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Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Julie E. York and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Object. Craniovertebral instability is a challenging problem in pediatric spinal surgery. Recently, C1–2 transarticular screw fixation has been used to assist in craniovertebral joint stabilization in pediatric patients. Currently there are no available data that define the anatomical suitability of this technique in the pediatric population. The authors report their experience in treating 31 pediatric patients with craniovertebral instability by using C1–2 transarticular screws.

Methods. From March 1992 to October 1998, 31 patients who were 16 years of age or younger with atlantooccipital or atlantoaxial instability, or both, were evaluated at our institution. There were 21 boys and 10 girls. Their ages ranged from 4 to 16 years (mean age 10.2 years). The most common causes of instability were os odontoideum (12 patients) and ligamentous laxity (eight patients). Six patients had undergone a total of nine previous attempts at posterior fusion while at outside institutions.

All patients underwent extensive preoperative radiological evaluation including fine-slice (1-mm) computerized tomography scanning with multiplanar reconstruction to evaluate the anatomy of the C1–2 joint space. Preoperatively, of the 62 possible C1–2 joint spaces in 31 patients, 55 sides (89%) were considered suitable for transarticular screw placement. In three patients the anatomy was considered unsuitable for bilateral screw placement. In three patients the anatomy was considered inadequate on one side. Fifty-five C1–2 transarticular screws were subsequently placed, and there were no neurological or vascular complications.

Conclusions. The authors conclude that C1–2 transarticular screw fixation is technically possible in a large proportion of pediatric patients with craniovertebral instability.

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Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Julie E. York and Ronald I. Apfelbaum

Craniovertebral instability is a challenging problem in pediatric spinal surgery. Recently, C1-2 transarticular screw fixation in pediatric patients has been used to assist in the stabilization of the craniovertebral joint. Currently there are no data that define the anatomical suitability of this technique in the pediatric population. The authors report their experience in 32 pediatric patients in whom craniovertebral instability was treated by placement of C1-2 transarticular screws.

From March 1991 to October 1998, 32 patients 16 years of age or younger with atlantooccipital, or atlantoaxial instability, or both were evaluated at our institution. There were 22 boys and 10 girls. Their ages ranged from 4 to 16 years (mean age 10.2 years). The most common causes of instability were os odontoideum (12 patients) and ligamentous laxity (nine patients). Six patients had undergone a total of nine previous attempts at posterior fusion at outside institutions.

All patients underwent extensive preoperative radiological evaluation including thin cut (1-mm) computerized tomography scanning with multiplanar reconstruction to evaluate the C1-2 joint space anatomy. Of the 64 possible C1-2 joint spaces in 32 patients, 55 sides (86%) were considered suitable for transarticular screw placement preoperatively. In three patients the C1-2 joint space anatomy was considered unsuitable for screw placement bilaterally. In three patients the anatomy was considered inadequate on one side. Fifty-five C1-2 transarticular screws were subsequently placed, with no resulting neurological or vascular complications. We conclude that C1-2 transarticular screw fixation is technically possible in a large proportion of pediatric patients with craniovertebral instability.

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Julie E. York, Garrett L. Walsh, Frederick F. Lang, Joe B. Putnam, Ian E. McCutcheon, Stephen G. Swisher, Ritsuko Komaki and Ziya L Gokaslan

Object. Traditionally, superior sulcus tumors of the lung that involve the chest wall and spinal column have been considered to be unresectable, and historically, patients harboring these tumors have been treated with local radiation therapy with, at best, modest results. The value of gross-total resection remains unclear in this patient population; however, with the recent advances in surgical technique and spinal instrumentation, procedures involving more radical removal of such tumors are now possible. At The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the authors have developed a new technique for resecting superior sulcus tumors that invade the chest wall and spinal column. They present a technical description of this procedure and results in nine patients in whom stage IIIb superior sulcus tumors extensively invaded the vertebral column.

Methods. These patients underwent gross-total tumor resection via a combined approach that included posterolateral thoracotomy, apical lobectomy, chest wall resection, laminectomy, vertebrectomy, anterior spinal column reconstruction with methylmethacrylate, and placement of spinal instrumentation. There were six men and three women, with a mean age of 55 years (range 36–72 years). Histological examination revealed squamous cell carcinoma (three patients), adenocarcinoma (four patients), and large cell carcinoma (two patients). The mean postoperative follow-up period was 16 months. All patients are currently ambulatory or remained ambulatory until they died. Pain related to tumor invasion improved in four patients and remained unchanged in five. In three patients instrumentation failed and required revision. There was one case of cerebrospinal fluid leakage that was treated with lumbar drainage and one case of wound breakdown that required revision. Two patients experienced local tumor recurrence, and one patient developed a second primary lung tumor.

Conclusions. The authors conclude that in selected patients, combined radical resection of superior sulcus tumors of the lung that involve the chest wall and spinal column may represent an acceptable treatment modality that can offer a potential cure while preserving neurological function and providing pain control.

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Julie E. York, Garrett L. Walsh, Frederick F. Lang, Joe B. Putnam, Ian E. McCutcheon, Stephen G. Swisher, Ritsuko Komaki and Ziya L Gokaslan

Traditionally, superior sulcus tumors of the lung that involve the chest wall and spinal column have been considered to be unresectable, and historically, patients harboring these tumors have been treated with local radiation therapy with, at best, modest results. The value of gross-total resection remains unclear in this patient population; however, with the recent advances in surgical technique and spinal instrumentation, procedures involving more radical removal of such tumors are now possible. At The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, the authors have developed a new technique for resecting superior sulcus tumors that invade the chest wall and spinal column. They present a technical description of this procedure and results in nine patients in whom stage IIIb superior sulcus tumors extensively invaded the vertebral column. These patients underwent gross-total tumor resection via a combined approach that included posterolateral thoracotomy, apical lobectomy, chest wall resection, laminectomy, vertebrectomy, anterior spinal column reconstruction with methylmethacrylate, and placement of spinal instrumentation. There were six men and three women, with a mean age of 55 years (range 36–72 years). Histological examination revealed squamous cell carcinoma (three patients), adenocarcinoma (four patients), and large cell carcinoma (two patients). The mean postoperative follow-up period was 16 months. All patients are currently ambulatory or remained ambulatory until they died. Pain related to tumor invasion improved in four patients and remained unchanged in five. In three patients instrumentation failed and required revision. There was one case of cerebrospinal leak that was treated with lumbar drainage and one case of wound breakdown that required revision. Two patients experienced local tumor recurrence, and one patient developed a second primary lung tumor. The authors conclude that in selected patients, combined radical resection of superior sulcus tumors of the lung that involve the chest wall and spinal column may represent an acceptable treatment modality that can offer a potential cure while preserving neurological function and providing pain control.

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Russ P. Nockels, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Adam S. Kanter, Syed Azeem and Julie E. York

Object.

Instability of the occipitocervical junction may result from degenerative disease, infection, tumor, and trauma. Surgical stabilization involving screw fixation and rigid implants has been found to be biomechanically superior to wire-based implants. To evaluate the long-term results in a large and diverse patient population, the authors prospectively studied a consecutive group of 69 patients.

Methods.

All patients underwent occipitocervical fusion in which rigid posterior instrumentation included either plates or rods and screws. Patients ranged in age from 11 to 90 years (mean 51.4 years); there were 34 female and 35 male patients. The mean follow-up duration was 37 months (range 6–66 months). Fifty-seven (83%) of the 69 patients had long-standing occipitocervical anomalies, whereas the remainder presented with acute instability. Basilar invagination was present in 20 patients.

Results.

Correction of a severe cervical kyphotic deformity was accomplished in six patients. There were no fatalities or medical complications associated with the procedures. During the follow-up period, 87% of the patients exhibited improvement in their myelopathic symptoms; in 13% the symptoms were unchanged. Complications were minimal. Stability was demonstrated on flexion/extension studies in all cases. There were no treatment-related deaths, although four patients died within the follow-up period, all due to progression of metastatic disease.

Conclusions.

The authors found that rigid internal fixation of the occipitocervical complex was safe, effective, and technically possible for spine surgeons familiar with occipital bone anatomy and lateral mass fixation.

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Julie E. York, Rasim H. Berk, Gregory N. Fuller, Jasti S. Rao, Dima Abi-Said, David M. Wildrick and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object. Primary chondrosarcoma of the spine is extremely rare. During the last 43 years only 21 patients with this disease were registered at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The purpose of this study was to examine the demographic characteristics, treatments, and outcomes of this set of patients.

Methods. Medical records for 21 patients were reviewed. Age, sex, race, clinical presentation, tumor histology, tumor location in the spinal column, treatments, surgical details, and response to treatment were recorded. Surgical procedures were categorized as either gross-total resection or subtotal excision of tumor. Neurological function was assessed using Frankel's functional classification. Time to recurrence and survival analyses were performed using the Kaplan—Meier method. The median age of patients was 51 years, with fairly equal gender representation. Eighteen patients underwent at least one surgical procedure for a total of 28 surgical procedures: seven radical resections and 21 subtotal excisions. Radiation therapy was used in conjunction with 10 of the 28 surgical procedures. The median Kaplan—Meier estimate of overall survival for the entire group was 6 years (range 6 months–17 years). Tumors recurred after 18 of the 28 procedures. Kaplan—Meier analysis revealed a statistically significant difference in the per-procedure disease-free interval after gross-total resection relative to subtotal excision (exact log rank 3.39; p = 0.04). The addition of radiation therapy prolonged the median disease-free interval from 16 to 44 months, although this was not statistically significant (exact log rank 2.63; p = 0.16).

Conclusions. Our results suggest that gross-total resection of the chondrosarcoma provides the best chance for prolonging the disease-free interval in patients. Subtotal excision should be avoided whenever possible. Addition of radiation therapy does not appear to lengthen significantly the disease-free interval in this patient population.

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Daryl R. Fourney, Julie E. York, Zvi R. Cohen, Dima Suki, Laurence D. Rhines and Ziya L. Gokaslan

Object. The treatment of atlantoaxial spinal metastases is complicated by the region's unique biomechanical and anatomical characteristics. Patients most frequently present with pain secondary to instability; neurological deficits are rare. Recently, some authors have performed anterior approaches (transoral or extraoral) for resection of upper cervical metastases. The authors review their experience with a surgical strategy that emphasizes posterior stabilization of the spine and avoidance of poorly tolerated external orthoses such as the rigid cervical collar or halo vest.

Methods. The authors performed a retrospective review of 19 consecutively treated patients with C-1 or C-2 metastases who underwent surgery at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center between 1994 and 2001.

Visual analog pain scores were reduced at 1 and 3 months (p < 0.005, Wilcoxon signed-rank test); however, evaluation of pain at 6 months and 1 year was limited by the remaining number of surviving patients. Analgesic medication consumption was unchanged. There were no cases of neurological decline or sudden death secondary to residual or recurrent atlantoaxial disease during the follow-up period. One patient underwent revision of hardware at 11 months. The mean follow-up period was 8 months (range 1–32 months). Median survival determined by Kaplan—Meier analysis was 6.1 months (95% confidence interval 2.99–9.21).

Conclusions. Occipitocervical stabilization provided durable pain relief and preservation of ambulatory status over the remaining life span of patients. Because of the palliative goals of surgery, the authors have not found an indication for anterior-approach tumor resection in these patients. Successful stabilization obviates the need for an external orthosis.

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Ziya L. Gokaslan, Julie E. York, Garrett L. Walsh, Ian E. McCutcheon, Frederick F. Lang, Joe B. Putnam Jr., David M. Wildrick, Stephen G. Swisher, Dima Abi-Said and Raymond Sawaya

Anterior approaches to the spine for the treatment of spinal tumors have gained acceptance; however, in most published reports, patients with primary, metastatic, or chest wall tumors involving cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions of the spine are combined. The purpose of this study was to provide a clear perspective of results that can be expected in patients who undergo anterior vertebral body resection, reconstruction, and stabilization for spinal metastases that are limited to the thoracic region.

Outcome is presented for 72 patients with metastatic spinal tumors who were treated by transthoracic vertebrectomy at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The predominant primary tumors included renal cancer in 19 patients, breast cancer in 10, melanoma or sarcoma in 10, and lung cancer in nine patients. The most common presenting symptoms were back pain, which occurred in 90% of patients, and lower-extremity weakness, which occurred in 64% of patients. All patients underwent transthoracic vertebrectomy, decompression, reconstruction with methylmethacrylate, and anterior fixation with locking plate and screw constructs. Supplemental posterior instrumentation was required in seven patients with disease involving the cervicothoracic or thoracolumbar junction, which was causing severe kyphosis. After surgery, pain improved in 60 of 65 patients. This improvement was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.001) based on visual analog scales and narcotic analgesic medication use. Thirty-five of the 46 patients who presented with neurological dysfunction improved significantly (p < 0.001) following the procedure. Thirty-three patients had weakness but could ambulate preoperatively. Seventeen of these 33 regained normal strength, 15 patients continued to have weakness, and one patient was neurologically worse postoperatively. Of the 13 preoperatively nonambulatory patients, 10 could walk after surgery and three were still unable to walk but showed improved motor function. Twenty-one patients had complications ranging from minor atelectasis to pulmonary embolism. The 30-day mortality rate was 3%. The 1-year survival rate for the entire study population was 62%.

These results suggest that transthoracic vertebrectomy and spinal stabilization can improve the quality of life considerably in cancer patients with spinal metastasis by restoring or preserving ambulation and by controlling intractable spinal pain with acceptable rates of morbidity and mortality.

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Ziya L. Gokaslan, Julie E. York, Garrett L. Walsh, Ian E. McCutcheon, Frederick F. Lang, Joe B. Putnam Jr., David M. Wildrick, Stephen G. Swisher, Dima Abi-Said and Raymond Sawaya

Object. Anterior approaches to the spine for the treatment of spinal tumors have gained acceptance; however, in most published reports, patients with primary, metastatic, or chest wall tumors involving cervical, thoracic, or lumbar regions of the spine are combined. The purpose of this study was to provide a clear perspective of results that can be expected in patients who undergo anterior vertebral body resection, reconstruction, and stabilization for spinal metastases that are limited to the thoracic region.

Methods. Outcome is presented for 72 patients with metastatic spinal tumors who were treated by transthoracic vertebrectomy at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The predominant primary tumors included renal cancer in 19 patients, breast cancer in 10, melanoma or sarcoma in 10, and lung cancer in nine patients. The most common presenting symptoms were back pain, which occurred in 90% of patients, and lower-extremity weakness, which occurred in 64% of patients. All patients underwent transthoracic vertebrectomy, decompression, reconstruction with methylmethacrylate, and anterior fixation with locking plate and screw constructs. Supplemental posterior instrumentation was required in seven patients with disease involving the cervicothoracic or thoracolumbar junction, which was causing severe kyphosis. After surgery, pain improved in 60 of 65 patients. This improvement was found to be statistically significant (p < 0.001) based on visual analog scales and narcotic analgesic medication use. Thirty-five of the 46 patients who presented with neurological dysfunction improved significantly (p < 0.001) following the procedure. Thirty-three patients had weakness but could ambulate preoperatively. Seventeen of these 33 regained normal strength, 15 patients continued to have weakness, and one patient was neurologically worse postoperatively. Of the 13 preoperatively nonambulatory patients, 10 could walk after surgery and three were still unable to walk but showed improved motor function. Twenty-one patients had complications ranging from minor atelectasis to pulmonary embolism. The 30-day mortality rate was 3%. The 1-year survival rate for the entire study population was 62%.

Conclusions. These results suggest that transthoracic vertebrectomy and spinal stabilization can improve the quality of life considerably in cancer patients with spinal metastasis by restoring or preserving ambulation and by controlling intractable spinal pain with acceptable rates of morbidity and mortality.