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Changhan Jun, Madhav Sukumaran and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

Resection of a giant pre-sacral schwannoma originating from the right S2 nerve in a 22-year-old woman illustrates the potential for robotic surgery. The da Vinci Robot Surgical System facilitates visualization deep in the pelvis and allows for bimanual wristed instrument control to dissect the tumor from surrounding sensitive structures. Neurostimulation to identify critical nerves is possible and complete resection of the tumor can be achieved. There were no complications, she remained neurologically intact, the estimated blood loss was less than 75 ml, the total hospital stay was 3 days, and she returned to work within 2 weeks of her operation. In select patients, robot-assisted surgery may have advantages.

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Paul J. Holman, Dima Suki, Ian McCutcheon, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Laurence D. Rhines and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object. The surgical treatment of metastatic spinal tumors is an essential component of the comprehensive care of cancer patients. In most large series investigators have focused on the treatment of thoracic lesions because 70% of cases involve this region. The lumbar spine is less frequently involved (20% cases), and it is unclear whether its unique anatomical and biomechanical features affect surgery-related outcomes. The authors present a retrospective study of a large series of patients with lumbar metastatic lesions, assessing neurological and pain outcomes, complications, and survival.

Methods. The authors retrospectively reviewed data obtained in 139 patients who underwent 166 surgical procedures for lumbar metastatic disease between August 1994 and April 2001. The impact of operative approach on outcomes was also analyzed.

Among the wide variety of metastatic lesions, pain was the most common presenting symptom (96%), including local pain, radicular pain, and axial pain due to instability. Patients underwent anterior, posterior, and combined approaches depending on the anatomical distribution of disease. One month after surgery, complete or partial improvement in pain was demonstrated in 94% of the cases. The median survival duration for the entire population was 14.8 months.

Conclusions. The surgical treatment of metastatic lesions in the lumbar spine improved neurological and ambulatory function, significantly reducing axial spinal pain; results were comparable with those for other spinal regions. Analysis of results obtained in the present study suggests that outcomes are similar when the operative approach mirrors the anatomical distribution of disease. When lumbar vertebrectomy is necessary, however, anterior approaches minimize blood loss and wound-related complications.

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Oren N. Gottfried, Ibrahim Omeis, Vivek A. Mehta, Can Solakoglu, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky


Pelvic incidence (PI) directly regulates lumbar lordosis and is a key determinant of sagittal spinal balance in normal and diseased states. Pelvic incidence is defined as the angle between the line perpendicular to the S-1 endplate at its midpoint and the line connecting this point to a line bisecting the center of the femoral heads. It reflects an anatomical value that increases with growth during childhood but remains constant in adulthood. It is not altered by changes in patient position or after traditional lumbosacral spinal surgery. There are only 2 reports of PI being altered in adults, both in cases of sacral fractures resulting in lumbopelvic dissociation and sacroiliac (SI) joint instability. En bloc sacral amputation and sacrectomy are surgical techniques used for resection of certain bony malignancies of the sacrum. High, mid, and low sacral amputations result in preservation of some or the entire SI joint. Total sacrectomy results in complete disruption of the SI joint. The purpose of this study was to determine if PI is altered as a result of total or subtotal sacral resection.


The authors reviewed a series of 42 consecutive patients treated at The Johns Hopkins Hospital between 2004 and 2009 for sacral tumors with en bloc resection. The authors evaluated immediate pre- and postoperative images for modified pelvic incidence (mPI) using the L-5 inferior endplate, as the patients undergoing a total sacrectomy are missing the S-1 endplate postoperatively. The authors compared the results of total versus subtotal sacrectomies.


Twenty-two patients had appropriate images to measure pre- and postoperative mPI; 17 patients had high, mid, or low sacral amputations with sparing of some or the entire SI joint, and 5 patients underwent a total sacrectomy, with complete SI disarticulation. The mean change in mPI was statistically different (p < 0.001) for patients undergoing subtotal versus those undergoing total sacrectomy (1.6° ± 0.9° vs 13.6° ± 4.9° [± SD]). There was no difference between patients who underwent a high sacral amputation (partial SI resection, mean 1.6°) and mid or low sacral amputation (SI completely intact, mean 1.6°).


The PI is altered during total sacrectomy due to complete disarticulation of the SI joint and discontinuity of the spine and pelvis, but it is not changed if any of the joint is preserved. Changes in PI influence spinopelvic balance and may have postoperative clinical importance. Thus, the authors encourage attention to spinopelvic alignment during lumbopelvic reconstruction and fixation after tumor resection. Long-term studies are needed to evaluate the impact of the change in PI on sagittal balance, pain, and ambulation after total sacrectomy.

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Michelle J. Clarke, James Guzzo, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Ziya Gokaslan and James H. Black III

Iatrogenic aortic injuries are a potentially devastating complication of spine surgery. In instrumented cases, injuries may occur in the perioperative period due to iatrogenic vessel injury, or they may occur years later as prominent implants erode or penetrate major vessels. The authors present a case of a 71-year-old man in whom a thoracic pedicle screw was found perforating the thoracic aorta during routine follow-up 6 months after surgery. Due to the risk of future complications, the screw was removed while simultaneously delivering an endovascular aortic stent to gain vascular control. Surgical considerations and potential technical limitations are discussed.

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Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ian Suk and Ziya L. Gokaslan

✓Symptomatic irreducible basilar invagination has traditionally been approached through a transoral–transpharyngeal route with resection of the anterior portion of C-1 and the odontoid. Modification of this exposure with either a Le Fort osteotomy or a transmandibular osteotomy and circumglossal approach has increased the access to pathological conditions in this region. These traditional routes all require traversing the oral cavity and accepting the associated potential complications. The authors have developed a novel surgical approach, an endoscopic transcervical odontoidectomy, which allows access for resection of the odontoid and for brainstem and spinal cord decompression without traversing the oral cavity. In this paper they describe the technique and its advantages and present three cases in which patients underwent the endoscopic transcervical odontoidectomy for basilar invagination.

Three consecutive patients (age range 42–74 years) who had irreducible basilar invagination underwent the endoscopic transcervical odontoidectomy. All were symptomatic and had neck pain and myelopathy. All were evaluated preoperatively and postoperatively with computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. In all cases the procedure resulted in complete decompression. There were no serious complications. No patient required prolonged intubation, tracheostomy, or enteral tube feeding. One patient had an intraoperative cerebrospinal fluid leak, which had no postoperative sequelae.

The authors present an alternative surgical approach for treating ventral compression of the brainstem and spinal cord. The technique is safe and effective for decompression and provides a surgical route that can be added to the armamentarium of treatments for pathological conditions in this region.

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Oren N. Gottfried, Scott L. Parker, Ibrahim Omeis, Ali Bydon, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

Cervical spondylolysis is an uncommon disorder involving a cleft at the pars interarticularis. It is most often found at the C-6 level, and clinical presentations have included incidental radiographic findings, neck pain, and rarely neurological compromise. Although subaxial cervical spondylolysis has been described in 150 patients, defects at the C-2 pedicles are rare.

The authors present 2 new cases of C-2 spondylolysis in athletically active young persons who did not demonstrate instability or neurological deficits, were able to remain active, and are being managed conservatively with serial examinations and imaging. They also discuss the results of 22 previously reported cases of C-2 spondylolysis. Based on the literature and their own experience, the authors conclude that most patients with C-2 spondylolysis remain neurologically intact, maintain stability despite the bony defect, and can be managed conservatively. Surgery is reserved for patients who demonstrate severe instability or spinal cord compromise due to stenosis.

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Matthew J. McGirt, Frank J. Attenello, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

✓ Pediatric basilar invagination and cranial settling have traditionally been approached through a transoral–transpharyngeal route with or without extended maxillotomy or mandibulotomy for resection of the anterior portion of C-1 and the odontoid. The authors hypothesize that application of a recently described endoscopic transcervical odontoidectomy (ETO) technique would allow an alternative approach for the treatment of ventral pathological entities at the craniocervical junction in pediatric patients.

The authors performed ETO in a consecutive series of pediatric patients presenting with myelopathy or bulbar dysfunction resulting from basilar invagination or cranial settling. All clinical, radiographic, surgical, and follow-up data were prospectively collected. The initial experience with ETO in the pediatric population is analyzed and outcomes are reported. Three patients required ETO for basilar invagination and 1 required ETO with anterior C-1 arch and distal clivus resection for cranial settling. All patients presented with myelopathy. One patient was wheelchair bound with severe quadriparesis. The mean age was 14 ± 3 years (mean ± standard deviation [SD]) in the 2 male and 2 female patients. The ETO and posterior fusion were performed as a 2-stage procedure in 2 (50%) and as a single-stage procedure in 2 (50%) cases. Prolonged intubation or postoperative placement of a gastrostomy tube was not needed in any case. The postoperative hospitalization lasted 9 ± 4 days (mean ± SD). At last follow-up (mean 5 months), head and neck pain had resolved and motor strength had improved or stabilized in all cases. All 4 children were independently functioning and ambulatory at the last follow-up.

In the authors' initial experience, ETO has allowed ventral brainstem decompression without the need for prolonged intubation, worsening dysphagia requiring enteral tube feeding, or prolonged hospitalization, and has resulted in cosmetically appealing results. The ETO technique allows an alternative approach for the treatment of ventral pathological entities at the craniocervical junction in pediatric patients.

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Kaisorn L. Chaichana, Courtney Pendleton, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky and Ziya L. Gokaslan


Metastatic epidural spinal cord compression (MESCC) is a relatively common and debilitating complication of metastatic disease that often results in neurological deficits. Recent studies have supported decompressive surgery over radiation therapy for patients who present with MESCC. These studies, however, have grouped all patients with different histological types of metastatic disease into the same study population. The differential outcomes for patients with different histological types of metastatic disease therefore remain unknown.


An institutional database of patients undergoing decompressive surgery for MESCC at an academic tertiary-care institution between 1996 and 2006 was retrospectively reviewed. Patients with primary lung, breast, prostate, kidney, or gastrointestinal (GI) cancer or melanoma were identified. Fisher exact and log-rank analyses were used to compare pre-, peri-, and postoperative variables and survival for patients with these different types of primary cancers.


Twenty-seven patients with primary lung cancer, 26 with breast cancer, 20 with prostate cancer, 21 with kidney cancer, 13 with GI cancer, and 7 with melanoma were identified and categorized. All of these patients were followed up for a mean ± SD of 10.8 ± 3.8 months following surgery. Patients with primary lung and prostate cancers were typically older than patients with other types of primary cancers. Patients with prostate cancer had the shortest duration of symptoms and more commonly presented with motor deficits, while patients with breast cancer more commonly had cervical spine involvement and compression fractures. For all histological types, > 90% of patients retained the ability to ambulate following surgery. However, the group with the highest percentage of patients who regained ambulatory function after decompressive surgery was the lung cancer group. Patients with breast or kidney cancer and those with melanoma had the highest median duration of survival following decompressive surgery.


The present study identifies differences in presenting symptoms, operative course, perioperative complications, long-term ambulatory outcomes, and duration of survival for patients with lung, breast, prostate, kidney, and GI cancers and melanoma. This understanding may allow better risk stratification for patients with MESCC.

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Wesley Hsu, Thomas A. Kosztowski, Hasan A. Zaidi, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Jean-Paul Wolinsky

Chordomas are rare tumors that arise from the sacrum, spine, and skull base. Surgical management of these tumors can be difficult, given their locally destructive behavior and predilection for growing near delicate and critical structures. En bloc resection with negative margins can be difficult to perform without damaging adjacent structures and causing significant clinical morbidity. For chordomas of the upper cervical spine, surgical options traditionally involve transoral or submandibular approaches. The authors report the use of the image-guided, endoscopic, transcervical approach to the upper cervical spine as an alternative to traditional techniques for addressing upper cervical spine tumors, particularly for tumors where gross-total resection is not feasible.

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Dimitrios Mathios, Paul Edward Kaloostian, Ali Bydon, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean Paul Wolinsky, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Timothy F. Witham

Reconstruction of the lumbosacral junction is a considerable challenge for spinal surgeons due to the unique anatomical constraints of this region as well as the vectors of force that are applied focally in this area. The standard cages, both expandable and nonexpendable, often fail to reconstitute the appropriate anatomical alignment of the lumbosacral junction. This inadequate reconstruction may predispose the patient to continued back pain and neurological symptoms as well as possible pseudarthrosis and instrumentation failure. The authors describe their preoperative planning and the technical characteristics of their novel reconstruction technique at the lumbosacral junction using a cage with adjustable caps. Based precisely on preoperative measurements that maintain the appropriate Cobb angle, they performed reconstruction of the lumbosacral junction in a series of 3 patients. All 3 patients had excellent installation of the cages used for reconstruction. Postoperative CT scans were used to radiographically confirm the appropriate reconstruction of the lumbosacral junction. All patients had a significant reduction in pain, had neurological improvement, and experienced no instrumentation failure at the time of latest follow-up. Taking into account the inherent morphology of the lumbosacral junction and carefully planning the technical characteristics of the cage installation preoperatively and intraoperatively, the authors achieved favorable clinical and radiographic outcomes in all 3 cases. Based on this small case series, this technique for reconstruction of the lumbosacral junction appears to be a safe and appropriate method of reconstruction of the anterior spinal column in this technically challenging region of the spine.