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Repair of the chronically injured human spinal cord

Michael G. Fehlings

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Vertebral body split fracture after a single-level cervical total disc replacement

Case report

Tsung-Hsi Tu, Jau-Ching Wu, Li-Yu Fay, Chin-Chu Ko, Wen-Cheng Huang, and Henrich Cheng

Cervical total disc replacement (TDR) is a viable option for the surgical treatment of degenerative disc disease. This 67-year-old nonsmoking male patient underwent single-level ProDisc-C cervical TDR at C5–6 without any intraoperative problem. His radicular pain improved and he had no neck pain immediately after the operation. However, on postoperative Day 3, a radiograph demonstrated a vertical split fracture of the C-5 vertebra. This fracture was managed conservatively, and 2 years postoperatively a follow-up CT scan demonstrated stable device position and fusion of the fracture. Although the linear fracture caused no neurological symptoms or device migration, the authors advocate prudence in selection and installation of keel-design prostheses, even in a single-level cervical TDR scenario.

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The effects of carpentry on heterotopic ossification and mobility in cervical arthroplasty: determination by computed tomography with a minimum 2-year follow-up

Clinical article

Tsung-Hsi Tu, Jau-Ching Wu, Wen-Cheng Huang, Ching-Lan Wu, Chin-Chu Ko, and Henrich Cheng

Object

Heterotopic ossification (HO) after cervical arthroplasty can limit the mobility of an artificial disc. In this study the authors used CT scanning to assess the formation of HO with the goal of investigating the correlation between the carpentry of arthroplasty, formation of HO, mobility, and clinical outcomes.

Methods

A retrospective review of medical records, radiological studies, and clinical evaluations was conducted for consecutive patients who underwent 1- or 2-level cervical arthroplasty with the Bryan disc. The patients underwent follow-up for more than 24 months. The formation of HO was assessed using CT scanning as the final determination. The perfectness of carpentry for each arthroplasty level was scrutinized using criteria composed of 2 parameters (postoperative shell kyphosis and inadequate endplate coverage). Levels were divided into the optimal carpentry group and the suboptimal carpentry group. Radiographic and clinical outcomes, including the visual analog scale and neck disability index, were compared between the groups.

Results

A total of 107 levels of Bryan discs were placed in 75 patients (mean age 46.71 ± 9.94 years) and were analyzed. There was a male predominance of 68.0% (51 men), and the mean follow-up duration was 38.56 ± 9.66 months. Heterotopic ossification was identified in 60 levels (56.1%) by CT scanning. Most cases of HO were low grade and did not correlate with the limitation in the segmental motion of the arthroplasty device. There were no significant differences in terms of age, sex, and number of arthroplasty levels between the optimal and the suboptimal carpentry groups. However, the suboptimal carpentry group had significantly more high-grade HO (≥ Grade 2) than the optimal carpentry group (13 levels [12.1%] vs 7 levels [6.5%], p = 0.027). There were also more immobile (range of motion < 3°) artificial discs in the suboptimal carpentry group than the optimal carpentry group (11 levels [10.3%] vs 4 levels [3.7%], p = 0.010). The clinical outcomes (neck and arm visual analog scale scores and Neck Disability Index) in both groups were similarly good.

Conclusions

Shell kyphosis and inadequate endplate coverage have adverse effects on the formation of HO and segmental mobility after cervical arthroplasty with the Bryan artificial disc. Appropriate carpentry is the more important factor in determining the maintenance of segmental motion. Although the midterm clinical outcome remained similarly good regardless of HO, the carpentry of cervical arthroplasty should not be overlooked. Further studies are needed to clarify the etiology of HO.

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Resection of uncovertebral joints and posterior longitudinal ligament for cervical disc arthroplasty

Tsung-Hsi Tu, Chih-Chang Chang, Jau-Ching Wu, Li-Yu Fay, Wen-Cheng Huang, and Henrich Cheng

The most commonly accepted indications for cervical disc arthroplasty (CDA) are 1- and 2-level cervical disc herniation or spondylosis causing radiculopathy or myelopathy that is refractory to medical management. Unlike anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF), which eliminates motion, CDA aims to restore the physiological range of motion of the indexed joint. Thus, the effect of indirect decompression gained by the insertion of a sufficiently large interbody graft and incorporation into arthrodesis after ACDF cannot be duplicated for CDA. For patients undergoing CDA, during extreme flexion/extension or rotation, the exiting nerve roots might be impinged by inadequately decompressed foraminal osteophytes. Therefore, the authors advocate generous decompression, including resection of the posterior longitudinal ligament (PLL) and bilateral uncovertebral joints (UVJs), even in the asymptomatic side. This video demonstrates full dural expansion and enlarged neuroforamen after removal of the PLL and UVJs. Venous hemorrhage encountered during foraminotomy can always be controlled by cottonoid packing or hemostatic agents. Also, the endplates of the surrounding vertebral bodies were meticulously prepared for parallel insertion of the ProDisc-C Nova (DePuy Synthes Spine) artificial disc. Please note that the ProDisc-C Nova is currently not available on the US market.

The video can be found here: https://youtu.be/XUo34j6WFYs.

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Radiological adjacent-segment degeneration in L4–5 spondylolisthesis: comparison between dynamic stabilization and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion

Chao-Hung Kuo, Wen-Cheng Huang, Jau-Ching Wu, Tsung-Hsi Tu, Li-Yu Fay, Ching-Lan Wu, and Henrich Cheng

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle screw–based dynamic stabilization has been an alternative to conventional lumbar fusion for the surgical management of low-grade spondylolisthesis. However, the true effect of dynamic stabilization on adjacent-segment degeneration (ASD) remains undetermined. Authors of this study aimed to investigate the incidence of ASD and to compare the clinical outcomes of dynamic stabilization and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (MI-TLIF).

METHODS

The records of consecutive patients with Meyerding grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis who had undergone surgical management at L4–5 in the period from 2007 to 2014 were retrospectively reviewed. Patients were divided into two groups according to the surgery performed: Dynesys dynamic stabilization (DDS) group and MI-TLIF group. Pre- and postoperative radiological evaluations, including radiography, CT, and MRI studies, were compared. Adjacent discs were evaluated using 4 radiological parameters: instability (antero- or retrolisthesis), disc degeneration (Pfirrmann classification), endplate degeneration (Modic classification), and range of motion (ROM). Clinical outcomes, measured with the visual analog scale (VAS) for back and leg pain, the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and the Japanese Orthopaedic Association (JOA) scores, were also compared.

RESULTS

A total of 79 patients with L4–5 degenerative spondylolisthesis were included in the analysis. During a mean follow-up of 35.2 months (range 24–89 months), there were 56 patients in the DDS group and 23 in the MI-TLIF group. Prior to surgery, both groups were very similar in demographic, radiological, and clinical data. Postoperation, both groups had similarly significant improvement in clinical outcomes (VAS, ODI, and JOA scores) at each time point of evaluation. There was a lower chance of disc degeneration (Pfirrmann classification) of the adjacent discs in the DDS group than in the MI-TLIF group (17% vs 37%, p = 0.01). However, the DDS and MI-TLIF groups had similar rates of instability (15.2% vs 17.4%, respectively, p = 0.92) and endplate degeneration (1.8% vs 6.5%, p = 0.30) at the cranial (L3–4) and caudal (L5–S1) adjacent levels after surgery. The mean ROM in the cranial and caudal levels was also similar in the two groups. None of the patients required secondary surgery for any ASD (defined by radiological criteria).

CONCLUSIONS

The clinical improvements after DDS were similar to those following MI-TLIF for L4–5 Meyerding grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis at 3 years postoperation. According to radiological evaluations, there was a lower chance of disc degeneration in the adjacent levels of the patients who had undergone DDS. However, other radiological signs of ASD, including instability, endplate degeneration, and ROM, were similar between the two groups. Although none of the patients in the present series required secondary surgery, a longer follow-up and a larger number of patients would be necessary to corroborate the protective effect of DDS against ASD.

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Nerve repair using acidic fibroblast growth factor in human cervical spinal cord injury: a preliminary Phase I clinical study

Jau-Ching Wu, Wen-Cheng Huang, Yun-An Tsai, Yu-Chun Chen, and Henrich Cheng

Object

The aim of this study was to assess functional outcomes of nerve repair using acidic fibroblast growth factor (FGF) in patients with cervical spinal cord injury (SCI).

Methods

Nine patients who had cervical SCI for longer than 5 months were included in pre- and postoperative assessments of their neurological function. The assessments included evaluating activities of daily living, associated functional ability, and degree of spasticity, motor power, sensation, and pain perception. After the first set of assessments, the authors repaired the injured segment of the spinal cord using a total laminectomy followed by the application of fibrin glue containing acidic FGF. Clinical evaluations were conducted 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 months after the surgery. Preoperative versus postoperative differences in injury severity and grading of key muscle power and sensory points were calculated using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test.

Results

The preoperative degree of injury severity, as measured using the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) scoring system, showed that preoperative motor (52.4 ± 25.9 vs 68.6 ± 21.5), pinprick (61.0 ± 34.9 vs 71.6 ± 31.0), and light touch scores (57.3 ± 33.9 vs 71.9 ± 30.2) were significantly lower than the respective postoperative scores measured 6 months after surgery (p = 0.005, 0.012, and 0.008, respectively).

Conclusions

Based on the significant difference in ASIA motor and sensory scale scores between the preoperative status and the 6-month postoperative follow-up, this novel nerve repair strategy of using acidic FGF may have a role in the repair of human cervical SCI. Modest nerve regeneration occurred in all 9 patients after this procedure without any observed adverse effects. This repair strategy thus deserves further investigation, clinical consideration, and refinement.

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Pedicle screw loosening in dynamic stabilization: incidence, risk, and outcome in 126 patients

Jau-Ching Wu, Wen-Cheng Huang, Hsiao-Wen Tsai, Chin-Chu Ko, Ching-Lan Wu, Tsung-Hsi Tu, and Henrich Cheng

Object

The long-term outcome of lumbar dynamic stabilization is uncertain. This study aimed to investigate the incidence, risk factors, and outcomes associated with screw loosening in a dynamic stabilization system.

Methods

The authors conducted a retrospective review of medical records, radiological studies, and clinical evaluations obtained in consecutive patients who underwent 1- or 2-level lumbar dynamic stabilization and were followed up for more than 24 months. Loosening of screws was determined on radiography and CT scanning. Radiographic and standardized clinical outcomes, including the visual analog scale (VAS) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores, were analyzed with a focus on cases in which screw loosening occurred.

Results

The authors analyzed 658 screws in 126 patients, including 54 women (42.9%) and 72 men (57.1%) (mean age 60.4 ± 11.8 years). During the mean clinical follow-up period of 37.0 ± 7.1 months, 31 screws (4.7%) in 25 patients (19.8%) were shown to have loosened. The mean age of patients with screw loosening was significantly higher than those without loosening (64.8 ± 8.8 vs 59.3 ± 12.2, respectively; p = 0.036). Patients with diabetes mellitus had a significantly higher rate of screw loosening compared with those without diabetes (36.0% vs 15.8%, respectively; p = 0.024). Diabetic patients with well-controlled serum glucose (HbA1c ≤ 8.0%) had a significantly lower chance of screw loosening than those without well-controlled serum glucose (28.6% vs 71.4%, respectively; p = 0.021). Of the 25 patients with screw loosening, 22 cases (88%) were identified within 6.6 months of surgery; 18 patients (72%) had the loosened screws in the inferior portion of the spinal construct, whereas 7 (28%) had screw loosening in the superior portion of the construct. The overall clinical outcomes at 3, 12, and 24 months, measured by VAS for back pain, VAS for leg pain, and ODI scores, were significantly improved after surgery compared with before surgery (all p < 0.05). There were no significant differences between the patients with and without screw loosening at all evaluation time points (all p > 0.05). All 25 patients with screw loosening were asymptomatic, and in 6 (24%) osseous integration was demonstrated on later follow-up. Also, there were 3 broken screws (2.38% in 126 patients or 0.46% in 658 screws). To date, none of these loosened or broken screws have required revision surgery.

Conclusions

Screw loosening in dynamic stabilization systems is not uncommon (4.7% screws in 19.8% patients). Patients of older age or those with diabetes have higher rates of screw loosening. Screw loosening can be asymptomatic and presents opportunity for osseous integration on later follow-up. Although adverse effects on clinical outcomes are rare, longer-term follow-up is required in cases in which screws become loose.

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Ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament in the cervical spine: an 11-year comprehensive national epidemiology study

Jau-Ching Wu, Laura Liu, Yu-Chun Chen, Wen-Cheng Huang, Tzeng-Ji Chen, and Henrich Cheng

Object

This study aimed to calculate the incidence and prevalence of ossification of the posterior longitudinal ligament (OPLL) in the cervical spine with its comorbid disability.

Methods

Using an 11-year nationwide database in Taiwan (National Health Insurance Research Database), this retrospective study cohort analyzed the incidences of cervical OPLL causing hospitalization. All patients admitted for the diagnosis of OPLL, regardless of surgery, were identified. Age- and sex-specific incidences, Poisson regression, and multivariate logistic regression analysis were conducted.

Results

Between 1997 and 2007 covering 241,800,725.8 person-years, 1651 patients were admitted for OPLL. The overall incidence of OPLL-related admission was 6.1 per 1 million person-years. Specifically, male sex and older age were associated with higher OPLL incidences (both p < 0.001). Among the 1651 OPLL patients, 542 (32.8%) received conservative management, 612 (37.1%) had anterior only surgery, 353 (21.4%) had posterior only surgery, and 144 (8.7%) had anterior and posterior surgery. Eighty-five patients were moderately to severely disabled (5.2% cumulative incidence rate). The incidences of disability varied by age, in a decreasing trend, except for the 60- to 69-year-old age group (p = 0.05). Patients who received posterior-only surgery were more likely to have disability.

Conclusions

In a large cohort of the Chinese population, the incidence of cervical OPLL-related admission is 6.1 per 1 million person-years, and the prevalence rate is 7.7 per 100,000 person-years. Higher incidences are observed in elderly and male patients, which implies the disease's degenerative nature. After adjustments for demographics, the incidences and trends of OPLL-related comorbid disability are associated with age and surgical approaches.

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Endoscope-assisted minimally invasive transforaminal thoracic interbody fusion

Chih-Hsiang Liao, Jau-Ching Wu, Wen-Cheng Huang, Wei-Hsin Wang, Peng-Yuan Chang, Henrich Cheng, and Yang-Shih

Surgical treatment of thoracic disc herniation is technically challenging from anterior, lateral or posterior approaches. Because of the deeply located thoracic discs and non-retractable thoracic thecal sac, standard anterior and lateral procedures for discectomy require extensive tissue dissection causing prolonged lengths of stay in hospital. In this video, the authors present a case of calcified disc herniation at the level of T10/11 causing paraplegia and voiding difficulty. The patient was operated on via an endoscope-assisted minimally invasive transforaminal thoracic interbody fusion (EA-TTIF). The herniated disc and calcification were removed through a 26-mm tubular retractor, under microscopes via a unilateral transpedicular approach. The endoscopes were used for direct visualization of the ventral thecal sac and confirmation of complete decompression. After the operation, the patient's neurological function completely recovered. Minimally invasive EA-TTIF is a viable and effective option for the surgical management of thoracic disc herniation. Thoracic interbody fusion can be achieved through a minimally invasive approach from the back.

The video can be found here: http://youtu.be/54rRMtvSyCM.

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Letter to the Editor: Complication avoidance in intradural extramedullary spinal tumors

Wen-Cheng Huang, Jau-Ching Wu, Peng-Yuan Chang, Tsung-Hsi Tu, Yu-Shu Yen, and Henrich Cheng