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Kurt M. Eichholz and Timothy C. Ryken

Surgical treatment for symptomatic cervical and lumbar spondylosis has become prevalent in recent years. With this increased intervention, increasing numbers of patients experience persistent symptoms and require revision spinal surgery. Although many aspects of the workup and operation are similar for both primary and revision surgery, there are special considerations that must be examined when determining if a patient is a candidate for revision surgery.

Preoperative workup should include evaluation for spinal instability. Intraoperatively, scar tissue may complicate the procedure, and care must be taken to avoid incidental durotomy. The prognosis for a revision surgery can be predicted best by the patient's outcome after the primary surgery. As with any surgical procedure, patient selection is imperative for successful outcome.

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John E. O'Toole, Kurt M. Eichholz and Richard G. Fessler

Object

Postoperative surgical site infections (SSIs) have been reported after 2–6% of spinal surgeries in most large series. The incidence of SSI can be < 1% after decompressive procedures and > 10% after instrumented fusions. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that there is a lower rate of SSI when minimally invasive techniques are used.

Methods

A retrospective review of prospectively collected databases of consecutive patients who underwent minimally invasive spinal surgery was performed. Minimally invasive spinal surgery was defined as any spinal procedure performed through a tubular retractor system. All surgeries were performed under standard sterile conditions with preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis. The databases were reviewed for any infectious complications. Cases of SSI were identified and reviewed for clinically relevant details. The incidence of postoperative SSIs was then calculated for the entire cohort as well as for subgroups based on the type of procedure performed, and then compared with an analogous series selected from an extensive literature review.

Results

The authors performed 1338 minimally invasive spinal surgeries in 1274 patients of average age 55.5 years. The primary diagnosis was degenerative in nature in 93% of cases. A single minimally invasive spinal surgery procedure was undertaken in 1213 patients, 2 procedures in 58, and 3 procedures in 3 patients. The region of surgery was lumbar in 85%, cervical in 12%, and thoracic in 3%. Simple decompressive procedures comprised 78%, instrumented arthrodeses 20%, and minimally invasive intradural procedures 2% of the collected cases. Three postoperative SSIs were detected, 2 were superficial and 1 deep. The procedural rate of SSI for simple decompression was 0.10%, and for minimally invasive fusion/fixation was 0.74%. The total SSI rate for the entire group was only 0.22%.

Conclusions

Minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques may reduce postoperative wound infections as much as 10-fold compared with other large, modern series of open spinal surgery published in the literature.

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Patrick W. Hitchon, James Torner, Kurt M. Eichholz and Stephanie N. Beeler

Object

The authors undertook a retrospective cohort study of patients with T11–L2 thoracolumbar burst fractures who underwent decompression and the placement of instrumentation via the anterolateral or posterior approach.

Methods

There were 63 thoracolumbar burst fractures in 45 male and 18 female patients. The instrumentation was placed posteriorly in 25 patients and anterolaterally in 38. The mean follow-up duration after discharge from the hospital was 1.8 years (range 6 months–8 years).

The mean preoperative Frankel scores in the anterolateral and posterior groups were 3.7 ± 1.1 and 3.5 ± 1.4, respectively (p = 0.4155). Preoperative angular deformity in the anterolateral and posterior groups measured 11.9 ± 9.7 and 4.1 ± 7.1°, respectively (p = 0.0007). Postoperatively, angular deformity had been corrected to 2.0 ± 7.9 and 3.4 ± 7.5° in both groups, respectively (p = 0.565). The follow-up Frankel scores had improved to 4.2 ± 0.8 and 4.0 ± 1.4 (p = 0.461). At the latest follow-up examination, angular deformity had progressed to 4.5 ± 9.3° in the anterolateral group and to 9.8 ± 9.4° in the posterior group (p = 0.024).

Although surgeons’ fees were significantly (p = 0.0024) higher for patients who underwent anterolateral procedures ($27,940 ± 4390) than for those who underwent posterior surgery ($18,270 ± 6980), there was no intergroup difference in total cost of hospitalization.

Conclusions

Rigid guidelines for the selection of anterior or posterior approaches are lacking. Evaluation of the authors’ results and those of others shows that angular deformity is more successfully corrected and maintained when the anterior approach is used.

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Timothy C. Ryken, Kurt M. Eichholz, Peter C. Gerszten, William C. Welch, Ziya L. Gokaslan and Daniel K. Resnick

Object

Significant controversy exists over the most appropriate treatment for patients with metastatic disease of the vertebral column. Treatment options include surgical intervention, radiotherapy, or a combination of the two; nevertheless, a standard of care that yields the best survival, outcome, and quality of life has not been established. The purpose of this review was to determine the foundation in the literature of views favoring surgical intervention for spinal metastatic disease.

Methods

A search of the English-language literature published between 1964 and 2003 was performed for the subject of spinal metastatic disease. Papers were selected based on the inclusion criteria described, and evidentiary information was compiled and graded using previously described methods.

Conclusions

Although there is insufficient evidence to support a standard for surgical treatment in patients with metastatic spinal disease, the authors present guidelines and recommendations based on the evidence provided by the current literature.

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Biomechanical testing of anterior and posterior thoracolumbar instrumentation in the cadaveric spine

Invited submission from the Joint Section Meeting on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, March 2004

Kurt M. Eichholz, Patrick W. Hitchon, Aaron From, Paige Rubenbauer, Satoshi Nakamura, Tae Hong Lim and James Torner

Object. Thoracolumbar burst fractures frequently require surgical intervention. Although the use of either anterior or posterior instrumentation has advantages and disadvantages, there have been few studies in which these two approaches have been compared biomechanically.

Methods. Ten human cadaveric spines were subjected to subtotal L-3 corpectomy. In five spines placement of L-3 wooden strut grafts with lateral L2–4 dual rod and screw instrumentation was performed. Five other spines underwent L1–5 pedicle screw fixation. The spines were fatigued between steps of the experiment. The spines were load tested with pure moments of 1.5, 3, 4.5, and 6 Nm in the intact state and after placement of instrumentation in six degrees of freedom (flexion, extension, right and left lateral bending, and right and left axial rotation).

In axial rotation posterior instrumentation significantly increased spinal rigidity compared with that of the intact state, whereas anterior instrumentation did not. Combined anterior—posterior instrumentation did not significantly increase the rigidity of the spine when compared with anterior or posterior instrumentation alone. Posterior instrumentation alone provided a greater reduction in angular rotation compared with anterior instrumentation alone in all degrees of freedom; however, statistical significance was achieved only in extension at 6 Nm.

Conclusions. The increased rigidity provided by pedicle screw instrumentation compared with the intact state or with anterior instrumentation is due to the longer construct spanning five levels and the three-column engagement of the pedicle screws. The decision to use anterior or posterior instrumentation should be based on the clinical necessity of canal decompression and correction of angulation.