study investigated the clinical relevance of the global sagittal axis (GSA), a novel measure to evaluate the standing axis of the human body.

METHODS

This is a retrospective review of patients who underwent full-body radiographs and completed health-related quality of life (HRQOL) questionnaires: Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Scoliosis Research Society–22, EuroQol-5D (EQ-5D), and the visual analog scale for back and leg pain. The GSA was defined as the angle formed by a line from the midpoint of the femoral condyles to the center of C-7, and a line from the midpoint between the femoral condyles to the posterior superior corner of the S-1 sacral endplate. After evaluating the correlation of GSA/HRQOL with sagittal parameters, linear regression models were generated to investigate how ODI and GSA related to radiographic parameters (T-1 pelvic angle, pelvic retroversion, knee flexion, and pelvic posterior translation).

RESULTS

One hundred forty-three patients (mean age 44 years) were included. The GSA correlated significantly with all HRQOL (up to r = 0.6 with EQ-5D) and radiographic parameters (up to r = 0.962 with sagittal vertical axis). Regression between ODI and sagittal radiographic parameters identified the GSA as an independent predictor (r = 0.517, r2 = 0.267; p < 0.001). Analysis of standardized coefficients revealed that when controlling for deformity, the GSA increased with a concurrent decrease in pelvic retroversion (−0.837) and increases in knee flexion (+0.287) and pelvic posterior translation (+0.193).

CONCLUSIONS

The GSA is a simple, novel measure to assess the standing axis of the human body in the sagittal plane. The GSA correlated highly with spinopelvic and lower-extremities sagittal parameters and exhibited remarkable correlations with HRQOL, which exceeded other commonly used parameters.

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Elizabeth L. Yanik, Michael P. Kelly, Jon D. Lurie, Christine R. Baldus, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Frank J. Schwab, Shay Bess, Lawrence G. Lenke, Adam LaBore, and Keith H. Bridwell

OBJECTIVE

Adult symptomatic lumbar scoliosis (ASLS) is a common and disabling condition. The ASLS-1 was a multicenter, dual-arm study (with randomized and observational cohorts) examining operative and nonoperative care on health-related quality of life in ASLS. An aim of ASLS-1 was to determine patient and radiographic factors that modify the effect of operative treatment for ASLS.

METHODS

Patients 40–80 years old with ASLS were enrolled in randomized and observational cohorts at 9 North American centers. Primary outcomes were the differences in mean change from baseline to 2-year follow-up for the SRS-22 subscore (SRS-SS) and the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Analyses were performed using an as-treated approach with combined cohorts. Factors examined were prespecified or determined using regression tree analysis. For each potential effect modifier, subgroups were created using clinically relevant cutoffs or via regression trees. Estimates of within-group and between-group change were compared using generalized linear mixed models. An effect modifier was defined as a treatment effect difference greater than the minimal detectable measurement difference for both SRS-SS (0.4) and ODI (7).

RESULTS

Two hundred eighty-six patients were enrolled and 256 (90%) completed 2-year follow-up; 171 received operative treatment and 115 received nonoperative treatment. Surgery was superior to nonoperative care for all effect subgroups considered, with the exception of those with nearly normal pelvic incidence−lumbar lordosis (PI–LL) match (≤ 11°). Male patients and patients with more (> 11°) PI–LL mismatch at baseline had greater operative treatment effects on both the SRS-SS and ODI compared to nonoperative treatment. No other radiographic subgroups were associated with treatment effects. High BMI, lower socioeconomic status, and poor mental health were not related to worse outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS

Numerous factors previously related to poor outcomes with surgery, such as low mental health, lower socioeconomic status, and high BMI, were not related to outcomes in ASLS in this exploratory analysis. Those patients with higher PI–LL mismatch did improve more with surgery than those with normal alignment. On average, none of the factors considered were associated with a worse outcome with operative treatment versus nonoperative treatment. These findings may guide future prospective analyses of factors related to outcomes in ASLS care.

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Kseniya Slobodyanyuk, Caroline E. Poorman, Justin S. Smith, Themistocles S. Protopsaltis, Richard Hostin, Shay Bess, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Frank J. Schwab, and Virginie Lafage

Object

The goal of this study was to determine the outcome and risk factors in patients with adult spinal deformity (ASD) who elected to receive nonoperative care.

Methods

In this retrospective study the authors reviewed a nonoperative branch of the International Spine Study Group database, derived from 10 sites across the US. Specific inclusion criteria included nonoperative treatment for ASD and the availability of Scoliosis Research Society (SRS)-22 scores and radiographic data at baseline (BL) and at 1-year (1Y) follow-up. Health-related quality of life measures were assessed using the SRS-22 and radiographic data. Changes in SRS-22 scores were evaluated by domain and expressed in number of minimum clinically important differences (MCIDs) gained or lost; BL and 1Y scores were also compared with age- and sex-matched normative references.

Results

One hundred eighty-nine patients (mean age 53 years, 86% female) met inclusion criteria. Pain was the domain with the largest offset for 43% of patients, followed by the Appearance (23%), Activity (18%), and Mental (15%) domains. On average, patients improved 0.3 MCID in Pain over 1Y, without changes in Activity or Appearance. Baseline scores significantly impacted 1Y outcomes, with up to 85% of patients in the mildest category of deformity being classified as < 1 MCID of normative reference at 1Y, versus 0% of patients with the most severe initial deformity. Baseline radiographic parameters did not correlate with outcome.

Conclusions

Patients who received nonoperative care are significantly more disabled than age- and sex-matched normative references. The likelihood for a patient to reach SRS scores similar to the normative reference at 1Y decreases with increased BL disability. Nonoperative treatment is a viable option for certain patients with ASD, and up to 24% of patients demonstrated significant improvement over 1Y with nonoperative care.

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Michael P. Kelly, Lawrence G. Lenke, Jakub Godzik, Ferran Pellise, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Justin S. Smith, Stephen J. Lewis, Christopher P. Ames, Leah Y. Carreon, Michael G. Fehlings, Frank Schwab, and Adam L. Shimer

OBJECTIVE

The authors conducted a study to compare neurological deficit rates associated with complex adult spinal deformity (ASD) surgery when recorded in retrospective and prospective studies. Retrospective studies may underreport neurological deficits due to selection, detection, and recall biases. Prospective studies are expensive and more difficult to perform, but they likely provide more accurate estimates of new neurological deficit rates.

METHODS

New neurological deficits were recorded in a prospective study of complex ASD surgeries (pSR1) with a defined outcomes measure (decrement in American Spinal Injury Association lower-extremity motor score) for neurological deficits. Using identical inclusion criteria and a subset of participating surgeons, a retrospective study was created (rSR1) and neurological deficit rates were collected. Continuous variables were compared with the Student t-test, with correction for multiple comparisons. Neurological deficit rates were compared using the Mantel-Haenszel method for standardized risks. Statistical significance for the primary outcome measure was p < 0.05.

RESULTS

Overall, 272 patients were enrolled in pSR1 and 207 patients were enrolled in rSR1. Inclusion criteria, defining complex spinal deformities, and exclusion criteria were identical. Sagittal Cobb measurements were higher in pSR1, although sagittal alignment was similar. Preoperative neurological deficit rates were similar in the groups. Three-column osteotomies were more common in pSR1, particularly vertebral column resection. New neurological deficits were more common in pSR1 (pSR1 17.3% [95% CI 12.6–22.2] and rSR1 9.0% [95% CI 5.0–13.0]; p = 0.01). The majority of deficits in both studies were at the nerve root level, and the distribution of level of injury was similar.

CONCLUSIONS

New neurological deficit rates were nearly twice as high in the prospective study than the retrospective study with identical inclusion criteria. These findings validate concerns regarding retrospective cohort studies and confirm the need for and value of carefully designed prospective, observational cohort studies in ASD.

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Carolyn J. Sparrey, Jeannie F. Bailey, Michael Safaee, Aaron J. Clark, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, Justin S. Smith, and Christopher P. Ames

The goal of this review is to discuss the mechanisms of postural degeneration, particularly the loss of lumbar lordosis commonly observed in the elderly in the context of evolution, mechanical, and biological studies of the human spine and to synthesize recent research findings to clinical management of postural malalignment. Lumbar lordosis is unique to the human spine and is necessary to facilitate our upright posture. However, decreased lumbar lordosis and increased thoracic kyphosis are hallmarks of an aging human spinal column. The unique upright posture and lordotic lumbar curvature of the human spine suggest that an understanding of the evolution of the human spinal column, and the unique anatomical features that support lumbar lordosis may provide insight into spine health and degeneration. Considering evolution of the skeleton in isolation from other scientific studies provides a limited picture for clinicians. The evolution and development of human lumbar lordosis highlight the interdependence of pelvic structure and lumbar lordosis. Studies of fossils of human lineage demonstrate a convergence on the degree of lumbar lordosis and the number of lumbar vertebrae in modern Homo sapiens. Evolution and spine mechanics research show that lumbar lordosis is dictated by pelvic incidence, spinal musculature, vertebral wedging, and disc health. The evolution, mechanics, and biology research all point to the importance of spinal posture and flexibility in supporting optimal health. However, surgical management of postural deformity has focused on restoring posture at the expense of flexibility. It is possible that the need for complex and costly spinal fixation can be eliminated by developing tools for early identification of patients at risk for postural deformities through patient history (genetics, mechanics, and environmental exposure) and tracking postural changes over time.