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Tobias Pitzen, Juay Seng Tan, Marcel F. Dvorak, Charles Fisher and Thomas Oxland

Object

To avoid the cost of bone graft substitutes and the morbidity of iliac crest bone graft retrieval, locally harvested vertebral body bone has been used to fill interbody cages. When marginal hypertrophic osteophytes are used, there is little impact on the adjacent vertebrae, but when cancellous bone is removed from the central part of the vertebral body, it is not clear how significantly this procedure weakens the vertebra. The objective of this study was to investigate the immediate mechanical response of the cervical spine after removing bone from the central vertebral body.

Methods

Fourteen cervical functional spinal units (FSUs) (mean age 73.3 years, range 63–90 years) were used. For each FSU, bone mineral density (BMD) was determined using lateral-view dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry studies. The FSUs were assigned to 1 of 2 groups (test group or control group) with an equal distribution of BMD. All specimens received a cage placed into the cleaned disc space. The specimens from the test group had a 5-mm-diameter bone plug removed from the vertebral bodies superior and inferior to the cage-fitted disc. The specimens were loaded in flexion-compression until failure via an eccentric compressive force at 0.25 mm/second.

Results

The yield compression strength was 1149 ± 523 N for the test group and 1647 ± 962 N for the control group (p = 0.25). The ultimate compression strength was 1699 ± 498 N for the test group and 2450 N ± 835 N for the control group (p = 0.06). Force at 4 mm displacement was 1064 N for the test group and 1574 N for the control group (p = 0.15). Displacement at yield compression strength was 4.4 mm for the test group and 4.2 mm for the control group (p = 0.78). There was no significant intergroup difference for any of the studied parameters.

Conclusions

There does not appear to be a significant early biomechanical weakening of adjacent vertebrae caused by aforementioned technique of local bone harvest.

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Marcel F. Dvorak, Michael G. Johnson, Michael Boyd, Garth Johnson, Brian K. Kwon and Charles G. Fisher

Object. The primary goal of this study was to describe the long-term health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes in patients who have suffered Jefferson-type fractures. These outcomes were compared with matched normative HRQOL data and with the patient's perceptions of their HRQOL prior to the injury. Variables that potentially influence these HRQOL outcomes were analyzed.

No standardized outcome assessments have been published for patients who suffer these fractures; their outcomes have long thought to be excellent following treatment. Determining the optimal surrogate measure to represent preinjury HRQOL in trauma patients is difficult.

Methods. A retrospective review, radiographic analysis, and cross-sectional outcome assessment were performed. The Short Form (SF)—36 and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons/North American Spine Society (AAOS/NASS) outcome instruments were filled out by patients at final follow-up examination (follow-up period 75 months, range 19–198 months) to represent their current status as well as their perceptions of preinjury status.

In 34 patients, the SF-36 physical component score and the AAOS/NASS pain values were significantly lower than normative values. There was no significant difference between normative and preinjury values. Spence criteria greater than 7 mm and the presence of associated injuries predicted poorer outcome scores during the follow-up period.

Conclusions. Long-term follow-up examination of patients with Jefferson fractures indicated that patients' status does not return to the level of their perceived preinjury health status or that of normative population controls. Those with other injuries and significant osseous displacement (≥ 7 mm total) may experience poorer long-term outcomes. Limitations of the study included a relatively low (60%) response rate and the difficulties of identifying an appropriate baseline outcome in a trauma population with which the follow-up outcomes can be compared.

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Stephen P. Kingwell, Armin Curt and Marcel F. Dvorak

The purpose of this review was to describe the relevant factors that influence neurological outcomes in patients who sustain traumatic conus medullaris injuries (CMIs) and cauda equina injuries (CEIs). Despite the propensity for spinal trauma to affect the thoracolumbar spine, few studies have adequately characterized the outcomes of CMIs and CEIs. Typically the level of neural axis injury is inferred from the spinal level of injury or the presenting neurological picture because no study from the spinal literature has specifically evaluated the location of the conus medullaris with respect to the level of greatest canal compromise. Furthermore, the conus medullaris is known to have a small but important variable location based on the spinal level. Patients with a CMI will typically present with variable lowerextremity weakness, absent lower-limb reflexes, and saddle anesthesia. The development of a mixed upper motor neuron and lower motor neuron syndrome may occur in patients with CMIs, whereas a CEI is a pure lower motor neuron injury. Many treatment options exist and should be individualized. Posterior decompression and stabilization offers at least equivalent neurological outcomes as nonoperative or anterior approaches and has the additional benefits of surgeon familiarity, shorter hospital stays, earlier rehabilitation, and ease of nursing care. Overall, CEIs and CMIs have similar outcomes, which include ambulatory motor function and a variable persistence of bowel, bladder, and potentially sexual dysfunctions.

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Andrea M. Simmonds, Y. Raja Rampersaud, Marcel F. Dvorak, Nicolas Dea, Angela D. Melnyk and Charles G. Fisher

OBJECT

A range of surgical options exists for the treatment of degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis (DLS). The chosen technique inherently depends on the stability of the DLS. Despite a substantial body of literature dedicated to the outcome analysis of numerous DLS procedures, no consensus has been reached on defining or classifying the disorder with respect to stability or the role that instability should play in a treatment algorithm. The purpose of this study was to define grades of stability and to develop a guide for deciding on the optimal approach in surgically managing patients with DLS.

METHODS

The authors conducted a qualitative systematic review of clinical or biomechanical analyses evaluating the stability of and surgical outcomes for DLS for the period from 1990 to 2013. Research focused on nondegenerative forms of spondylolisthesis or spinal stenosis without associated DLS was excluded. The primary extracted results were clinical and radiographic parameters indicative of DLS instability.

RESULTS

The following preoperative parameters are predictors of stability in DLS: restabilization signs (disc height loss, osteophyte formation, vertebral endplate sclerosis, and ligament ossification), no disc angle change or less than 3 mm of translation on dynamic radiographs, and the absence of low-back pain. The validity and magnitude of each parameter’s contribution can only be determined through appropriately powered prospective evaluation in the future. Identifying these parameters has allowed for the creation of a preliminary DLS instability classification (DSIC) scheme based on the preoperative assessment of DLS stability.

CONCLUSIONS

Spinal stability is an important factor to consider in the evaluation and treatment of patients with DLS. Qualitative assessment of the best available evidence revealed clinical and radiographic parameters for the creation of the DSIC, a decision aid to help surgeons develop a method of preoperative evaluation to better stratify DLS treatment options.

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Rowan Schouten, Peter Lewkonia, Vanessa K. Noonan, Marcel F. Dvorak and Charles G. Fisher

OBJECT

The aim of this study was to define the expected functional and health-related quality of life outcomes following common thoracolumbar injuries on the basis of consensus expert opinion and the best available literature. Patient expectations are primarily determined by the information provided by health care professionals, and these expectations have been shown to influence outcome in various medical and surgical conditions. This paper presents Part 2 of a multiphase study designed to investigate the impact of patient expectations on outcomes following spinal injury. Part 1 demonstrated substantial variability in the information surgeons are communicating to patients. Defining the expected outcomes following thoracolumbar injury would allow further analysis of this relationship and enable surgeons to more accurately and consistently inform patients.

METHODS

Expert opinion was assembled by distributing questionnaires comprising 4 cases representative of common thoracolumbar injuries to members of the Spine Trauma Study Group (STSG). The 4 cases included a thoracolumbar junction burst fracture treated nonoperatively or with posterior transpedicular instrumentation, a low lumbar (L-4) burst fracture treated nonoperatively, and a thoracolumbar junction flexion-distraction injury managed with posterior fusion. For each case, 5 questions about expected outcomes were posed. The questions related to the proportion of patients who are pain free, the proportion who have regained full range of motion, and the patients' recreational activity restrictions and personal care and social life limitations, all at 1 year following injury, as well as the timing of return to work and length of hospital stay. Responses were analyzed and combined with the results of a systematic literature review on the same injuries to define the expected outcomes.

RESULTS

The literature review identified 38 appropriate studies that met the preset inclusion criteria. Published data were available for all injuries, but not all outcomes were available for each type of injury. The survey was completed by 31 (57%) of 53 surgeons representing 24 trauma centers across North America (15), Europe (5), India (1), Mexico (1), Japan (1) and Israel (1). Consensus expert opinion supplemented the available literature and was used exclusively when published data were lacking.

For example, 1 year following cast or brace treatment of a thoracolumbar burst fracture, the expected outcomes include a 40% chance of being pain free, a 70% chance of regaining pre-injury range of motion, and an expected ability to participate in high-impact exercise and contact sport with no or minimal limitation. Consensus expert opinion predicts reemployment within 4–6 months. The length of inpatient stay averages 4–5 days.

CONCLUSIONS

This synthesis of the best available literature and consensus opinion of surgeons with extensive clinical experience in spine trauma reflects the optimal methodology for determining functional prognosis after thoracolumbar trauma. By providing consistent, accurate information surgeons will help patients develop realistic expectations and potentially optimize outcomes.

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Tobias Pitzen, Chris Lane, Darrell Goertzen, Marcel Dvorak, Charles Fisher, Dragos Barbier, Wolf-Ingo Steudel and Thomas Oxland

Object

The primary goal of this study was to determine if the stabilization provided to the spine by anterior cervical fixation with plating (ACFP) was dependent on the degree of posterior element injury. The secondary goal was to evaluate the effectiveness of additional posterior screw/rod stabilization in these injuries.

Methods

Following ACFP with interbody bone graft and stepwise transection of the posterior ligaments and facets at C5–6, eight fresh-frozen human C4–7 spine segments were loaded using pure moments of ± 1.5 Nm in flexion—extension, axial rotation, and lateral bending in the intact state. Posterior screw/rod fixation was performed after complete ligamentous destruction and complete removal of the facets. Repeated-measures analysis of variance and pairwise Student-Newman-Keuls tests were used to detect changes in the range of motion (ROM) and neutral zone (NZ). Statistical significance was assumed at a 95% level.

Significant increases in ROM occurred in each loading direction after transection of the capsular ligaments (p < 0.001) and again following facetectomy (p < 0.001) compared with the ACFP condition. Additional posterior fixation resulted in a significant decrease in ROM in all loading directions (p < 0.001). There was a significant increase in NZ for complete ligamentous destruction compared with ACFP (p < 0.05) and facetectomy compared with ACFP (p < 0.05) for flexion—extension. In lateral bending, a significant increase in NZ was found for facetectomy compared with ACFP (p < 0.05).

Conclusions

Capsular ligaments and articular facets are important structures in limiting three-dimensional vertebral motion in the presence of an anterior plate. Supplementary posterior fixation does reduce motion for all injury conditions.

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Charles Fisher, Vanessa Noonan, Paul Bishop, Michael Boyd, David Fairholm, Peter Wing and Marcel Dvorak

Object. The authors conducted a study to assess health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and the appropriateness of surgery in patients who have undergone elective lumbar discectomy.

Methods. The study involved a prospective cohort of 82 surgically treated patients with lumbar disc herniation causing lower-extremity radiculopathy. An independent study coordinator recorded demographic data and administered the North American Spine Society (NASS) lumbar spine instrument and the Short Form—36 (SF-36) before treatment, and at 6 months and 1 year after surgery. The HRQOL results were also compared with normative data for the NASS and SF-36. The influence of baseline variables on HRQOL was determined using regression modeling. The InterQual Indicators for Surgery and Procedures (ISP) were used to compare surgeon practice patterns with standardized indications for surgery.

The NASS neurogenic symptom (NSS) and pain/disability scores (PDSs) showed very significant improvement at 6 months and little change between 6 months and 1 year. The SF-36 physical function and bodily pain scale scores were associated with the greatest improvement. Interestingly, the 1-year NASS (NSS and PDS) and SF-36 (only PCS) scores remained lower than those of age-matched normative data. Other than preoperative HRQOL scores, the only other variable that inversely influenced HRQOL was the duration of time between symptom onset and surgery. Ninety-five percent of ISP forms were completed, and 97% of the indications recorded by the surgeon matched the criteria.

Conclusions. The reporting of standardized outcomes in association with indications for surgery is feasible and may help elucidate the ideal rate for discectomy.

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Anthony M. Choo, Jie Liu, Clarrie K. Lam, Marcel Dvorak, Wolfram Tetzlaff and Thomas R. Oxland

Object

In experimental models of spinal cord injury (SCI) researchers have typically focused on contusion and transection injuries. Clinically, however, other injury mechanisms such as fracture–dislocation and distraction also frequently occur. The objective of the present study was to compare the primary damage in three clinically relevant animal models of SCI.

Methods

Contusion, fracture–dislocation, and flexion–distraction animal models of SCI were developed. To visualize traumatic increases in cellular membrane permeability, fluorescein–dextran was infused into the cerebrospi-nal fluid prior to injury. High-speed injuries (approaching 100 cm/second) were produced in the cervical spine of deeply anesthetized Sprague–Dawley rats (28 SCI and eight sham treated) with a novel multimechanism SCI test system. The animals were killed immediately thereafter so that the authors could characterize the primary injury in the gray and white matter.

Sections stained with H & E showed that contusion and dislocation injuries resulted in similar central damage to the gray matter vasculature whereas no overt hemorrhage was detected following distraction. Contusion resulted in membrane disruption of neuronal somata and axons localized within 1 mm of the lesion epicenter. In contrast, membrane compromise in the dislocation and distraction models was observed to extend rostrally up to 5 mm, particularly in the ventral and lateral white matter tracts.

Conclusions

Given the pivotal nature of hemorrhagic necrosis and plasma membrane compromise in the initiation of downstream SCI pathomechanisms, the aforementioned differences suggest the presence of mechanism-specific injury regions, which may alter future clinical treatment paradigms.

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Khalid M. I. Salem, Aditya P. Eranki, Scott Paquette, Michael Boyd, John Street, Brian K. Kwon, Charles G. Fisher and Marcel F. Dvorak

OBJECTIVE

The study aimed to determine if the intraoperative segmental lordosis (as calculated on a cross-table lateral radiograph following a single-level transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion [TLIF] for degenerative spondylolisthesis/low-grade isthmic spondylolisthesis) is maintained at discharge and at 6 months postsurgery.

METHODS

The authors reviewed images and medical records of patients ≥ 16 years of age with a diagnosis of an isolated single-level, low-grade spondylolisthesis (degenerative or isthmic) with symptomatic spinal stenosis treated between January 2008 and April 2014. Age, sex, surgical level, surgical approach, and facetectomy (unilateral vs bilateral) were recorded. Upright standardized preoperative, early, and 6-month postoperative radiographs, as well as intraoperative lateral radiographs, were analyzed for the pelvic incidence, segmental lumbar lordosis (SLL) at the TILF level, and total LL (TLL). In addition, the anteroposterior position of the cage in the disc space was documented. Data are presented as the mean ± SD; a p value < 0.05 was considered significant.

RESULTS

Eighty-four patients were included in the study. The mean age of patients was 56.8 ± 13.7 years, and 46 patients (55%) were men. The mean pelvic incidence was 59.7° ± 11.9°, and a posterior midline approach was used in 47 cases (56%). All TLIF procedures were single level using a bullet-shaped cage. A bilateral facetectomy was performed in 17 patients (20.2%), and 89.3% of procedures were done at the L4–5 and L5–S1 segments. SLL significantly improved intraoperatively from 15.8° ± 7.5° to 20.9° ± 7.7°, but the correction was lost after ambulation. Compared with preoperative values, at 6 months the change in SLL was modest at 1.8° ± 6.7° (p = 0.025), whereas TLL increased by 4.3° ± 9.6° (p < 0.001). The anteroposterior position of the cage, approach, level of surgery, and use of a bilateral facetectomy did not significantly affect postoperative LL.

CONCLUSIONS

Following a single-level TLIF procedure using a bullet-shaped cage, the intraoperative improvement in SLL is largely lost after ambulation. The improvement in TLL over time is probably due to the decompression part of the procedure. The approach, level of surgery, bilateral facetectomy, and position of the cage do not seem to have a significant effect on LL achieved postoperatively.

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Christian P. DiPaola, Nicolas Dea, Marcel F. Dvorak, Robert S. Lee, Dennis Hartig and Charles G. Fisher

Object

Conflict of interest (COI) as it applies to medical education and training has become a source of considerable interest, debate, and regulation in the last decade. Companies often pay surgeons as faculty for educational events and often sponsor and give financial support to major professional society meetings. Professional medical societies, industry, and legislators have attempted to regulate potential COI without consideration for public opinion. The practice of evidence-based medicine requires the inclusion of patient opinion along with best available evidence and expert opinion. The primary goal of this study was to assess the opinion of the general population regarding surgeon-industry COI for education-related events.

Methods

A Web-based survey was administered, with special emphasis on the surgeon's role in industry-sponsored education and support of professional societies. A survey was constructed to sample opinions on reimbursement, disclosure, and funding sources for educational events.

Results

There were 501 completed surveys available for analysis. More than 90% of respondents believed that industry funding for surgeons' tuition and travel for either industry-sponsored or professional society educational meetings would either not affect the quality of care delivered or would cause it to improve. Similar results were generated for opinions on surgeons being paid by industry to teach other surgeons. Moreover, the majority of respondents believed it was ethical or had no opinion if surgeons had such a relationship with industry. Respondents were also generally in favor of educational conferences for surgeons regardless of funding source. Disclosures of a surgeon-industry relationship, especially if it involves specific devices that may be used in their surgery, appears to be important to respondents.

Conclusions

The vast majority of respondents in this study do not believe that the quality of their care will be diminished due to industry funding of educational events, for surgeon tuition, and/or travel expenses. The results of this study should help form the basis of policy and continued efforts at surgeon-industry COI management.