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Christian Ewelt, Susanne Stalder, Hans-Jakob Steiger, Gerhard Hildebrandt and Raoul Heilbronner

Object

Spinal cordectomy has recently become more important in the treatment of end-stage posttraumatic or postoperative syringomyelia and arachnopathy as a last resort to manage ascending neurological dysfunction, spasticity, and pain in paraplegic patients. The aim in this study was to confirm a clinical benefit in strict indications for cordectomy.

Methods

Between February 2000 and September 2007, 15 spinal cordectomies were performed at the Department of Neurosurgery, Cantonal Hospital, St. Gallen. Indications for treatment were end-stage myelopathies caused by syringomyelia, tethered cord syndrome, and arachnopathy with progressive spasticity and pain or progressive upper-level neurological deficits related to the tethered cord syndrome. All patients had severe motor and sensory deficits with no residual voluntary function below the affected level.

Results

Fourteen of 15 patients showed stabilization or even an improvement in motor and sensory function. Four patients suffered from progressive spasticity and 3 from deterioration due to pain. There were no other adverse surgical events.

Conclusions

Cordectomy can be a useful instrument to preserve functions of the upper extremities and to improve spasticity and pain in patients with severe myelopathy and tethered cord, syringomyelia, or arachnopathy of various etiologies.

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Martin Nikolaus Stienen, Werner Surbeck, Ulrich Tröhler and Gerhard Hildebrandt

The understanding of lumbar spine pathologies made substantial progress at the turn of the twentieth century. The authors review the original publication of Otto Veraguth in 1929 reporting on the successful resection of a herniated lumbar disc, published exclusively in the German language. His early report is put into the historical context, and its impact on the understanding of pathologies of the intervertebral disc (IVD) is estimated. The Swiss surgeon and Nobel Prize laureate Emil Theodor Kocher was among the first physicians to describe the traumatic rupture of the IVD in 1896. As early as 1909 Oppenheim and Krause published 2 case reports on surgery for a herniated lumbar disc. Goldthwait was the first physician to delineate the etiopathogenes is between annulus rupture, symptoms of sciatica, and neurological signs in his publication of 1911. Further publications by Middleton and Teacher in 1911 and Schmorl in 1929 added to the understanding of lumbar spinal pathologies. In 1929, the Swiss neurologist Veraguth (surgery performed by Hans Brun) and the American neurosurgeon Walter Edward Dandy both published their early experiences with the surgical therapy of a herniated lumbar disc. Veraguth's contribution, however, has not been appreciated internationally to date. The causal relationship between lumbar disc pathology and sciatica remained uncertain for some years to come. The causal relationship was not confirmed until Mixter and Barr's landmark paper in 1934 describing the association of sciatica and lumbar disc herniation, after which the surgical treatment became increasingly popular. Veraguth was among the first physicians to report on the clinical course of a patient with successful resection of a herniated lumbar disc. His observations should be acknowledged in view of the limited experience and literature on this ailment at that time.

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Martin N. Stienen, Werner Surbeck and Gerhard Hildebrandt

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Martin N. Stienen, Nicolas R. Smoll, Holger Joswig, Marco V. Corniola, Karl Schaller, Gerhard Hildebrandt and Oliver P. Gautschi

OBJECTIVE

The Timed Up and Go (TUG) test is a simple, objective, and standardized method to measure objective functional impairment (OFI) in patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). The objective of the current work was to validate the OFI baseline severity stratification (BSS; with levels of “none,” “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe”).

METHODS

Data were collected in a prospective IRB-approved 2-center study. Patients were assessed with a comprehensive panel of scales for measuring pain (visual analog scale [VAS] for back and leg pain), functional impairment (Roland-Morris Disability Index [RMDI] and Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]), and health-related quality of life (HRQOL; EQ-5D and SF-12). OFI BSS was determined using age- and sex-adjusted cutoff values.

RESULTS

A total of 375 consecutive patients scheduled for lumbar spine surgery were included. Each 1-step increase on the OFI BSS corresponded to an increase of 0.53 in the back pain VAS score, 0.69 in the leg pain VAS score, 1.81 points in the RMDI, and 5.93 points in the ODI, as well as to a decrease in HRQOL of −0.073 in the EQ-5D, −1.99 in the SF-12 physical component summary (PCS), and −1.62 in the SF-12 mental component summary (MCS; all p < 0.001). Patients with mild, moderate, and severe OFI had increased leg pain by 0.90 (p = 0.044), 1.54 (p < 0.001), and 1.94 (p < 0.001); increased ODI by 7.99 (p = 0.004), 12.64 (p < 0.001), and 17.13 (p < 0.001); and decreased SF-12 PCS by −2.57 (p = 0.049), −3.63 (p = 0.003), and −6.23 (p < 0.001), respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

The OFI BSS is a valid measure of functional impairment for use in daily clinical practice. The presence of OFI indicates the presence of significant functional impairment on subjective outcome measures.