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Rod J. Oskouian and J. Patrick Johnson

Object. The purpose of this clinical study was to evaluate prospectively surgical and neurological outcomes after endoscopic thoracic disc surgery.

Methods. The authors assessed the following quantifiable outcome data in 46 patients: operative time, blood loss, duration of chest tube insertion, narcotic use, hospital length of stay (LOS), and long-term follow-up neurological function and pain-related symptoms.

In patients who presented with myelopathy there was a postoperative improvement of two Frankel grades. Pain related to radiculopathy was improved by 75% and in one patient it worsened postoperatively. The authors also present operative data, surgical outcomes, and complications.

Conclusions. Thoracoscopic discectomy can be used to achieve acceptable results. It has several distinct advantages such as reduced postoperative pain, morbidity, and LOS compared with traditional open procedures.

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Rod J. Oskouian and J. Patrick Johnson

Object

The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate surgical and neurological outcomes in thoracic disc surgery in a prospective fashion.

Methods

Quantifiable outcome data such as operating time, blood loss, duration of chest tube drainage, narcotic drug use, length of hospital stay (LOS), and long-term follow up of neurological function and pain-related symptoms were collected prospectively.

In patients with myelopathy there was an improvement of two Frankel grades in the thoracoscopic discectomy group and one Frankel grade in the patients treated with thoracotomy; however, patients in the thoracotomy group were significantly worse preoperatively. None of the patients experienced worsened pain, and pain related to radiculopathy was improved by 75% in the thoracoscopic group.

Conclusions

Thoracoscopic discectomy yields acceptable surgical results and has several distinct advantages, with reduced postoperative pain, morbidity, and LOS.

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Stephen L. Fedder

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J. Patrick Johnson and Christopher I. Shaffrey

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Rod J. Oskouian Jr. and J. Patrick Johnson

Object. Anterior approaches in thoracic and lumbar spinal surgery have potentially serious vascular injury—related complications. In this study the authors evaluate the incidence of vascular complications in anterior approaches to the thoracic and lumbar spine in cases requiring reconstructive surgery.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of 207 patients who underwent anterior thoracic and lumbar spinal reconstructive surgery during the period from 1992 through 1999 to determine the incidence, causes, and management of vascular complications.

Overall, the incidence of vascular complications following reconstructive spinal surgery was 5.8% (12 patients) and the mortality rate was 1% (two patient deaths). In seven patients (3.4%), direct vascular injuries developed as a result of surgical techniques or error; one patient died as a result. Five patients (2.4%) developed deep venous thromboses, and one patient in this subgroup died of pulmonary embolism.

Conclusions. Vascular injury to the great vessels is a known and potentially serious complication associated with anterior spinal reconstructive procedures. The authors found, however, that the incidence is relatively low in cases in which venous injuries occurred acutely and arterial injuries presented in a delayed fashion.

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Doniel Drazin, Ziya L. Gokaslan and J. Patrick Johnson

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J. Patrick Johnson, Aaron G. Filler and Duncan Q. McBride

Object

Thoracoscopic discectomy is a minimally invasive procedure simulating a thoracotomy and is an alternative to the costotransversectomy and transpedicular approaches. In recent studies authors have concluded that thoracoscopic discectomy is the preferred procedure; however, relative historical comparisons were difficult to interpret.

The authors conducted a prospective nonrandomized study in which they compared data on 36 patients undergoing thoracoscopic discectomy with eight patients undergoing thoracotomy between 1995 and 1999.

Methods

Patients affected with one- or two-level lesions underwent a thoracoscopic discectomy, and patients with three-level lesions or more underwent thoracotomy and discectomy. Data were collected on operative time, blood loss, chest tube duration, narcotic agent use, and hospital length of stay (LOS). Longer-term follow-up study of pain-related symptoms and neurological function was conducted.

Patients who underwent thoracoscopic discectomy had shorter operative times, less blood loss, a shorter period of chest tube drainage dependence, less narcotic usage, and a shorter LOS. These findings were statistically significant (p < 0.05) for narcotic usage and shorter LOS. Pain related to radiculopathy was improved by means of 75%, and no patients exprienced worsened pain. In patients with myelopathy there was an improvement of two Frankel grades in the thoracoscopic group and one Frankel grade in the thoracotomy discectomy group, but patients in the thoracotomy group were significantly worse preoperatively. One myelopathic patient from each group suffered a worsened outcome postoperatively, although this was not attributed to the method of surgery. The incidence of complications (minor and major) was 31% in the thoracoscopic group and greater than 100% (that is, more than one complication per patient) in the thoracotomy/discectomy group.

Conclusions

One advantage to thoracoscopic discectomy is its reduced incidence of morbidity compared with thoractomy, but its steep learning curve and unfamiliar surgical techniques make this procedure less practical for surgeons not performing it frequently. The more familiar costotransversectomy, transpedicular, and thoracotomy procedures remain viable alternatives for surgeons more experienced in these procedures.

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Ulrich Batzdorf, Jörg Klekamp and J. Patrick Johnson

Object. This study was conducted to evaluate the results of shunting procedures for syringomyelia.

Methods. In a follow-up analysis of 42 patients in whom shunts were placed in syringomyelic cavities, the authors have demonstrated that 21 (50%) developed recurrent cyst expansion indicative of shunt failure. Problems were encountered in patients with syringomyelia resulting from hindbrain herniation, spinal trauma, or inflammatory processes. A low-pressure cerebrospinal fluid state occurred in two of 18 patients; infection was also rare (one of 18 patients), but both are potentially devastating complications of shunt procedures. Shunt obstruction, the most common problem, was encountered in 18 patients; spinal cord tethering, seen in three cases, may account for situations in which the patient gradually deteriorated neurologically, despite a functioning shunt.

Conclusions. Placement of all types of shunts (subarachnoid, syringoperitoneal, and syringopleural) may be followed by significant morbidity requiring one or more additional surgical procedures.

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