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  • Author or Editor: Giannina L. Garces Ambrossi x
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Joseph C. Noggle, Daniel M. Sciubba, Clarke Nelson, Giannina L. Garcés-Ambrossi, Edward Ahn and George I. Jallo

Object

Treatments for brain abscesses have typically involved invasive craniotomies followed by debridement. These methods often require large incisions with vast exposure and may be associated with high morbidity rates. For supraorbital lesions of the anterior and middle cranial fossa, minimally invasive craniotomies may limit exposure and decrease surgically related morbidity while allowing adequate debridement and decompression. The authors report their experience in treating frontal epidural abscesses in pediatric patients through minimally invasive supraciliary craniotomies over a 4-year period.

Methods

Three pediatric patients with frontal epidural abscesses underwent minimally invasive debridement procedures. Each procedure consisted of a supraciliary incision and a small craniotomy to expose the abscess. All patients underwent pre- and postoperative radiological evaluation including computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. Data were collected on preoperative characteristics, operative management, and postoperative outcomes.

Results

Two patients were male and 1 patient was female. The ages of the patients ranged from 6 to 10 years (mean 8 years). A frontal abscess was diagnosed in all patients, and all were treated surgically without perioperative complications. Microbes cultured postoperatively included methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus in 2 patients and Staphylococcus viridans in 1 patient. The mean follow-up duration was 12.3 months. No neurological or vascular complications were noted during follow-up. All patients were treated with antibiotics postoperatively and experienced resolution of symptoms and excellent outcomes.

Conclusions

Frontal epidural abscesses can be adequately and safely debrided via a minimally invasive supraciliary craniotomy. This approach has a cosmetic benefit and may decrease approach-related morbidity.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Beril Gok, Starane Shepherd, Joseph Noggle, Giannina L. Garcés Ambrossi, Ali Bydon and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object

Hyperglycemia has been shown to potentiate ischemic injury of the spinal cord by quenching vasodilators and potentiating tissue acidosis and free radical production. Steroid-induced hyperglycemia is a common event in the surgical management of metastatic epidural spinal cord compression (MESCC). The goal in this study was to determine whether experimentally induced hyperglycemia accelerates neurological decline in an established animal model of MESCC.

Methods

Sixteen Fischer 344 rats underwent a transabdominal approach for implantation of a CRL-1666 breast adenocarcinoma cell line within the vertebral body of L-6. After 72 hours of recovery from tumor implantation, the animals received intraperitoneal injections every 12 hours of either 2 g/kg dextrose in 5 ml 0.09% saline (hyperglycemia, 8 rats) or 5 ml 0.09% saline alone (normoglycemia, 8 rats). Weights were taken daily, and the hindlimb function was tested daily after tumor implantation by using the Basso-Beattie-Bresnahan (BBB) scale (score range 1–21). Animals were killed at time of paralysis (BBB Score < 7), and the volume of epidural tumor growth within the spinal canal was measured. To determine the degree of hyperglycemia induced by this dextrose regimen, a surrogate group of 10 Fischer 344 rats underwent intraperitoneal injections of 2 g/kg dextrose (5 rats) or 0.09% saline (5 rats) every 12 hours, and serum glucose levels were assessed 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12 hours after injections for 24 hours.

Results

Dextrose versus saline injections resulted in elevated mean serum glucose at 3 (259 vs 103 μg/dl), 6 (219 vs 102 μg/dl), 8 (169 vs 102 μg/dl), and 10 hours (118 vs 99 μg/dl) after injection, returning to normal levels by 12 hours (96 vs 103 μg/dl) just prior to subsequent injection. All rats had normal hindlimb function for the first 8 days after tumor implantation. Hyperglycemic versus normoglycemic rats demonstrated a worsened median BBB score by postimplantation Day 9 (Score 20 vs 21, p = 0.023) through Day 16 (Score 8 vs 12, p = 0.047). Epidural tumor volume demonstrated a near-linear growth rate across both groups; however, hyperglycemic rats developed paralysis earlier (median 15.5 vs 17.5 days, p = 0.0035), with significantly less epidural tumor volume (2.75 ± 0.38 cm3 vs 4 ± 0.41 cm3, p < 0.001) at time of paralysis.

Conclusions

In a rat model of metastatic epidural spinal cord compression, rats maintained in a hyperglycemic state experienced accelerated time to paralysis. Also, less epidural tumor volume was required to cause paralysis in hyperglycemic rats. These results suggest that hyperglycemic states may contribute to decreased spinal cord tolerance to compression resulting from MESCC. Clinical studies evaluating the effect of aggressive glucose control in patients with MESCC may be warranted.

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Daniel M. Sciubba, Rory J. Petteys, Giannina L. Garces-Ambrossi, Joseph C. Noggle, Matthew J. McGirt, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Timothy F. Witham and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Sacral tumors pose significant challenges to the managing physician from diagnostic and therapeutic perspectives. Although these tumors are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, patients may benefit from good clinical outcomes if an aggressive multidisciplinary approach is used. In this review, the epidemiology, clinical presentation, imaging characteristics, treatment options, and published outcomes are discussed. Special attention is given to the specific anatomical constraints that make tumors in this region of the spine more difficult to effectively manage than those in the mobile portions of the spine.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Giannina L. Garces Ambrossi, Judy Huang and Rafael J. Tamargo

Object

Vasospasm is the major cause of disability and death after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH). Although the results of 2 randomized clinical trials demonstrated that statin decreases the incidence of symptomatic cerebral vasospasm after aSAH, retrospective studies have failed to confirm this. The authors conducted a prospective observational study to determine whether a standardized regimen of simvastatin would reduce the incidence of cerebral vasospasm and improve neurological outcomes in patients with aSAH.

Methods

Since 1991, all patients with aSAH admitted to the authors' institution have been prospectively followed up with standardized outcomes recording. Starting in September 2005, all patients admitted with aSAH were given enteral simvastatin (80 mg/day for 14 days) in addition to the standard care. The incidence of symptomatic cerebral vasospasm, length of hospitalization, in-hospital mortality rate, and discharge Glasgow Outcome Scale scores in these 170 patients were compared to data obtained in 170 consecutive patients who underwent treatment in our unit prior to the introduction of statin therapy.

Results

The 5-year study period included 340 consecutively treated patients (170 who received statins and 170 who did not). Patients who received simvastatin therapy were more frequently male (29 vs 20%) and had a smaller median aneurysm diameter (6 vs 7 mm). Baseline characteristics were otherwise similar between the cohorts. There were no differences in the incidence of symptomatic vasospasm (25.3 vs 30.5%; p = 0.277), in-hospital mortality rate (18 vs 15%; p = 0.468), length of hospitalization (21 ± 15 vs 19 ± 12 days; p = 0.281), or poor outcome at discharge (Glasgow Outcome Scale Scores 1–2: 21.7 vs 18.2%; p = 0.416) between the simvastatin and nonstatin cohorts. There were no statin-related complications.

Conclusions

The uniform introduction of simvastatin did not reduce the incidence of symptomatic cerebral vasospasm, death, or poor outcome in patients with aSAH. Simvastatin was well tolerated, but its benefit may be less than has been previously reported.

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Giannina L. Garcés-Ambrossi, Matthew J. McGirt, Roger Samuels, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and George I. Jallo

Object

Although postsurgical neurological outcomes in patients with tethered cord syndrome (TCS) are well known, the rate and development of neurological improvement after first-time tethered cord release is incompletely understood. The authors reviewed their institutional experience with the surgical management of adult TCS to assess the time course of symptomatic improvement, and to identify the patient subgroups most likely to experience improvement of motor symptoms.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed 29 consecutive cases of first-time adult tethered cord release. Clinical symptoms of pain and motor and urinary dysfunction were evaluated at 1 and 3 months after surgery, and then every 6 months thereafter. Rates of improvement in pain and motor or urinary dysfunction over time were identified, and presenting factors associated with improvement of motor symptoms were assessed using a multivariate survival analysis (Cox model).

Results

The mean patient age was 38 ± 13 years. The causes of TCS included lipomyelomeningocele in 3 patients (10%), tight filum in 3 (10%), lumbosacral lipoma in 4 (14%), intradural tumor in 3 (10%), previous lumbosacral surgery in 2 (7%), and previous repair of myelomeningocele in 14 (48%). The mean ± SD duration of symptoms before presentation was 5 ± 7 months. Clinical presentation included diffuse pain/parasthesias in both lower extremities in 13 patients (45%), or perineal distribution in 18 (62%), lower extremity weakness in 17 (59%), gait difficulties in 17 (59%), and bladder dysfunction in 14 (48%). Laminectomy was performed in a mean of 2.5 ± 0.7 levels per patient, and 9 patients (30%) received duraplasty. At 18 months postoperatively, 47% of patients had improved urinary symptoms, 69% had improved lower extremity weakness and gait, and 79% had decreased painful dysesthesias. Median time to symptomatic improvement was least for pain (1 month), then motor (2.3 months), and then urinary symptoms (4.3 months; p = 0.04). In patients demonstrating improvement, 96% improved within 6 months of surgery. Only 4% improved beyond 1-year postoperatively. In a multivariate analysis, the authors found that patients who presented with asymmetrical lower extremity weakness (p = 0.0021, hazard ratio 5.7) or lower extremity hyperreflexia (p = 0.037, hazard ratio = 4.1) were most likely to experience improvement in motor symptoms.

Conclusions

In the authors' experience, pain and motor and urinary dysfunction improve postoperatively in the majority of patients. The rate of symptomatic improvement was greatest for pain resolution, followed by motor, and then urinary improvement. Patients who experienced improvement in any symptom had done so by 6 months after tethered cord release. Patients with asymmetrical motor symptoms or lower extremity hyperreflexia at presentation were most likely to experience improvements in motor symptoms. These findings may help guide patient education and surgical decision-making.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Vivek Mehta, Giannina Garces-Ambrossi, Oren Gottfried, Can Solakoglu, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Amer Samdani and George I. Jallo

Object

Tethered cord syndrome (TCS) is frequently associated with scoliosis in the pediatric population. Following spinal cord untethering, many patients continue to experience progression of spinal deformity. However, the incidence rate, time course, and risk factors for scoliosis progression following tethered cord release remain unclear. The aim of this study was to determine factors associated with scoliosis progression and whether tethered cord release alone would halt curve progression in pediatric TCS.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed 27 consecutive pediatric cases of spinal cord untethering associated with scoliosis. The incidence rate and factors associated with scoliosis progression (> 10° increased Cobb angle) after untethering were evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results

The mean age of the patients was 8.9 years. All patients underwent cord untethering for lower-extremity weakness, back and leg pain, or bowel and bladder changes. Mean ± SD of the Cobb angle at presentation was 41 ± 16°. The cause of the spinal cord tethering included previous myelomeningocele repair in 14 patients (52%), fatty filum in 5 (18.5%), lipomeningocele in 3 (11%), diastematomyelia in 2 (7.4%), arthrogryposis in 1 (3.7%), imperforate anus with an S-2 hemivertebra in 1 (3.7%), and lipomyelomeningocele with occult dysraphism in 1 (3.7%). Mean follow-up was 6 ± 2 years. Twelve patients (44%) experienced scoliosis progression occurring a median of 2.4 years postoperatively and 8 (30%) required subsequent fusion for progression. At the time of untethering, scoliosis < 40° was associated with a 32% incidence of progression, whereas scoliosis > 40° was associated with a 75% incidence of progression (p < 0.01). Patients with Risser Grades 0–2 were also more likely to experience scoliosis progression compared with Risser Grades 3–5 (p < 0.05). Whereas nearly all patients with Risser Grades 0–2 with curves > 40° showed scoliosis progression (83%), 54% of patients with Risser Grades 0–2 with curves < 40° progressed, and no patients with Risser Grades 3–5 with curves < 40° progressed following spinal cord untethering.

Conclusions

In this experience with pediatric TCS-associated scoliosis, patients with Risser Grades 3–5 and Cobb angles < 40° did not experience curve progression after tethered cord release. Patients with Risser Grades 0–2 and Cobb angles > 40° were at greatest risk of curve progression after cord untethering. Pediatric patients with TCSassociated scoliosis should be monitored closely for curve progression using standing radiographs after spinal cord untethering, particularly those with curves > 40° or who have Risser Grades 0–2.

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Risheng Xu, Giannina L. Garcés-Ambrossi, Matthew J. McGirt, Timothy F. Witham, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Daniel M. Sciubba

Object

Adequate decompression of the thoracic spinal cord often requires a complete vertebrectomy. Such procedures can be performed from an anterior/transthoracic, posterior, or combined approach. In this study, the authors sought to compare the clinical outcomes of patients with spinal metastatic tumors undergoing anterior, posterior, and combined thoracic vertebrectomies to determine the efficacy and operative morbidity of such approaches.

Methods

A retrospective review was conducted of all patients undergoing thoracic vertebrectomies at a single institution over the past 7 years. Characteristics of patients and operative procedures were documented. Neurological status, perioperative variables, and complications were assessed and associations with each approach were analyzed.

Results

Ninety-one patients (mean age 55.5 ± 13.7 years) underwent vertebrectomies via an anterior (22 patients, 24.2%), posterior (45 patients, 49.4%), or combined anterior-posterior approach (24 patients, 26.4%) for metastatic spinal tumors. The patients did not differ significantly preoperatively in terms of neurological assessments on the Nurick and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment scales, ambulatory ability, or other comorbidities. Anterior approaches were associated with less blood loss than posterior approaches (1172 ± 1984 vs 2486 ± 1645 ml, respectively; p = 0.03) or combined approaches (1172 ± 1984 vs 2826 ± 2703 ml, respectively; p = 0.05) but were associated with a similar length of stay compared with the other treatment cohorts (11.5 ± 9.3 [anterior] vs 11.3 ± 8.6 [posterior] vs 14.3 ± 6.7 [combined] days; p = 0.35). The posterior approach was associated with a higher incidence of wound infection compared with the anterior approach cohort (26.7 vs 4.5%, respectively; p = 0.03), and patients in the posterior approach group experienced the highest rates of deep vein thrombosis (15.6% [posterior] vs 0% [other 2 groups]; p = 0.02). However, the posterior approach demonstrated the lowest incidence of pneumothorax (4.4%; p < 0.0001) compared with the other 2 cohorts. Duration of chest tube use was greater in the combined patient group compared with the anterior approach cohort (8.8 ± 6.2 vs 4.7 ± 2.3 days, respectively; p = 0.01), and the combined group also experienced the highest rates of radiographic pleural effusion (83.3%; p = 0.01). Postoperatively, all groups improved neurologically, although functional outcome in patients undergoing the combined approach improved the most compared with the other 2 groups on both the Nurick (p = 0.04) and American Spinal Injury Association Impairment scales (p = 0.03).

Conclusions

Decisions regarding the approach to thoracic vertebrectomy may be complex. This study found that although anterior approaches to the thoracic vertebrae have been historically associated with significant pulmonary complications, in our experience these rates are nevertheless quite comparable to that encountered via a posterior or combined approach. In fact, the posterior approach was found to be associated with a higher risk for some perioperative complications such as wound infection and deep vein thromboses. Finally, the combined anteriorposterior approach may provide greater ambulatory and neurological improvements in properly selected patients.

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Editorial

Factors predicting the resectability of intramedullary spinal cord tumors and the progression-free survival following microsurgical treatment

Michael G. Fehlings and David Mercier

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Giannina L. Garcés-Ambrossi, Matthew J. McGirt, Vivek A. Mehta, Daniel M. Sciubba, Timothy F. Witham, Ali Bydon, Jean-Paul Wolinksy, George I. Jallo and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object

With the introduction of electrophysiological spinal cord monitoring, surgeons have been able to perform radical resection of intramedullary spinal cord tumors (IMSCTs). However, factors associated with tumor resectability, tumor recurrence, and long-term neurological outcome are poorly understood.

Methods

The authors retrospectively reviewed 101 consecutive cases of IMSCT resection in adults and children at a single institution. Neurological function and MR images were evaluated preoperatively, at discharge, 1 month after surgery, and every 6 months thereafter. Factors associated with gross-total resection (GTR), progression-free survival (PFS), and long-term neurological improvement were assessed using multivariate regression analysis.

Results

The mean age of the patients was 41 ± 18 years and 17 (17%) of the patients were pediatric. Pathological type included ependymoma in 51 cases, hemangioblastoma in 15, pilocytic astrocytoma in 16, WHO Grade II astrocytoma in 10, and malignant astrocytoma in 9. A GTR was achieved in 60 cases (59%). Independent of histological tumor type, an intraoperatively identifiable tumor plane (OR 25.3, p < 0.0001) and decreasing tumor size (OR 1.2, p = 0.05) were associated with GTR. Thirty-four patients (34%) experienced acute neurological decline after surgery (associated with increasing age [OR 1.04, p = 0.02] and with intraoperative change in motor evoked potentials [OR 7.4, p = 0.003]); in 14 (41%) of these patients the change returned to preoperative baseline within 1 month. In 31 patients (31%) tumor progression developed by last follow-up (mean 19 months). Tumor histology (p < 0.0001) and the presence of an intraoperatively identified tumor plane (hazard ratio [HR] 0.44, p = 0.027) correlated with improved PFS. A GTR resulted in improved PFS for hemangioblastoma (HR 0.004, p = 0.04) and ependymoma (HR 0.2, p = 0.02), but not astrocytoma. Fifty-five patients (55%) maintained overall neurological improvement by last follow-up. The presence of an identifiable tumor plane (HR 3.1, p = 0.0004) and improvement in neurological symptoms before discharge (HR 2.3, p = 0.004) were associated with overall neurological improvement by last follow-up (mean 19 months).

Conclusions

Gross-total resection can be safely achieved in the vast majority of IMSCTs when an intraoperative plane is identified, independent of pathological type. The incidence of acute perioperative neurological decline increases with patient age but will improve to baseline in nearly half of patients within 1 month. Long-term improvement in motor, sensory, and bladder dysfunction may be achieved in a slight majority of patients and occurs more frequently in patients in whom a surgical plane can be identified. A GTR should be attempted for ependymoma and hemangioblastoma, but it may not affect PFS for astrocytoma. For all tumors, the intraoperative finding of a clear tumor plane of resection carries positive prognostic significance across all pathological types.