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Qiuqian Wu and Jason H. Huang

OBJECTIVE

Lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration, an age-related process, is a major cause of low-back pain. Although low-back pain is a very common clinical problem in the aging population, no effective treatment is available, largely owing to lack of understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying disc degeneration. The goal of this study was to characterize how ectopic expression of Smurf2 driven by the collagen Type II alpha 1 (Col2a1) promoter alters disc cell phenotype and associated cellular events, matrix synthesis, and gene expression during disc degeneration in mice.

METHODS

To characterize how ectopic expression of Smurf2 in Col2a1-promoter working cells affects the disc degeneration process, the authors performed histological and immunohistochemical analysis of lumbar spine specimens harvested from wild-type (WT) and Col2a1-Smurf2 transgenic mice at various ages (n ≥ 6 in each age group). To elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying Smurf2-mediated disc degeneration, the authors isolated cells from WT and Col2a1-Smurf2 transgenic lumbar intervertebral discs and performed Western blot and real-time RT-PCR (reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) to examine the protein and mRNA levels of interesting targets.

RESULTS

The authors demonstrated that approximately 30% of WT mice at 10–12 months of age had started to show disc degeneration and that the disc degeneration process was accelerated by 3–6 months in Col2a1-Smurf2 transgenic mice. Chondrocyte-like cell proliferation, maturation, and fibrotic tissue formation in the inner annulus were often accompanied by fibroblast-to-chondrocyte differentiation in the outer annulus in transgenic discs. The chondrocyte-like cells in transgenic discs expressed higher levels of connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) than were expressed in WT counterparts.

CONCLUSIONS

The findings that ectopic expression of Smurf2 driven by the Col2a1 promoter accelerated disc degeneration in Col2a1-Smurf2 transgenic mice, and that higher levels of CTGF protein and mRNA were present in Col2a1-Smurf2 transgenic discs, indicate that Smurf2 accelerates disc degeneration via upregulation of CTGF.

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Je Yeong Sone, Douglas Kondziolka, Jason H. Huang and Uzma Samadani

Helmets are one of the earliest and most enduring methods of personal protection in human civilization. Although primarily developed for combat purposes in ancient times, modern helmets have become highly diversified to sports, recreation, and transportation. History and the scientific literature exhibit that helmets continue to be the primary and most effective prevention method against traumatic brain injury (TBI), which presents high mortality and morbidity rates in the US. The neurosurgical and neurotrauma literature on helmets and TBI indicate that helmets provide effectual protection against moderate to severe head trauma resulting in severe disability or death. However, there is a dearth of scientific data on helmet efficacy against concussion in both civilian and military aspects. The objective of this literature review was to explore the historical evolution of helmets, consider the effectiveness of helmets in protecting against severe intracranial injuries, and examine recent evidence on helmet efficacy against concussion. It was also the goal of this report to emphasize the need for more research on helmet efficacy with improved experimental design and quantitative standardization of assessments for concussion and TBI, and to promote expanded involvement of neurosurgery in studying the quantitative diagnostics of concussion and TBI. Recent evidence summarized by this literature review suggests that helmeted patients do not have better relative clinical outcome and protection against concussion than unhelmeted patients.

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Fei Song, Yuanzheng Hou, Guochen Sun, Xiaolei Chen, Bainan Xu, Jason H. Huang and Jun Zhang

OBJECTIVE

Preoperative determination of the facial nerve (FN) course is essential to preserving its function. Neither regular preoperative imaging examination nor intraoperative electrophysiological monitoring is able to determine the exact position of the FN. The diffusion tensor imaging–based fiber tracking (DTI-FT) technique has been widely used for the preoperative noninvasive visualization of the neural fasciculus in the white matter of brain. However, further studies are required to establish its role in the preoperative visualization of the FN in acoustic neuroma surgery. The object of this study is to evaluate the feasibility of using DTI-FT to visualize the FN.

METHODS

Data from 15 patients with acoustic neuromas were collected using 3-T MRI. The visualized FN course and its position relative to the tumors were determined using DTI-FT with 3D Slicer software. The preoperative visualization results of FN tracking were verified using microscopic observation and electrophysiological monitoring during microsurgery.

RESULTS

Preoperative visualization of the FN using DTI-FT was observed in 93.3% of the patients. However, in 92.9% of the patients, the FN visualization results were consistent with the actual surgery.

CONCLUSIONS

DTI-FT, in combination with intraoperative FN electrophysiological monitoring, demonstrated improved FN preservation in patients with acoustic neuroma. FN visualization mainly included the facial-vestibular nerve complex of the FN and vestibular nerve.

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Jason H. Huang, Eric L. Zager, Jun Zhang, Robert F. Groff IV, Bryan J. Pfister, Akiva S. Cohen, M. Sean Grady, Eileen Maloney-Wilensky and Douglas H. Smith

Object

Although neuron transplantation to repair the nervous system has shown promise in animal models, there are few practical sources of viable neurons for clinical application and insufficient approaches to bridge extensive nerve damage in patients. Therefore, the authors sought a clinically relevant source of neurons that could be engineered into transplantable nervous tissue constructs. The authors chose to evaluate human dorsal root ganglion (DRG) neurons due to their robustness in culture.

Methods

Cervical DRGs were harvested from 16 live patients following elective ganglionectomies, and thoracic DRGs were harvested from 4 organ donor patients. Following harvest, the DRGs were digested in a dispase–collagenase treatment to dissociate neurons for culture. In addition, dissociated human DRG neurons were placed in a specially designed axon expansion chamber that induces continuous mechanical tension on axon fascicles spanning 2 populations of neurons originally plated ∼ 100 μm apart.

Results

The adult human DRG neurons, positively identified by neuronal markers, survived at least 3 months in culture while maintaining the ability to generate action potentials. Stretch-growth of axon fascicles in the expansion chamber occurred at the rate of 1 mm/day to a length of 1 cm, creating the first engineered living human nervous tissue constructs.

Conclusions

These data demonstrate the promise of adult human DRG neurons as an alternative transplant material due to their availability, viability, and capacity to be engineered. Also, these data show the feasibility of harvesting DRGs from living patients as a source of neurons for autologous transplant as well as from organ donors to serve as an allograft source of neurons.

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Radek Kolecki, Vikalpa Dammavalam, Abdullah Bin Zahid, Molly Hubbard, Osamah Choudhry, Marleen Reyes, ByoungJun Han, Tom Wang, Paraskevi Vivian Papas, Aylin Adem, Emily North, David T. Gilbertson, Douglas Kondziolka, Jason H. Huang, Paul P. Huang and Uzma Samadani

OBJECTIVE

The precise threshold differentiating normal and elevated intracranial pressure (ICP) is variable among individuals. In the context of several pathophysiological conditions, elevated ICP leads to abnormalities in global cerebral functioning and impacts the function of cranial nerves (CNs), either or both of which may contribute to ocular dysmotility. The purpose of this study was to assess the impact of elevated ICP on eye-tracking performed while patients were watching a short film clip.

METHODS

Awake patients requiring placement of an ICP monitor for clinical purposes underwent eye tracking while watching a 220-second continuously playing video moving around the perimeter of a viewing monitor. Pupil position was recorded at 500 Hz and metrics associated with each eye individually and both eyes together were calculated. Linear regression with generalized estimating equations was performed to test the association of eye-tracking metrics with changes in ICP.

RESULTS

Eye tracking was performed at ICP levels ranging from −3 to 30 mm Hg in 23 patients (12 women, 11 men, mean age 46.8 years) on 55 separate occasions. Eye-tracking measures correlating with CN function linearly decreased with increasing ICP (p < 0.001). Measures for CN VI were most prominently affected. The area under the curve (AUC) for eye-tracking metrics to discriminate between ICP < 12 and ≥ 12 mm Hg was 0.798. To discriminate an ICP < 15 from ≥ 15 mm Hg the AUC was 0.833, and to discriminate ICP < 20 from ≥ 20 mm Hg the AUC was 0.889.

CONCLUSIONS

Increasingly elevated ICP was associated with increasingly abnormal eye tracking detected while patients were watching a short film clip. These results suggest that eye tracking may be used as a noninvasive, automatable means to quantitate the physiological impact of elevated ICP, which has clinical application for assessment of shunt malfunction, pseudotumor cerebri, concussion, and prevention of second-impact syndrome.

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Dale Ding, Robert M. Starke, Hideyuki Kano, David Mathieu, Paul P. Huang, Caleb Feliciano, Rafael Rodriguez-Mercado, Luis Almodovar, Inga S. Grills, Danilo Silva, Mahmoud Abbassy, Symeon Missios, Douglas Kondziolka, Gene H. Barnett, L. Dade Lunsford and Jason P. Sheehan

OBJECTIVE

Brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are the most common cause of spontaneous intracranial hemorrhage in pediatric patients (age < 18 years). Since the cumulative lifetime risk of AVM hemorrhage is considerable in children, an improved understanding of the risk factors influencing hemorrhagic presentation may aid in the management of pediatric AVMs. The aims of this first of a 2-part multicenter, retrospective cohort study are to evaluate the incidence and determine the predictors of hemorrhagic presentation in pediatric AVM patients.

METHODS

The authors analyzed pooled AVM radiosurgery data from 7 institutions participating in the International Gamma Knife Research Foundation (IGKRF). Patients younger than 18 years at the time of radiosurgery and who had at least 12 months of follow-up were included in the study cohort. Patient and AVM characteristics were compared between unruptured and ruptured pediatric AVMs.

RESULTS

A total of 357 pediatric patients were eligible for analysis, including 112 patients in the unruptured and 245 patients in the ruptured AVM cohorts (69% incidence of hemorrhagic presentation). The annual hemorrhage rate prior to radiosurgery was 6.3%. Hemorrhagic presentation was significantly more common in deep locations (basal ganglia, thalamus, and brainstem) than in cortical locations (frontal, temporal, parietal, and occipital lobes) (76% vs 62%, p = 0.006). Among the factors found to be significantly associated with hemorrhagic presentation in the multivariate logistic regression analysis, deep venous drainage (OR 3.2, p < 0.001) was the strongest independent predictor, followed by female sex (OR 1.7, p = 0.042) and smaller AVM volume (OR 1.1, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Unruptured and ruptured pediatric AVMs have significantly different patient and nidal features. Pediatric AVM patients who possess 1 or more of these high-risk features may be candidates for relatively more aggressive management strategies.

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Robert M. Starke, Dale Ding, Hideyuki Kano, David Mathieu, Paul P. Huang, Caleb Feliciano, Rafael Rodriguez-Mercado, Luis Almodovar, Inga S. Grills, Danilo Silva, Mahmoud Abbassy, Symeon Missios, Douglas Kondziolka, Gene H. Barnett, L. Dade Lunsford and Jason P. Sheehan

OBJECTIVE

Pediatric patients (age < 18 years) harboring brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) are burdened with a considerably higher cumulative lifetime risk of hemorrhage than adults. Additionally, the pediatric population was excluded from recent prospective comparisons of intervention versus conservative management for unruptured AVMs. The aims of this multicenter, retrospective cohort study are to analyze the outcomes after stereotactic radiosurgery for unruptured and ruptured pediatric AVMs.

METHODS

We analyzed and pooled AVM radiosurgery data from 7 participating in the International Gamma Knife Research Foundation. Patients younger than 18 years of age who had at least 12 months of follow-up were included in the study cohort. Favorable outcome was defined as AVM obliteration, no post-radiosurgical hemorrhage, and no permanently symptomatic radiation-induced changes (RIC). The post-radiosurgery outcomes of unruptured versus ruptured pediatric AVMs were compared, and statistical analyses were performed to identify predictive factors.

RESULTS

The overall pediatric AVM cohort comprised 357 patients with a mean age of 12.6 years (range 2.8–17.9 years). AVMs were previously treated with embolization, resection, and fractionated external beam radiation therapy in 22%, 6%, and 13% of patients, respectively. The mean nidus volume was 3.5 cm3, 77% of AVMs were located in eloquent brain areas, and the Spetzler-Martin grade was III or higher in 59%. The mean radiosurgical margin dose was 21 Gy (range 5–35 Gy), and the mean follow-up was 92 months (range 12–266 months). AVM obliteration was achieved in 63%. During a cumulative latency period of 2748 years, the annual post-radiosurgery hemorrhage rate was 1.4%. Symptomatic and permanent radiation-induced changes occurred in 8% and 3%, respectively. Favorable outcome was achieved in 59%. In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, the absence of prior AVM embolization (p = 0.001) and higher margin dose (p < 0.001) were found to be independent predictors of a favorable outcome. The rates of favorable outcome for patients treated with a margin dose ≥ 22 Gy vs < 22 Gy were 78% (110/141 patients) and 47% (101/216 patients), respectively. A margin dose ≥ 22 Gy yielded a significantly higher probability of a favorable outcome (p < 0.001). The unruptured and ruptured pediatric AVM cohorts included 112 and 245 patients, respectively. Ruptured AVMs had significantly higher rates of obliteration (68% vs 53%, p = 0.005) and favorable outcome (63% vs 51%, p = 0.033), with a trend toward a higher incidence of post-radiosurgery hemorrhage (10% vs 4%, p = 0.07). The annual post-radiosurgery hemorrhage rates were 0.8% for unruptured and 1.6% for ruptured AVMs.

CONCLUSIONS

Radiosurgery is a reasonable treatment option for pediatric AVMs. Obliteration and favorable outcomes are achieved in the majority of patients. The annual rate of latency period hemorrhage after radiosurgery for both ruptured and unruptured pediatric AVM patients conveys a significant risk until the nidus is obliterated.

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Gabrielle Lynch, Karina Nieto, Saumya Puthenveettil, Marleen Reyes, Michael Jureller, Jason H. Huang, M. Sean Grady, Odette A. Harris, Aruna Ganju, Isabelle M. Germano, Julie G. Pilitsis, Susan C. Pannullo, Deborah L. Benzil, Aviva Abosch, Sarah J. Fouke and Uzma Samadani

OBJECT

The objective of this study is to determine neurosurgery residency attrition rates by sex of matched applicant and by type and rank of medical school attended.

METHODS

The study follows a cohort of 1361 individuals who matched into a neurosurgery residency program through the SF Match Fellowship and Residency Matching Service from 1990 to 1999. The main outcome measure was achievement of board certification as documented in the American Board of Neurological Surgery Directory of Diplomats. A secondary outcome measure was documentation of practicing medicine as verified by the American Medical Association DoctorFinder and National Provider Identifier websites. Overall, 10.7% (n = 146) of these individuals were women. Twenty percent (n = 266) graduated from a top 10 medical school (24% of women [35/146] and 19% of men [232/1215], p = 0.19). Forty-five percent (n = 618) were graduates of a public medical school, 50% (n = 680) of a private medical school, and 5% (n = 63) of an international medical school. At the end of the study, 0.2% of subjects (n = 3) were deceased and 0.3% (n = 4) were lost to follow-up.

RESULTS

The total residency completion rate was 86.0% (n = 1171) overall, with 76.0% (n = 111/146) of women and 87.2% (n = 1059/1215) of men completing residency. Board certification was obtained by 79.4% (n = 1081) of all individuals matching into residency between 1990 and 1999. Overall, 63.0% (92/146) of women and 81.3% (989/1215) of men were board certified. Women were found to be significantly more at risk (p < 0.005) of not completing residency or becoming board certified than men. Public medical school alumni had significantly higher board certification rates than private and international alumni (82.2% for public [508/618]; 77.1% for private [524/680]; 77.8% for international [49/63]; p < 0.05). There was no significant difference in attrition for graduates of top 10–ranked institutions versus other institutions. There was no difference in number of years to achieve neurosurgical board certification for men versus women.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, neurosurgery training attrition rates are low. Women have had greater attrition than men during and after neurosurgery residency training. International and private medical school alumni had higher attrition than public medical school alumni.

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Uzma Samadani, Sameer Farooq, Robert Ritlop, Floyd Warren, Marleen Reyes, Elizabeth Lamm, Anastasia Alex, Elena Nehrbass, Radek Kolecki, Michael Jureller, Julia Schneider, Agnes Chen, Chen Shi, Neil Mendhiratta, Jason H. Huang, Meng Qian, Roy Kwak, Artem Mikheev, Henry Rusinek, Ajax George, Robert Fergus, Douglas Kondziolka, Paul P. Huang and R. Theodore Smith

OBJECT

Automated eye movement tracking may provide clues to nervous system function at many levels. Spatial calibration of the eye tracking device requires the subject to have relatively intact ocular motility that implies function of cranial nerves (CNs) III (oculomotor), IV (trochlear), and VI (abducent) and their associated nuclei, along with the multiple regions of the brain imparting cognition and volition. The authors have developed a technique for eye tracking that uses temporal rather than spatial calibration, enabling detection of impaired ability to move the pupil relative to normal (neurologically healthy) control volunteers. This work was performed to demonstrate that this technique may detect CN palsies related to brain compression and to provide insight into how the technique may be of value for evaluating neuropathological conditions associated with CN palsy, such as hydrocephalus or acute mass effect.

METHODS

The authors recorded subjects' eye movements by using an Eyelink 1000 eye tracker sampling at 500 Hz over 200 seconds while the subject viewed a music video playing inside an aperture on a computer monitor. The aperture moved in a rectangular pattern over a fixed time period. This technique was used to assess ocular motility in 157 neurologically healthy control subjects and 12 patients with either clinical CN III or VI palsy confirmed by neuro-ophthalmological examination, or surgically treatable pathological conditions potentially impacting these nerves. The authors compared the ratio of vertical to horizontal eye movement (height/width defined as aspect ratio) in normal and test subjects.

RESULTS

In 157 normal controls, the aspect ratio (height/width) for the left eye had a mean value ± SD of 1.0117 ± 0.0706. For the right eye, the aspect ratio had a mean of 1.0077 ± 0.0679 in these 157 subjects. There was no difference between sexes or ages. A patient with known CN VI palsy had a significantly increased aspect ratio (1.39), whereas 2 patients with known CN III palsy had significantly decreased ratios of 0.19 and 0.06, respectively. Three patients with surgically treatable pathological conditions impacting CN VI, such as infratentorial mass effect or hydrocephalus, had significantly increased ratios (1.84, 1.44, and 1.34, respectively) relative to normal controls, and 6 patients with supratentorial mass effect had significantly decreased ratios (0.27, 0.53, 0.62, 0.45, 0.49, and 0.41, respectively). These alterations in eye tracking all reverted to normal ranges after surgical treatment of underlying pathological conditions in these 9 neurosurgical cases.

CONCLUSIONS

This proof of concept series of cases suggests that the use of eye tracking to detect CN palsy while the patient watches television or its equivalent represents a new capacity for this technology. It may provide a new tool for the assessment of multiple CNS functions that can potentially be useful in the assessment of awake patients with elevated intracranial pressure from hydrocephalus or trauma.

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Or Cohen-Inbar, Robert M. Starke, Gabriella Paisan, Hideyuki Kano, Paul P. Huang, Rafael Rodriguez-Mercado, Luis Almodovar, Inga S. Grills, David Mathieu, Danilo Silva, Mahmoud Abbassy, Symeon Missios, John Y. K. Lee, Gene H. Barnett, Douglas Kondziolka, L. Dade Lunsford and Jason P. Sheehan

OBJECTIVE

The goal of stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) for arteriovenous malformation (AVM) is complete nidus obliteration, thereby eliminating the risk of future hemorrhage. This outcome can be observed within the first 18 months, although documentation of AVM obliteration can extend to as much as 5 years after SRS is performed. A shorter time to obliteration may impact the frequency and effect of post-SRS complications and latency hemorrhage. The authors' goal in the present study was to determine predictors of early obliteration (18 months or less) following SRS for cerebral AVM.

METHODS

Eight centers participating in the International Gamma Knife Research Foundation (IGKRF) obtained institutional review board approval to supply de-identified patient data. From a cohort of 2231 patients, a total of 1398 patients had confirmed AVM obliteration. Patients were sorted into early responders (198 patients), defined as those with confirmed nidus obliteration at or prior to 18 months after SRS, and late responders (1200 patients), defined as those with confirmed nidus obliteration more than 18 months after SRS. The median clinical follow-up time was 63.7 months (range 7–324.7 months).

RESULTS

Outcome parameters including latency interval hemorrhage, mortality, and favorable outcome were not significantly different between the 2 groups. Radiologically demonstrated radiation-induced changes were noted more often in the late responder group (376 patients [31.3%] vs 39 patients [19.7%] for early responders, p = 0.005). Multivariate independent predictors of early obliteration included a margin dose > 24 Gy (p = 0.031), prior surgery (p = 0.002), no prior radiotherapy (p = 0.025), smaller AVM nidus (p = 0.002), deep venous drainage (p = 0.039), and nidus location (p < 0.0001). Basal ganglia, cerebellum, and frontal lobe nidus locations favored early obliteration (p = 0.009). The Virginia Radiosurgery AVM Scale (VRAS) score was significantly different between the 2 responder groups (p = 0.039). The VRAS score was also shown to be predictive of early obliteration on univariate analysis (p = 0.009). For early obliteration, such prognostic ability was not shown for other SRS- and AVM-related grading systems.

CONCLUSIONS

Early obliteration (≤ 18 months post-SRS) was more common in patients whose AVMs were smaller, located in the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, or cerebellum, had deep venous drainage, and had received a margin dose > 24 Gy.