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Khoi D. Nguyen, Haroon F. Choudhri and Samuel D. Macomson

OBJECTIVE

Peripheral nerve biopsy is a useful tool in diagnosing peripheral neuropathies. Sural and gracilis nerves have become the most common targets for nerve biopsy. However, the yield of sural nerve biopsy is limited in patients who have motor neuropathies, and gracilis nerve biopsy presents technical challenges and increased complications. The authors propose the intercostal nerve as an alternative motor nerve target for biopsy.

METHODS

A total of 4 patients with suspected peripheral neuropathies underwent intercostal nerve biopsy at the authors’ institution. A rib interspace that is inferior to the pectoralis muscle and anterior to the anterior axillary line is selected for the procedure. Generally the lower intercostal nerves (i.e., T7–11) are targeted. An incision is made over the inferior aspect of the superior rib at the chosen interspace. Blunt dissection is carried down to the neurovascular bundle and the nerve is isolated, ligated, and cut to send for pathological examination.

RESULTS

The average operative time for all cases was 73 minutes, with average blood loss of 8 ml. Biopsy results from 1 patient exhibited axonopathy, and the other 3 patients demonstrated axonopathy with demyelination. There were no short- or long-term postoperative complications. None of the patients reported sensory or motor deficits related to the biopsy at 6 weeks postoperatively.

CONCLUSIONS

The intercostal nerve can be an alternative target for biopsy, especially in patients with predominantly motor neuropathies, due to its mixed sensory and motor fibers, straightforward anatomy, minimal risk of serious sensory deficits, and no risk of motor impairment.

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Khoi D. Nguyen, Ehizele Osehobo and Cargill H. Alleyne Jr.

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Angela G. Viers, Khoi D. Nguyen, Perounsack X. Moon, Scott E. Forseen and Ian M. Heger

OBJECTIVE

Occipitocervical fusions in the pediatric population are rare but can be challenging because of the smaller anatomy. The procedure is even more exacting in patients with prior suboccipital craniectomy. A proposed method for occipitocervical fusion in such patients is the use of occipital condyle screws. There is very limited literature evaluating the pediatric occipital condyle for screw placement. The authors examined the occipital condyle in pediatric patients to determine if there was an age cutoff at which condylar screw placement is contraindicated.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective morphometric analysis of the occipital condyle in 518 pediatric patients aged 1 week–9 years old. Patients in their first decade of life whose occipital condyle was demonstrated on CT imaging in the period from 2009 to 2013 at the Augusta University Medical Center and Children’s Hospital of Georgia were eligible for inclusion in this study. Exclusion criteria were an age older than 10 years; traumatic, inflammatory, congenital, or neoplastic lesions of the occipital condyles; and any previous surgery of the occipitocervical junction. Descriptive statistical analysis was performed including calculation of the mean, standard deviation, and confidence intervals for all measurements. Probability values were calculated using the Student t-test with statistical significance determined by p < 0.05.

RESULTS

Overall, male patients had statistically significantly larger occipital condyles than the female patients, but this difference was not clinically significant. There was no significant difference in left versus right occipital condyles. There were statistically significant differences between age groups with a general trend toward older children having larger occipital condyles. Overall, 20.65% of all patients evaluated had at least one measurement that would prevent occipital condyle screw placement including at least one patient in every age group.

CONCLUSIONS

Occipital condyle screw fixation is feasible in pediatric patients younger than 10 years. More importantly, all pediatric patients should undergo critical evaluation of the occipital condyle in the axial, sagittal, and coronal planes preoperatively to determine individual suitability for occipital condyle screw placement.

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Nathan Todnem, Khoi D. Nguyen, Vamsi Reddy, Dayton Grogan, Taylor Waitt and Cargill H. Alleyne Jr.

OBJECTIVE

External ventricular drain (EVD) placement is one of first cranial procedures neurosurgery residents are expected to perform independently. While proper training improves patient outcomes, there are few options for practicing EVD placement prior to placing the EVD in patients in a clinical setting. Proposed solutions to this include using cadaveric models and virtual simulations, but barriers exist with these as well in regard to authenticity. EVD simulators using virtual reality technologies are a promising new technique for training, but the cost of these devices poses a barrier to general/widespread accessibility among smaller programs or underserved hospitals. The authors desribe a novel, yet simple, and cost-effective technique (less than $5 per mold) for developing a brain model constructed of homemade ballistics gelatin that can be used for teaching and practicing the placement of EVD.

METHODS

A brain model is made with ballistics gelatin using an anatomically correct skull model as a mold. A 3D-printed ventricular system model is used to create a mold of an anatomically correct ventricular system in the brain model. A group of medical students (n = 10) were given a basic presentation about EVD placement, including standard landmarks and placement techniques, and were also shown a demonstration of EVD placement on the brain model. They were then allowed to perform an EVD placement using the brain model. The students were surveyed on their experience with using the brain model, including usability and practicality of the model. Accuracy of EVD placement by each student was also assessed, with adequate position of catheter tip being in the ipsilateral frontal horn.

RESULTS

The final product is fairly inexpensive and easy to make. It is soft enough to pass a catheter through, but it is also firm enough to maintain its shape, including a cavity representing the lateral ventricles. The dense gelatin holds the catheter in its final resting position, while the two halves are separated and inspected. All participants in the test group of medical students reported that the brain model was easy to use, helped them understand the steps and technique of EVD placement, and provided good feedback on the ideal position of ventricular catheters. All of the participants in the group had adequate positioning of their ventricular catheters after one attempt.

CONCLUSIONS

The presented brain model is easy to replicate, inexpensive, anatomically accurate, and provides a medium for neurosurgeons to teach and practice ventricular catheter placement in a risk-free environment.

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Khoi D. Than, Paul Park, Kai-Ming Fu, Stacie Nguyen, Michael Y. Wang, Dean Chou, Pierce D. Nunley, Neel Anand, Richard G. Fessler, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Shay Bess, Behrooz A. Akbarnia, Vedat Deviren, Juan S. Uribe, Frank La Marca, Adam S. Kanter, David O. Okonkwo, Gregory M. Mundis Jr., Praveen V. Mummaneni and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) techniques are increasingly used to treat adult spinal deformity. However, standard minimally invasive spinal deformity techniques have a more limited ability to restore sagittal balance and match the pelvic incidence–lumbar lordosis (PI-LL) than traditional open surgery. This study sought to compare “best” versus “worst” outcomes of MIS to identify variables that may predispose patients to postoperative success.

METHODS

A retrospective review of minimally invasive spinal deformity surgery cases was performed to identify parameters in the 20% of patients who had the greatest improvement in Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores versus those in the 20% of patients who had the least improvement in ODI scores at 2 years' follow-up.

RESULTS

One hundred four patients met the inclusion criteria, and the top 20% of patients in terms of ODI improvement at 2 years (best group, 22 patients) were compared with the bottom 20% (worst group, 21 patients). There were no statistically significant differences in age, body mass index, pre- and postoperative Cobb angles, pelvic tilt, pelvic incidence, levels fused, operating room time, and blood loss between the best and worst groups. However, the mean preoperative ODI score was significantly higher (worse disability) at baseline in the group that had the greatest improvement in ODI score (58.2 vs 39.7, p < 0.001). There was no difference in preoperative PI-LL mismatch (12.8° best vs 19.5° worst, p = 0.298). The best group had significantly less postoperative sagittal vertical axis (SVA; 3.4 vs 6.9 cm, p = 0.043) and postoperative PI-LL mismatch (10.4° vs 19.4°, p = 0.027) than the worst group. The best group also had better postoperative visual analog scale back and leg pain scores (p = 0.001 and p = 0.046, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors recommend that spinal deformity surgeons using MIS techniques focus on correcting a patient's PI-LL mismatch to within 10° and restoring SVA to < 5 cm. Restoration of these parameters seems to impact which patients will attain the greatest degree of improvement in ODI outcomes, while the spines of patients who do the worst are not appropriately corrected and may be fused into a fixed sagittal plane deformity.