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Luis M. Tumialán and Nicholas Theodore

Traumatic cervical spondyloptosis is a rare clinical entity typically associated with complete neurological deficit. The inherent mechanics of this fracture-dislocation pattern contorts the vertebral arteries in such a way that it may result in dissection or compromised flow through those vessels. Thus, intimal injury or thrombus from stasis of flow may result. Reduction of the spondyloptosis restores flow to the vertebral arteries, but it also may mobilize thrombus or propagate an intimal dissection within the previously contorted vessel.

The authors review their experience in the care of a 43-year-old man who sustained C4–5 spondyloptosis while riding an all-terrain vehicle. On arrival, the patient demonstrated no motor function below C-4 but had sensation to the nipple line (American Spinal Injury Association Spinal Cord Injury Classification B). The patient's cranial nerve examination was unremarkable. Computed tomography of the cervical spine demonstrated complete spondyloptosis at C4–5. The patient was immediately placed in cervical traction and taken to the operating room for open reduction of the fracture dislocation, decompression of the spinal cord, and stabilization with an interbody graft and cervical plate. Preoperative cervical traction was successful in only partial reduction of the fracture dislocation. Open reduction was achieved with exposure of the C-4 and C-5 bodies and sequential distraction. After anatomical alignment was achieved, an interbody graft was placed and a cervical plate secured. A subsequent decline in the patient's level of consciousness prompted CT of the head, which showed evidence of a basilar artery thrombosis. A CT angiographic study demonstrated patency of the vertebral arteries, but a mid–basilar artery thrombosis. The patient progressed to brain death 24 hours after reduction of the fracture dislocation.

The degree of contortion of the vertebral arteries in cervical spondyloptosis in the upper cervical spine may result in stasis of flow with subsequent formation of thrombus or intimal injury. After anatomical reduction, restoration of flow within the vertebral arteries may mobilize the thrombus or propagate an intimal dissection and result in subsequent embolic events. Endovascular evaluation may be warranted immediately after anatomical reduction of a high cervical spondyloptosis for evaluation of the vertebral arteries and possible thrombus dissolution or retrieval.

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Jason M. Highsmith, Luis M. Tumialán, and Gerald E. Rodts Jr.

✓The widespread use of instrumentation in the lumbar spine has led to high rates of fusion. This has been accompanied by a marked rise in adjacent-segment disease, which is considered to be an increasingly common and significant consequence of lumbar or lumbosacral fusion. Numerous biomechanical studies have demonstrated that segments fused with rigid metallic fixation lead to significant amounts of supraphysiological stress on adjacent discs and facets. The resultant disc degeneration and/or stenosis may require further surgical intervention and extension of the fusion to address symptomatic adjacent-segment disease.

Recently, dynamic stabilization implants and disc arthroplasty have been introduced as an alternative to rigid fixation. The scope of spinal disease that can be treated with this novel technology, however, remains limited, and these treatments may not apply to patients who still require rigid stabilization and arthrodesis.

In the spectrum between rigid metallic fixation and motion-preserving arthroplasty is a semirigid type of stabilization in which a construct is used that more closely mirrors the modulus of elasticity of natural bone. After either inter-body or posterolateral arthrodesis is achieved, the fused segments will not generate the same adjacent-level forces believed to be the cause of adjacent-segment disease. Although this form of arthrodesis does not completely prevent adjacent-segment disease, the dynamic component of this stabilization technique may minimize its occurrence.

The authors report their initial experience with the use of posterior dynamic stabilization in which polyetheretherketone rods were used for a posterior construct. The biomechanics of dynamic stabilization are discussed, clinical indications are reviewed, and case studies for its application are presented.

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Daniel C. Lu, Luis M. Tumialán, and Dean Chou


Reported complications of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) use in anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) cases include dysphagia and cervical swelling. However, dysphagia often occurs after multilevel ACDF procedures performed with allograft (without BMP) as well. To date, there has been no large study comparing the dysphagia rates of patients who have undergone multilevel ACDF using allograft spacers with those who underwent ACDF using polyetheretherketone (PEEK) cages filled with rhBMP2. The authors report one of the first such comparisons between these 2 patient cohorts.


The authors retrospectively reviewed 150 patient records. Group 1 (BMP group) consisted of 100 patients who underwent multilevel ACDF with PEEK cages filled with rhBMP-2 and instrumented with a cervical plate. Group 2 (allograft group) included a matched control cohort of 50 patients who underwent multilevel ACDF with allograft spacers and anterior plate fixation (without rhBMP-2). Patient demographics were not significantly different between the groups. Fusion was assessed by means of dynamic radiographs and/or CT at routine intervals. Complications, dysphagia incidence, standardized dysphagia score, Nurick grades, and fusion rates were assessed.


The mean follow-up for the BMP group (Group 1) was 35 months while the mean follow-up for the allograft group (Group 2) was 25 months. There was a complication rate of 13% in the BMP group compared with 8% in the allograft group (p < 0.005). There was no significant difference in overall dysphagia incidence between the BMP group and the allograft group (40% vs 44%, respectively; p > 0.05). However, there was a significant difference in the severity of dysphagia (using the SWAL-QOL dysphagia scoring system) between the 2 groups: 0.757 for the BMP group versus 0.596 for the allograft group (p < 0.005). In subgroup analysis, the use of rhBMP-2 significantly increased the severity of dysphagia in patients undergoing 2-level ACDF (p < 0.005). However, the severity of dysphagia did not differ significantly between groups when 3- or 4-level ACDF cases were compared. There was no pseudarthrosis in Group 1 (the BMP group) compared with a 16% pseudarthrosis rate in Group 2 (the allograft group) (p < 0.05). There was a weak correlation between the total rhBMP-2 dose and the dysphagia score (Kendall tau rank correlation coefficient 0.166, p = 0.046).


The use of rhBMP-2 in patients undergoing 2-level ACDF significantly increases the severity of dysphagia (dysphagia score) without affecting the overall incidence of dysphagia. However, there is no statistically significant difference in the incidence or severity of dysphagia between patients undergoing 3-level or 4-level ACDF treated with PEEK/rhBMP-2 and those treated with only allograft. The use of rhBMP-2 appears to reduce the risk of pseudarthrosis. This benefit is most pronounced in patients who undergo 4-level ACDF and are smokers.

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Luis M. Tumialán, C. Michael Cawley, and Daniel L. Barrow

✓ The authors report the case of a 53-year-old woman in whom a T1–T2 spinal arachnoid cyst with associated arachnoiditis developed, compressing the thoracic spinal cord 1 year after the patient had suffered a Hunt and Hess Grade IV subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Development of spinal arachnoiditis with or without an arachnoid cyst is a rare complication of aneurysmal SAH. Risk factors may include posterior circulation aneurysms, the extent and severity of the hemorrhage, and the need for cerebrospinal fluid diversion. Surgical drainage, shunt placement, or cyst excision, when possible, is the mainstay of treatment.

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Luis M. Tumialán and Timothy B. Mapstone

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Andrew A. Fanous, Luis M. Tumialán, and Michael Y. Wang

Kambin’s triangle is an anatomical corridor used to access critical structures in a variety of spinal procedures. It is considered a safe space because it is devoid of vascular and neural structures of importance. Nonetheless, there is currently significant variation in the literature regarding the exact dimensions and anatomical borders of Kambin’s triangle. This confusion was originally caused by leaving the superior articular process (SAP) unassigned in the description of the working triangle, despite Kambin identifying that structure in his original report. The SAP is the most relevant structure to consider when accessing the transforaminal corridor. Leaving the SAP unassigned has led to an open-handed application of the term “Kambin’s triangle.” That single eponym currently has two potential meanings, one meaning for endoscopic surgeons working through a corridor in the intact spine and a second meaning for surgeons accessing the disc space after a complete or partial facetectomy. Nevertheless, an anatomical corridor should have one consistent definition to clearly communicate techniques and use of instrumentation performed through that space. As such, the authors propose a new surgically relevant classification of this corridor. Assigning the SAP a border requires adding another dimension to the triangle, thereby transforming it into a prism. The term “Kambin’s prism” indicates the assignment of a border to all relevant anatomical structures, allowing for a uniform definition of the 3D space. From there, the classification scheme considers the expansion of the corridor and the extent of bone removal, with a particular focus on the SAP.

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Sanjay S. Dhall, Luis M. Tumialán, Daniel J. Brat, and Daniel L. Barrow

✓ The authors report on 32-year-old woman with a history of a previously resected suprasellar clear cell meningioma (CCM), who returned to their institution after 3 years suffering from progressively worsening leg and back pain associated with leg weakness and bowel and bladder dysfunction. A magnetic resonance image of the thoracic and lumbar spine demonstrated a homogeneously enhancing intradural mass that filled and expanded the thecal sac. The patient underwent multiple-level laminectomies for resection of the lesion. Results of pathological studies confirmed distant recurrence of a CCM.

Since its initial recognition as a rare but aggressive histological variant of meningothelial tumors, the body of literature on CCMs has grown to include more than 40 cases. Nevertheless, the natural history of this neoplastic entity remains ill defined, as are the recommendations for management. Of particular concern is the treatment of patients who have undergone subtotal resection or present with recurrence. To the authors' knowledge, the present case represents the sixth distant recurrence of CCM reported in the literature. The radiographic and histological studies are reviewed along with the current literature on this subtype of meningioma. Recommendations for surveillance and treatment are made.

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Luis M. Tumialán, Franklin Lin, and Sanjay K. Gupta

✓The authors report their experience treating a polymicrobial ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt infection in a developmentally delayed 21-year-old woman. Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) cultures grew Serratia marcescens and Proteus mirabilis. On admission and throughout her hospitalization, results of physical examination of her abdomen were normal, and radiographic studies showed no evidence of bowel perforation or pseudocyst formation. Contrast-enhanced computed tomography of the abdomen revealed a small fluid collection. After a course of intravenous gentamicin and imipenem with cilastatin in conjunction with intrathecal gentamicin, the infection was resolved and the VP shunt was reimplanted.

Although VP shunt infections are not uncommon, S. marcescens as a causative agent is exceedingly rare and potentially devastating. Only two previous cases of S. marcescens shunt infection have been reported in the literature. Authors reporting on S. marcescens infections in the central nervous system (CNS) have observed significant morbidity and death. Although more common, the presence of P. mirabilis in the CSF is still rare and highly suggestive of bowel perforation, which was absent in this patient. Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis was the likely source from which these bacteria gained entrance into the VP shunt system, eventually causing ventriculitis in this patient.

The authors conclude that in light of the high morbidity associated with S. marcescens infection of the CNS, intrathecal administration of gentamicin should be strongly considered as part of first-line therapy for S. marcescens infections in VP shunts.

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Bone morphogenetic protein

Tomislav Smoljanovic and Ivan Bojanic