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James S. Harrop, Alexander R. Vaccaro, R. John Hurlbert, Jared T. Wilsey, Eli M. Baron, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Charles G. Fisher, Marcel F. Dvorak, F. C. Öner, Kirkham B. Wood, Neel Anand, D. Greg Anderson, Moe R. Lim, Joon Y. Lee, Christopher M. Bono, Paul M. Arnold, Y. Raja Rampersaud, Michael G. Fehlings and The Spine Trauma Study Group

Object

A new classification and treatment algorithm for thoracolumbar injuries was recently introduced by Vaccaro and colleagues in 2005. A thoracolumbar injury severity scale (TLISS) was proposed for grading and guiding treatment for these injuries. The scale is based on the following: 1) the mechanism of injury; 2) the integrity of the posterior ligamentous complex (PLC); and 3) the patient’s neurological status. The reliability and validity of assessing injury mechanism and the integrity of the PLC was assessed.

Methods

Forty-eight spine surgeons, consisting of neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons, reviewed 56 clinical thoracolumbar injury case histories. Each was classified and scored to determine treatment recommendations according to a novel classification system. After 3 months the case histories were reordered and the physicians repeated the exercise. Validity of this classification was good among reviewers; the vast majority (> 90%) agreed with the system’s treatment recommendations. Surgeons were unclear as to a cogent description of PLC disruption and fracture mechanism.

Conclusions

The TLISS demonstrated acceptable reliability in terms of intra- and interobserver agreement on the algorithm’s treatment recommendations. Replacing injury mechanism with a description of injury morphology and better definition of PLC injury will improve inter- and intraobserver reliability of this injury classification system.

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Brian K. Kwon, Charles G. Fisher, Michael C. Boyd, John Cobb, Hilary Jebson, Vanessa Noonan, Peter Wing and Marcel F. Dvorak

Object

Unilateral facet injuries can be treated with either anterior or posterior fixation techniques with reportedly good outcomes. The two approaches have not been directly compared, however, and consensus is lacking as to which is the optimal method. The primary objective of this study was to determine whether acute postoperative morbidity differed between anteriorly and posteriorly treated patients with unilateral facet injuries.

Methods

Forty-two patients were prospectively randomized to undergo either anterior cervical discectomy and fusion or posterior fixation. The primary outcome measure was the postoperative time required to achieve a predefined set of discharge criteria. Secondary outcome measures included postoperative pain, wound infections, radiographically demonstrated fusion and alignment, and patient-reported outcome measures.

Results

The median time to achieve the discharge criteria was 2.75 and 3.5 days for anterior and posterior groups, respectively, a difference that did not reach statistical significance (p = 0.096). Compared with those treated using posterior fixation, anteriorly treated patients exhibited somewhat less postoperative pain, a lower rate of wound infection, a higher rate of radiographically demonstrated union, and better radiographically proven alignment. Nonetheless, the anterior approach was accompanied by a risk of swallowing difficulty in the early postoperative period. Patient-reported outcome measures did not reveal a difference between anterior and posterior fixation procedures.

Conclusions

This prospective randomized controlled trial provided level 1 evidence that both the anterior and posterior fixation approaches appear to be valid treatment options. Although statistical significance was not reached in the primary outcome measure, some secondary outcome measures favored anterior fixation and others favored posterior treatment for unilateral facet injuries.

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Brian K. Kwon, Armin Curt, Lise M. Belanger, Arlene Bernardo, Donna Chan, John A. Markez, Stephen Gorelik, Gerard P. Slobogean, Hamed Umedaly, Mitch Giffin, Michael A. Nikolakis, John Street, Michael C. Boyd, Scott Paquette, Charles G. Fisher and Marcel F. Dvorak

Object

Ischemia is an important factor in the pathophysiology of secondary damage after traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) and, in the setting of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair, can be the primary cause of paralysis. Lowering the intrathecal pressure (ITP) by draining CSF is routinely done in thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm surgery but has not been evaluated in the setting of acute traumatic SCI. Additionally, while much attention is directed toward maintaining an adequate mean arterial blood pressure (MABP) in the acute postinjury phase, little is known about what is happening to the ITP during this period when spinal cord perfusion pressure (MABP − ITP) is important. The objectives of this study were to: 1) evaluate the safety and feasibility of draining CSF to lower ITP after acute traumatic SCI; 2) evaluate changes in ITP before and after surgical decompression; and 3) measure neurological recovery in relation to the drainage of CSF.

Methods

Twenty-two patients seen within 48 hours of injury were prospectively randomized to a drainage or no-drainage treatment group. In all cases a lumbar intrathecal catheter was inserted for 72 hours. Acute complications of headache/nausea/vomiting, meningitis, or neurological deterioration were carefully monitored. Acute Spinal Cord Injury motor scores were documented at baseline and at 6 months postinjury.

Results

On insertion of the catheter, mean ITP was 13.8 ± 1.3 mm Hg (± SD), and it increased to a mean peak of 21.7 ± 1.5 mm Hg intraoperatively. The difference between the starting ITP on catheter insertion and the observed peak intrathecal pressure after decompression was, on average, an increase of 7.9 ± 1.6 mm Hg (p < 0.0001, paired t-test). During the postoperative period, the peak recorded ITP in the patients randomized to the no-drainage group was 30.6 ± 2.3 mm Hg, which was significantly higher than the peak intraoperative ITP (p = 0.0098). During the same period, the peak recorded ITP in patients randomized to receive drainage was 28.1 ± 2.8 mm Hg, which was not statistically higher than the peak intraoperative ITP (p = 0.15).

Conclusions

The insertion of lumbar intrathecal catheters and the drainage of CSF were not associated with significant adverse events, although the cohort was small and only a limited amount of CSF was drained. Intraoperative decompression of the spinal cord results in an increase in the ITP measured caudal to the injury site. Increases in intrathecal pressure are additionally observed in the postoperative period. These increases in intrathecal pressure result in reduced spinal cord perfusion that will otherwise go undetected when measuring only the MABP. Characteristic changes in the observed intrathecal pressure waveform occur after surgical decompression, reflecting the restoration of CSF flow across the SCI site. As such, the waveform pattern may be used intraoperatively to determine if adequate decompression of the thecal sac has been accomplished.

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Christopher S. Bailey, Marcel F. Dvorak, Kenneth C. Thomas, Michael C. Boyd, Scott Paquett, Brian K. Kwon, John France, Kevin R. Gurr, Stewart I. Bailey and Charles G. Fisher

Object

The authors compared the outcome of patients with thoracolumbar burst fractures treated with and without a thoracolumbosacral orthosis (TLSO).

Methods

As of June 2002, all consecutive patients satisfying the following inclusion criteria were considered eligible for this study: 1) the presence of an AO Classification Type A3 burst fractures between T-11 and L-3, 2) skeletal maturity and age < 60 years, 3) admission within 72 hours of injury, 4) initial kyphotic deformity < 35°, and 5) no neurological deficit. The study was designed as a multicenter prospective randomized clinical equivalence trial. The primary outcome measure was the score based on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire assessed at 3 months postinjury. Secondary outcomes are assessed until 2 years of follow-up have been reached, and these domains included pain, functional outcome and generic health-related quality of life, sagittal alignment, length of hospital stay, and complications. Patients in whom no orthotic was used were encouraged to ambulate immediately following randomization, maintaining “neutral spinal alignment” for 8 weeks. The patients in the TLSO group began being weaned from the brace at 8 weeks over a 2-week period.

Results

Sixty-nine patients were followed to the primary outcome time point, and 47 were followed for up to 1 year. No significant difference was found between treatment groups for any outcome measure at any stage in the follow-up period. There were 4 failures requiring surgical intervention, 3 in the TLSO group and 1 in the non-TLSO group.

Conclusions

This interim analysis found equivalence between treatment with a TLSO and no orthosis for thoracolumbar AO Type A3 burst fractures. The influence of a brace on early pain control and function and on long-term 1- and 2-year outcomes remains to be determined. However, the authors contend that a thoracolumbar burst fracture, in exclusion of an associated posterior ligamentous complex injury, is inherently a very stable injury and may not require a brace.

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Editorial

Measuring quality of life outcomes in spine clinical trials

Michael G. Fehlings and Anoushka Singh

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Sydney M. Hester, John F. Fisher, Mark R. Lee, Samuel Macomson and John R. Vender

Object

Intrathecal baclofen therapy has been used successfully for intractable spasticity in children with cerebral palsy. Infections are rare, but they are potentially life threatening if complicated by bacteremia or meningitis. Treatment without removal of the system is desirable if it can be done safely and effectively.

Methods

The authors reviewed the records of 207 patients ranging from 3 to 18 years of age with cerebral palsy who underwent placement or revision of a baclofen pump. They identified 38 patients with suspected or documented infectious complications. Initial attempts were made to eradicate infection with the devices in situ in all patients. Methods and effectiveness of pump salvage were evaluated.

Results

Of the 38 patients identified, 13 (34.2%) had documented infections; 11 had deep wound/pocket empyemas and 2 had meningitis. Eight patients with deep wound infections received intravenous antibiotics alone. All required pump explantation. The remaining 3 patients underwent a washout procedure as well; the infection was cured in 1 patient. Both patients with meningitis received intravenous and intrathecal antibiotics, and both required device explantation. In addition, 25 patients (65.8%) had excessive or increasing wound erythema. No objective criteria to document a superficial infection were present. The wounds were considered suspicious and were managed with serial examinations and oral antibiotics. The erythema resolved in 24 of the 25 patients.

Conclusions

In general, observation, wound care, and oral antibiotics are sufficient for wounds that are suspicious for superficial infection. For deep-seated infection, antibiotic therapy alone is generally insufficient and explantation is required. Washout procedures can be considered, but failures are common.

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Christopher C. Gillis, John T. Street, Michael C. Boyd and Charles G. Fisher

A novel method of spinopelvic ring reconstruction after partial sacrectomy for a chondrosarcoma is described. Chondrosarcoma is one of the most common primary malignant bone tumors, and en bloc resection is the mainstay of treatment. Involvement of the pelvis as well as the sacrum and lumbar spine can result in a technically difficult challenge for en bloc resection and for achievement of appropriate load-bearing reconstruction.

After en bloc resection in their patient, the authors achieved reconstruction with a rod and screw construct including vascularized fibula graft as the main strut from the lumbar spine to the pelvis. Additionally, a cadaveric allograft strut was used as an adjunct for the pelvic ring. This is similar to a modified Galveston technique with vascularized fibula in place of the Galveston rods. The vascularized fibula provided appropriate biomechanical support, allowing the patient to return to independent ambulation. There was no tumor recurrence; neurological status remained stable; and the allograft construct integrated well and even increased in size on CT scans and radiographs in the course of a follow-up longer than 7 years.