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Technique of cervicothoracic junction pedicle subtraction osteotomy for cervical sagittal imbalance: report of 11 cases

Clinical article

Vedat Deviren, Justin K. Scheer, and Christopher P. Ames

Object

Sagittal imbalance of the cervicothoracic spine often causes severe pain and loss of horizontal gaze. Historically, the Smith-Peterson osteotomy has been used to restore sagittal balance. Cervicothoracic junction pedicle subtraction osteotomy (PSO) offers more controlled closure and greater biomechanical stability but has been infrequently reported in the literature. This study details the cervicothoracic PSO technique in 11 cases and correlates clinical kyphosis (chin-brow to vertical angle [CBVA]) with radiographic measurements.

Methods

Between February 2008 and September 2010, 11 patients (mean age 70 years) underwent a modified PSO (10 at C-7, 1 at T-1) for treatment of sagittal imbalance. Preoperative and postoperative sagittal plane radiographic measurements were made. The CBVA was measured on clinical photographs. Operative technique and perioperative correction were reported for all 11 patients and long-term follow-up data was reported for 9 patients, in whom the mean duration of follow-up was 23 months. Outcome measures used for these 9 patients were the Neck Disability Index, the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36), and a visual analog scale for neck pain.

Results

The mean values for estimated blood loss, surgical time, and hospital stay in the 11 patients were 1100 ml, 4.3 hours, and 9.9 days, respectively. The mean preoperative and immediate postoperative values (± SD) for cervical sagittal imbalance were 7.9 ± 1.4 cm and 3.4 ± 1.7 cm. The mean overall correction was 4.5 ± 1.5 cm (42.8%), the mean PSO correction 19.0°, and the mean CBVA correction 36.7°. There was essentially no correlation between preoperative C2–T1 radiographic kyphosis and preoperative CBVA (R2 = 0.0165). There was a moderate correlation with PSO correction angle and postoperative CBVA (R2 = 0.38). There was a significant decrease in both the Neck Disability Index (51.1 to 38.6, p = 0.03) and visual analog scale scores for neck pain (8.1 to 3.9, p = 0.0021). The SF-36 physical component summary scores increased by 18.4% (30.2 to 35.8) with no neurological complications.

Conclusions

The cervicothoracic junction PSO is a safe and effective procedure for the management of cervicothoracic kyphotic deformity. It results in excellent correction of cervical kyphosis and CBVA with a controlled closure and improvement in health-related quality-of-life measures even at early time points.

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Impact of spinopelvic alignment on decision making in deformity surgery in adults

A review

Christopher P. Ames, Justin S. Smith, Justin K. Scheer, Shay Bess, S. Samuel Bederman, Vedat Deviren, Virginie Lafage, Frank Schwab, and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Sagittal spinal misalignment (SSM) is an established cause of pain and disability. Treating physicians must be familiar with the radiographic findings consistent with SSM. Additionally, the restoration or maintenance of physiological sagittal spinal alignment after reconstructive spinal procedures is imperative to achieve good clinical outcomes. The C-7 plumb line (sagittal vertical axis) has traditionally been used to evaluate sagittal spinal alignment; however, recent data indicate that the measurement of spinopelvic parameters provides a more comprehensive assessment of sagittal spinal alignment. In this review the authors describe the proper analysis of spinopelvic alignment for surgical planning. Online videos supplement the text to better illustrate the key concepts.

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Biomechanical analysis of Goel technique for C1–2 fusion

Laboratory investigation

Jon Park, Justin K. Scheer, T. Jesse Lim, Vedat Deviren, and Christopher P. Ames

Object

The Goel technique, in which C1–2 intraarticular spacers are used, may be performed to restore stability to a disrupted atlantoaxial complex in conjunction with the Harms technique of placing polyaxial screws and bilateral rods. However, it has yet to be determined biomechanically whether the addition of the C1–2 joint spacers increases the multiaxial rigidity of the fixation construct. The goal of this study was to quantify changes in multiaxial rigidity of the combined Goel-Harms technique with the addition of C1–2 intraarticular spacers.

Methods

Seven cadaveric cervical spines (occiput–C2) were submitted to nondestructive flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation tests in a material testing machine spine tester. The authors applied 1.5 Nm at a rate of 0.1 Nm/second and held it constant for 10 seconds. The specimens were loaded 3 times, and data were collected on the third cycle. Testing of the specimens was performed for the following groups: 1) intact (I); 2) with the addition of C-1 lateral mass/C-2 pedicle screws and rod system (I+SR); 3) with C1–2 joint capsule incision, decortication (2 mm on top and bottom of each joint [that is, the C-1 and C-2 surface) and addition of bilateral C1–2 intraarticular spacers at C1–2 junction to the screws and rods (I+SR+C); 4) after removal of the posterior rods and only the bilateral spacers in place (I+C); 5) after removal of spacers and further destabilization with simulated odontoidectomy for a completely destabilized case (D); 6) with addition of posterior rods to the destabilized case (D+SR); and 7) with addition of bilateral C1–2 intraarticular spacers at C1–2 junction to the destabilized case (D+SR+C). The motion of C-1 was measured by a 3D motion tracking system and the motion of C-2 was measured by the rotational sensor of the testing system. The range of motion (ROM) and neutral zone (NZ) across C-1 and C-2 were evaluated.

Results

For the intact spine test groups, the addition of screws/rods (I+SR) and screws/rods/cages (I+SR+C) significantly reduced ROM and NZ compared with the intact spine (I) for flexion-extension and axial rotation (p < 0.05) but not lateral bending (p > 0.05). The 2 groups were not significantly different from each other in any bending mode for ROM and NZ, but in the destabilized condition the addition of screws/rods (D+SR) and screws/rods/cages (D+SR+C) significantly reduced ROM and NZ compared with the destabilized spine (D) in all bending modes (p < 0.05). Furthermore, the addition of the C1–2 intraarticular spacers (D+SR+C) significantly reduced ROM (flexion-extension and axial rotation) and NZ (lateral bending) compared with the screws and rods alone (D+SR).

Conclusions

Study result indicated that both the Goel and Harms techniques alone and with the addition of the C1–2 intraarticular spacers to the Goel-Harms technique are advantageous for stabilizing the atlantoaxial segment. The Goel technique combined with placement of a screw/rod construct appears to result in additional construct rigidity beyond the screw/rod technique and appears to be more useful in very unstable cases.

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Evidence-based management of traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures: a systematic review of nonoperative management

Joshua Bakhsheshian, Nader S. Dahdaleh, Shayan Fakurnejad, Justin K. Scheer, and Zachary A. Smith

Object

The overall evidence for nonoperative management of patients with traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures is unknown. There is no agreement on the optimal method of conservative treatment. Recent randomized controlled trials that have compared nonoperative to operative treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures without neurological deficits yielded conflicting results. By assessing the level of evidence on conservative management through validated methodologies, clinicians can assess the availability of critically appraised literature. The purpose of this study was to examine the level of evidence for the use of conservative management in traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures.

Methods

A comprehensive search of the English literature over the past 20 years was conducted using PubMed (MEDLINE). The inclusion criteria consisted of burst fractures resulting from a traumatic mechanism, and fractures of the thoracic or lumbar spine. The exclusion criteria consisted of osteoporotic burst fractures, pathological burst fractures, and fractures located in the cervical spine. Of the studies meeting the inclusion/exclusion criteria, any study in which nonoperative treatment was used was included in this review.

Results

One thousand ninety-eight abstracts were reviewed and 447 papers met inclusion/exclusion criteria, of which 45 were included in this review. In total, there were 2 Level-I, 7 Level-II, 9 Level-III, 25 Level-IV, and 2 Level-V studies. Of the 45 studies, 16 investigated conservative management techniques, 20 studies compared operative to nonoperative treatments, and 9 papers investigated the prognosis of conservative management.

Conclusions

There are 9 high-level studies (Levels I–II) that have investigated the conservative management of traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures. In neurologically intact patients, there is no superior conservative management technique over another as supported by a high level of evidence. The conservative technique can be based on patient and surgeon preference, comfort, and access to resources. A high level of evidence demonstrated similar functional outcomes with conservative management when compared with open surgical operative management in patients who were neurologically intact. The presence of a neurological deficit is not an absolute contraindication for conservative treatment as supported by a high level of evidence. However, the majority of the literature excluded patients with neurological deficits. More evidence is needed to further classify the appropriate burst fractures for conservative management to decrease variables that may impact the prognosis.

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Anatomy and biomechanics of the craniovertebral junction

Alejandro J. Lopez, Justin K. Scheer, Kayla E. Leibl, Zachary A. Smith, Brian J. Dlouhy, and Nader S. Dahdaleh

The craniovertebral junction (CVJ) has unique anatomical structures that separate it from the subaxial cervical spine. In addition to housing vital neural and vascular structures, the majority of cranial flexion, extension, and axial rotation is accomplished at the CVJ. A complex combination of osseous and ligamentous supports allow for stability despite a large degree of motion. An understanding of anatomy and biomechanics is essential to effectively evaluate and address the various pathological processes that may affect this region. Therefore, the authors present an up-to-date narrative review of CVJ anatomy, normal and pathological biomechanics, and fixation techniques.

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Lymphocele after anterior lumbar interbody fusion: a review of 1322 patients

Justin K. Scheer, Alexander F. Haddad, Andrew K. Chan, Charles M. Eichler, Bobby Tay, Shane Burch, Dean Chou, Christopher P. Ames, and Praveen V. Mummaneni

OBJECTIVE

Anterior lumbar interbody fusion (ALIF) is an effective surgical modality for many lumbar degenerative pathologies, but a rare and infrequently reported complication is postoperative lymphocele. The goals of the present study were to review a large consecutive series of patients who underwent ALIF at a high-volume institution, estimate the rate of lymphocele occurrence after ALIF, and investigate the outcomes of patients who developed lymphocele after ALIF.

METHODS

A retrospective review of the electronic medical record was completed, identifying all patients (≥ 18 years old) who underwent at a minimum a single-level ALIF from 2012 through 2019. Postoperative spinal and abdominal images, as well as radiologist reports, were reviewed for mention of lymphocele. Clinical data were collected and reported.

RESULTS

A total of 1322 patients underwent a minimum 1-level ALIF. Of these patients, 937 (70.9%) had either postoperative abdominal or lumbar spine images, and the resulting lymphocele incidence was 2.1% (20/937 patients). The mean ± SD age was 67 ± 10.9 years, and the male/female ratio was 1:1. Patients with lymphocele were significantly older than those without lymphocele (66.9 vs 58.9 years, p = 0.006). In addition, patients with lymphocele had a greater number of mean levels fused (2.5 vs 1.8, p < 0.001) and were more likely to have undergone ALIF at L2–4 (95.0% vs 66.4%, p = 0.007) than patients without lymphocele. On subsequent multivariate analysis, age (OR 1.07, 95% CI 1.01–1.12, p = 0.013), BMI (OR 1.10, 95% CI 1.01–1.18, p = 0.021), and number of levels fused (OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.05–3.14, p = 0.032) were independent prognosticators of postoperative lymphocele development. Patients with symptomatic lymphocele were successfully treated with either interventional radiology (IR) drainage and/or sclerosis therapy and achieved radiographic resolution. The mean ± SD length of hospital stay was 9.1 ± 5.2 days. Ten patients (50%) were postoperatively discharged to a rehabilitation center: 8 patients (40%) were discharged to home, 1 (5%) to a skilled nursing facility, and 1 (5%) to a long-term acute care facility.

CONCLUSIONS

After ALIF, 2.1% of patients were diagnosed with radiographically identified postoperative lymphocele and had risk factors such as increased age, BMI, and number of levels fused. Most patients presented within 1 month postoperatively, and their clinical presentations included abdominal pain, abdominal distension, and/or wound complications. Of note, 25% of identified lymphoceles were discovered incidentally. Patients with symptomatic lymphocele were successfully treated with either IR drainage and/or sclerosis therapy and achieved radiographic resolution.

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Optimal reconstruction technique after C-2 corpectomy and spondylectomy: a biomechanical analysis

Laboratory investigation

Justin K. Scheer, Jessica Tang, Johnny Eguizabal, Azadeh Farin, Jenni M. Buckley, Vedat Deviren, R. Trigg McClellan, and Christopher P. Ames

Object

Primary spine tumors frequently involve the C-2 vertebra. Complete resection of the lesion may require total removal of the C-2 vertebral body, pedicles, and dens process. Authors of this biomechanical study are the first to evaluate a comprehensive set of reconstruction methods after C-2 resection to determine the optimal configuration depending on the degree of excision required.

Methods

Eight human heads (from the skull to C-6) from 4 males and 4 females with a mean age of 68 ± 18 years at death were cleaned of tissue, while leaving ligaments and discs intact. Nondestructive flexion and extension (FE), lateral bending (LB), and axial rotation (AR) tests were conducted using a nonconstraining, pure moment loading apparatus, and relative motion across the fusion site (C1–3) was measured using a 3D motion tracking system. Specimens were tested up to 1.5 Nm at 0.25-Nm intervals for 45 seconds each. The spines were instrumented using 3.5-mm titanium rods with a midline occipitocervical plate (4.0 × 12–mm screws) and lateral mass screws (excluding C-2) at the C-1 (3.0 × 40 mm) and C3–5 levels (3.0 × 16 mm). Testing was repeated for the following configurations: Configuration 1 (CF1), instrumentation only from occiput to C-5; CF2, C-2 corpectomy leaving the dens; CF3, titanium mesh cage (16-mm diameter) from C-3 to C-1 ring and dens; CF4, removal of cage, C-1 ring, and dens; CF5, titanium mesh cage from C-3 to clivus (16-mm diameter); CF6, removal of C-2 posterior elements leaving the C3–clivus cage (spondylectomy); CF7, titanium mesh cage from C-3 to clivus (16-mm diameter) with 2 titanium mesh cages from C-3 to C-1 lateral masses (12-mm diameter); and CF8, removal of all 3 cages. A crosslink was added connecting the posterior rods for CF1, CF6, and CF8. Range-of-motion (ROM) differences between all groups were compared via repeated-measures ANOVA with paired comparisons using the Student t-test with a Tukey post hoc adjustment. A p < 0.05 indicated significance.

Results

The addition of a central cage significantly increased FE rigidity compared with posterior instrumentation alone but had less of an effect in AR and LB. The addition of lateral cages did not significantly improve rigidity in any bending direction (CF6 vs CF7, p > 0.05). With posterior instrumentation alone (CF1 and CF2), C-2 corpectomy reduced bending rigidity in only the FE direction (p < 0.05). The removal of C-2 posterior elements in the presence of a C3–clivus cage did not affect the ROM in any bending mode (CF5 vs CF6, p > 0.05). A crosslink addition in CF1, CF6, and CF8 did not significantly affect primary or off-axis ROM (p > 0.05).

Conclusions

Study results indicated that posterior instrumentation alone with 3.5-mm rods is insufficient for stability restoration after a C-2 corpectomy. Either C3–1 or C3–clivus cages can correct instability introduced by C-2 removal in the presence of posterior instrumentation. The addition of lateral cages to a C3–clivus fusion construct may be unnecessary since it does not significantly improve rigidity in any direction.

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Association of telomere length with risk of complications in adult spinal deformity surgery: a pilot study of 43 patients

Michael M. Safaee, Jue Lin, Dana L. Smith, Marissa Fury, Justin K. Scheer, John F. Burke, Crystal Bravate, Dennis Lambert, and Christopher P. Ames

OBJECTIVE

Risk stratification is a critical element of surgical planning. Early tools were fairly crude, while newer instruments incorporate disease-specific elements and markers of frailty. It is unknown if discrepancies between chronological and cellular age can guide surgical planning or treatment. Telomeres are DNA-protein complexes that serve an important role in protecting genomic DNA. Their shortening is a consequence of aging and environmental exposures, with well-established associations with diseases of aging and mortality. There are compelling data to suggest that telomere length can provide insight toward overall health. The authors sought to determine potential associations between telomere length and postoperative complications.

METHODS

Adults undergoing elective surgery for spinal deformity were prospectively enrolled. Telomere length was measured from preoperative whole blood using quantitative polymerase chain reaction and expressed as the ratio of telomere (T) to single-copy gene (S) abundance (T/S ratio), with higher T/S ratios indicating longer telomere length. Demographic and patient data included age, BMI, and results for the following rating scales: the Adult Spinal Deformity Frailty Index (ASD-FI), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), Scoliosis Research Society-22r (SRS-22r), American Society of Anesthesiology (ASA) classification, and Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI). Operative and postoperative complication data (medical or surgical within 90 days) were also collected.

RESULTS

Forty-three patients were enrolled, including 31 women (53%), with a mean age of 66 years and a mean BMI of 28.5. The mean number of levels fused was 11, with 21 (48.8%) combined anterior-posterior approaches. Twenty-two patients (51.2%) had a medical or surgical complication. Patients with a postoperative complication had a significantly lower T/S ratio (0.712 vs 0.813, p = 0.008), indicating shorter telomere length, despite a mild difference in age compared with patients without a postoperative complication (68 vs 63 years, p = 0.069). Patients with complications also had higher CCI scores than patients without complications (2.3 vs 3.8, p = 0.004). There were no significant differences in sex, BMI, ASD-FI score, ASA class, preoperative ODI and SRS-22r scores, number of levels fused, or use of three-column osteotomies. In a multivariate model including age, frailty, ASA class, use of an anterior-posterior approach, CCI score, and telomere length, the authors found that short telomere length was significantly associated with postoperative complications. Patients whose telomere length fell in the shortest quartile had the highest risk (OR 18.184, p = 0.030).

CONCLUSIONS

Short telomere length was associated with an increased risk of postoperative complications despite only a mild difference in chronological age. Increasing comorbidity scores also trended toward significance. Larger prospective studies are needed; however, these data provide a compelling impetus to investigate the role of biological aging as a component of surgical risk stratification.

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Reduced proximal junctional failure with ligament augmentation in adult spinal deformity: a series of 242 cases with a minimum 1-year follow-up

Michael M. Safaee, Alexander F. Haddad, Marissa Fury, Patrick R. Maloney, Justin K. Scheer, Darryl Lau, Vedat Deviren, and Christopher P. Ames

OBJECTIVE

Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) and proximal junctional failure (PJF) are well-recognized complications of long-segment spinal fusion. Previous studies have suggested that ligament augmentation can decrease rates of PJF by reducing junctional stress and strengthening upper instrumented vertebrae (UIVs) and adjacent segments. However, there is a paucity of long-term data on the efficacy of ligament augmentation in preventing PJF. In this study, the authors sought to determine the effect of ligament augmentation on rates of PJF in a cohort of adult spinal deformity patients with at least 1 year of follow-up.

METHODS

They conducted a retrospective analysis of ligament augmentation in a consecutive series of surgical patients with adult spinal deformity. Data on patient demographics, surgical characteristics, and surgery for PJF were collected. The minimum follow-up was 12 months. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify factors associated with reoperation for PJF.

RESULTS

The authors identified a total of 242 patients (166 women [68.6%]) with ligament augmentation whose mean age was 66 years. The mean number of fused levels was 10, with a UIV distribution as follows: 90 upper thoracic UIVs (37.2%) and 152 lower thoracic UIVs (62.8%). Compared to a historical cohort of 77 patients treated before implementation of ligament augmentation, reoperation for PJF was significantly lower with ligament augmentation (15.6% vs 3.3%, p < 0.001). In a multivariate model, only ligament augmentation (OR 0.184, 95% CI 0.071–0.478, p = 0.001) and number of fused levels (OR 0.762, 95% CI 0.620–0.937, p = 0.010) were associated with reductions in reoperation for PJF.

CONCLUSIONS

Ligament augmentation was associated with significant reductions in the rate of reoperation for PJF at 12 months in a cohort of adult spinal deformity patients. The most dramatic reduction was seen among patients with lower thoracic UIV. These data suggest that in appropriately selected patients, ligament augmentation may be a valuable adjunct for PJF reduction; however, long-term follow-up is needed.

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Ligament augmentation for prevention of proximal junctional kyphosis and proximal junctional failure in adult spinal deformity

Michael M. Safaee, Vedat Deviren, Cecilia Dalle Ore, Justin K. Scheer, Darryl Lau, Joseph A. Osorio, Fred Nicholls, and Christopher P. Ames

OBJECTIVE

Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) is a well-recognized, yet incompletely defined, complication of adult spinal deformity surgery. There is no standardized definition for PJK, but most studies describe PJK as an increase in the proximal junctional angle (PJA) of greater than 10°–20°. Ligament augmentation is a novel strategy for PJK reduction that provides strength to the upper instrumented vertebra (UIV) and adjacent segments while also reducing junctional stress at those levels.

METHODS

In this study, ligament augmentation was used in a consecutive series of adult spinal deformity patients at a single institution. Patient demographics, including age; sex; indication for surgery; revision surgery; surgical approach; and use of 3-column osteotomies, vertebroplasty, or hook fixation at the UIV, were collected. The PJA was measured preoperatively and at last follow-up using 36-inch radiographs. Data on change in PJA and need for revision surgery were collected. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify factors associated with change in PJA and proximal junctional failure (PJF), defined as PJK requiring surgical correction.

RESULTS

A total of 200 consecutive patients were included: 100 patients before implementation of ligament augmentation and 100 patients after implementation of this technique. The mean age of the ligament augmentation cohort was 66 years, and 67% of patients were women. Over half of these cases (51%) were revision surgeries, with 38% involving a combined anterior or lateral and posterior approach. The mean change in PJA was 6° in the ligament augmentation group compared with 14° in the control group (p < 0.001). Eighty-four patients had a change in PJA of less than 10°. In a multivariate linear regression model, age (p = 0.016), use of hook fixation at the UIV (p = 0.045), and use of ligament augmentation (p < 0.001) were associated with a change in PJA. In a separate model, only ligament augmentation (OR 0.193, p = 0.012) showed a significant association with PJF.

CONCLUSIONS

Ligament augmentation represents a novel technique for the prevention of PJK and PJF. Compared with a well-matched historical cohort, ligament augmentation is associated with a significant decrease in PJK and PJF. These data support the implementation of ligament augmentation in surgery for adult spinal deformity, particularly in patients with a high risk of developing PJK and PJF.