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Jeffrey W. Cozzens and James P. Chandler

✓ The authors describe a relationship between the presence of distal shunt catheter side-wall slits and distal catheter obstruction in a single-surgeon series of ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt revisions. Between 1985 and 1996, 168 operations for VP shunt revision were performed by the senior author (J.W.C.) in 71 patients. Indications for shunt revision included obstruction in 140 operations; overdrainage or underdrainage requiring a change of valve in 17 operations; inadequate length of distal shunt tubing resulting in the distal end no longer reaching the peritoneum in five operations; the ventricular catheter in the wrong ventricle or space, requiring repositioning in five operations; and a disconnected or broken shunt in one operation.

Of the 140 instances of shunt obstruction, the blockage occurred at the ventricular end in 108 instances (77.1%), the peritoneal end in 17 (12.1%), the ventricular and the peritoneal end in 14 (10%), and in the valve mechanism (not including distal slit valves) in one (0.8%). Thus, the peritoneal end was obstructed in 31 (22.1%) of 140 cases of shunt malfunction. In every case in which the peritoneal end was obstructed, some form of distal slit was found: either a distal slit valve in an otherwise closed catheter or slits in the side of an open catheter. No instances were found of distal peritoneal catheter obstruction when the peritoneal catheter was a simple open-ended tube with no accompanying side slits (0 of 55).

It is concluded that side slits in the distal peritoneal catheters of VP shunts are associated with a greater incidence of distal shunt obstruction.

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Julian E. Bailes, Jeffrey W. Cozzens, Alan R. Hudson, David G. Kline, Ivan Ciric, Peter Gianaris, Lawrence P. Bernstein and Daniel Hunter

✓ Studies on the peripheral nerves in rats and other species have helped in the development of laser-assisted nerve anastomosis (LANA), but offer little in evaluating the efficacy of this technique in primates. The authors present a study of LANA in the peripheral nerves of rhesus monkeys. Twelve adult rhesus monkeys underwent bilateral resection of a portion of the peroneal nerve followed by placement of autogenous sural nerve interposition fascicular grafts. The grafts were completed with conventional microsurgical suture technique on one side and with LANA on the other. At 5, 8, 10, and 12 months, the grafted nerves were evaluated for continuity, nerve conduction, and histology (both light and electron microscopy). No significant difference in continuity, conduction velocity, nerve degeneration, nerve regeneration, axon fiber number, or axon fiber density was found in any animal between grafts performed by conventional microsuture and LANA grafts. There was no difference in distal or proximal myelinated fiber density between the LANA grafts and the conventional microsuture grafts. It was concluded that LANA is as effective as microsurgical suture nerve anastomosis in a primate model of nerve repair and grafting.

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Henry Brem, M. Stephen Mahaley Jr., Nicholas A. Vick, Keith L. Black, S. Clifford Schold Jr., Peter C. Burger, Allan H. Friedman, Ivan S. Ciric, Theodore W. Eller, Jeffrey W. Cozzens and James N. Kenealy

✓ Malignant gliomas have been difficult to treat with chemotherapy. The most effective agent, BCNU (carmustine), has considerable systemic toxicity and a short half-life in serum. To obviate these problems, a method has been developed for the local sustained release of chemotherapeutic agents by their incorporation into biodegradable polymers. Implantation of the drug-impregnated polymer at the tumor site allows prolonged local exposure with minimal systemic exposure. In this Phase I–II study, 21 patients with recurrent malignant glioma were treated with BCNU released interstitially by means of a polyanhydride biodegradable polymer implant. Up to eight polymer wafers were placed in the resection cavity intraoperatively, upon completion of tumor debulking. The polymer releases the therapeutic drug for approximately 3 weeks.

Three increasing concentrations of BCNU were studied; the treatment was well tolerated at all three levels. There were no adverse reactions to the BCNU wafer treatment itself The average survival period after reoperation was 65 weeks for the first dose group, 64 weeks for the second dose group, and 32 weeks for the highest dose group. The overall mean survival time was 48 weeks from reoperation and 94 weeks from the original operation. The overall median survival times were 46 weeks postimplant and 87 weeks from initial surgery. Eighteen (86%) of 21 patients lived more than 1 year from the time of their initial diagnosis and eight (38%) of 21 patients lived more than 1 year after intracranial implantation of the polymer. Frequent hematology, blood chemistry, and urinalysis tests did not reveal any systemic effect from this interstitial chemotherapy.

Since the therapy is well tolerated and safe, a placebo-controlled clinical trial has been started. The trial will measure the effect of the second treatment dose on survival of patients with recurrent malignant glioma.

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Gene H. Barnett, Mark E. Linskey, John R. Adler, Jeffrey W. Cozzens, William A. Friedman, M. Peter Heilbrun, L. Dade Lunsford, Michael Schulder, Andrew E. Sloan and The American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Washington Committee Stereotactic Radiosurgery Task Force