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Victor M. Haughton, Timothy A. Schmidt, Kevin Keele, Howard S. An, and Tae-Hong Lim

Object. The authors conducted a study in which their objective was to measure the effect of tears in the annulus fibrosus on the motions of lumbar spinal motion segments.

Methods. Lumbar spinal motion segments were harvested from human cadavers and studied using a 1.5-tesla magnetic resonance imager. The motion segments were subjected to incremental flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral bending torques. Displacements and rotations were measured using a kinematic system. The segments were sectioned on a cryomicrotome to verify the presence of tears in the annulus fibrosus.

Conclusions. Tears in the annulus fibrosus increase the amount of motion that results from a torque applied to the motion segment. Radial and transverse tears of the annulus fibrosus have a greater effect on motions produced by an axial rotatory torque than on those produced by flexion, extension, or lateral bending torques. The difference between normal discs and discs with annular tears is more marked during moments of axial rotational than during those of flexion, extension, or lateral bending.

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Jinsong Zhou, Alejandro A. Espinoza Orías, Xia Kang, Jade He, Zhihai Zhang, Nozomu Inoue, and Howard S. An


The segmental occipital condyle screw (OCS) is an alternative fixation technique in occipitocervical fusion. A thorough morphological study of the occipital condyle (OC) is critical for OCS placement. The authors set out to introduce a more precise CT-based method for morphometric analysis of the OC as it pertains to the placement of the segmental OCS, and they describe a novel preoperative simulation method for screw placement. Two new clinically relevant parameters, the height available for the OCS and the warning depth, are proposed.


CT data sets from 27 fresh-frozen human cadaveric occipitocervical spines were used. All measurements were performed using a commercially available 3D reconstruction software package. The length, width, and sagittal angle of the condyle were measured in the axial plane at the base of the OC. The height of the OC and the height available for the segmental OCS were measured in the reconstructed oblique sagittal plane, fitting the ideal trajectory of the OCS recommended in the literature. The placement of a 3.5-mm-diameter screw that had the longest length of bicortical purchase was simulated into the OC in the oblique sagittal plane, with the screw path not being blocked by the occiput and not violating the hypoglossal canal cranially or the atlantooccipital joint caudally. The length of the simulated screw was recorded. The warning depth was measured as the shortest distance from the entry point of the screw to the posterior border of the hypoglossal canal.


The mean length and width of the OC were found to be larger in males: 22.2 ± 1.7 mm and 12.1 ± 1.0 mm, respectively, overall (p < 0.0001 for both). The mean sagittal angle was 28.0° ± 4.9°. The height available for the OCS was significantly less than the height of the OC (6.2 ± 1.3 mm vs 9.4 ± 1.5 mm, p < 0.0001). The mean screw length (19.3 ± 1.9 mm) also presented significant sex-related differences: male greater than female (p = 0.0002). The mean warning depth was 7.5 ± 1.7 mm. In 7.4% of the samples, although the height of the OC was viable, the height available for the OCS was less than 4.5 mm, thus making screw placement impractical. For these cases, a new preoperative simulation method of the OCS placement was proposed. In 92.6% of the samples that could accommodate a 3.5-mm-diameter screw, 24.0% showed that the entry point of the simulated screw was covered by a small part of the C-1 posterosuperior joint rim.


The placement of the segmental OCS is feasible in most cases, but a thorough preoperative radiological analysis is essential and cannot be understated. The height available for the OCS is a more clinically relevant and precise parameter than the height of the OC to enable proper screw placement. The warning depth may be helpful for the placement of the OCS.

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Mozammil Hussain, Ahmad Nassr, Raghu N. Natarajan, Howard S. An, and Gunnar B. J. Andersson


Biomechanical studies have shown that anterior cervical fusion construct stiffness and arthrodesis rates vary with different reconstruction techniques; however, the behavior of the adjacent segments in the setting of different procedures is poorly understood. This study was designed to investigate the adjacent-segment biomechanics after 3 different anterior cervical decompression and fusion techniques, including 3-level discectomy and fusion, 2-level corpectomy and fusion, and a corpectomy-discectomy hybrid technique. The authors hypothesized that biomechanical changes at the segments immediately superior and inferior to the multilevel fusion would be inversely proportional to the number of fused bone grafts and that these changes would be related to the type of fusion technique.


A previously validated 3D finite element model of an intact C3–T1 segment was used. Three C4–7 fusion models were built from this intact model by varying the number of bone grafts used to span the decompression: a 1-graft model (2-level corpectomy), a 2-graft model (C-5 corpectomy and C6–7 discectomy), and a 3-graft model (3-level discectomy). The corpectomy and discectomy models were also previously validated and compared well with the literature findings. Range of motion, disc stresses, and posterior facet loads at the segments superior (C3–4) and inferior (C7–T1) to the fusion construct were assessed.


Motion, disc stresses, and posterior facet loads generally increased at both of the adjacent segments in relation to the intact model. Greater biomechanical changes were noted in the superior C3–4 segment than in the inferior C7–T1 segment. Increasing the number of bone grafts from 1 to 2 and from 2 to 3 was associated with a lower magnitude of biomechanical changes at the adjacent segments.


At segments adjacent to the fusion level, biomechanical changes are not limited solely to the discs, but also propagate to the posterior facets. These changes in discs and posterior facets were found to be lower for discectomy than for corpectomy, thereby supporting the current study hypothesis of inverse relationship between the adjacent-segment variations and the number of fused bone grafts. Such changes may go on to influence the likelihood of adjacent-segment degeneration accordingly. Further studies are warranted to identify the causes and true impact of these observed changes.

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Austin Q. Nguyen, Jackson P. Harvey, Krishn Khanna, Bryce A. Basques, Garrett K. Harada, Frank M. Phillips, Kern Singh, Christopher Dewald, Howard S. An, and Matthew W Colman


Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) and lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) are alternative and less invasive techniques to stabilize the spine and indirectly decompress the neural elements compared with open posterior approaches. While reoperation rates have been described for open posterior lumbar surgery, there are sparse data on reoperation rates following these less invasive procedures without direct posterior decompression. This study aimed to evaluate the overall rate, cause, and timing of reoperation procedures following anterior or lateral lumbar interbody fusions without direct posterior decompression.


This was a retrospective cohort study of all consecutive patients indicated for an ALIF or LLIF for lumbar spine at a single academic institution. Patients who underwent concomitant posterior fusion or direct decompression surgeries were excluded. Rates, causes, and timing of reoperations were analyzed. Patients who underwent a revision decompression were matched with patients who did not require a reoperation, and preoperative imaging characteristics were analyzed to assess for risk factors for the reoperation.


The study cohort consisted of 529 patients with an average follow-up of 2.37 years; 40.3% (213/529) and 67.3% (356/529) of patients had a minimum of 2 years and 1 year of follow-up, respectively. The total revision rate was 5.7% (30/529), with same-level revision in 3.8% (20/529) and adjacent-level revision in 1.9% (10/529) of patients. Same-level revision patients had significantly shorter time to revision (7.14 months) than adjacent-level revision patients (31.91 months) (p < 0.0001). Fifty percent of same-level revisions were for a posterior decompression. After further analysis of decompression revisions, an increased preoperative canal area was significantly associated with a lower risk of further decompression revision compared to the control group (p = 0.015; OR 0.977, 95% CI 0.959–0.995).


There was a low reoperation rate after anterior or lateral lumbar interbody fusions without direct posterior decompression. The majority of same-level reoperations were due to a need for further decompression. Smaller preoperative canal diameters were associated with the need for revision decompression.