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The transoral approach to the superior cervical spine

A review of 53 cases of extradural cervicomedullary compression

Mark N. Hadley, Robert F. Spetzler and Volker K. H. Sonntag

✓ The transoral-transclival surgical approach is the most direct operative approach to pathology ventral to the brain stem and superior spinal cord. In selected patients, this approach is efficacious in the treatment of extradural compressive lesions from the cervicomedullary junction to the C-4 vertebra.

The authors have used the transoral surgical approach in treating 53 patients with lesions compressing the ventral extradural brain stem or the cervical cord. The evaluation, management, and long-term outcome of these patients are described (median follow-up time 24 months). The operative morbidity rate in this series was 6%, and the operative mortality rate was zero. The authors review specific features of the transoral procedure, including methods of retraction, microsurgical techniques, and adjunctive measures to avoid cerebrospinal fluid fistulae, that contributed to these good results.

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Suprascapular nerve entrapment

A summary of seven cases

Mark N. Hadley, Volker K. H. Sonntag and Hal W. Pittman

✓ The suprascapular nerve, formed from the upper trunk of the brachial plexus, can be entrapped at the suprascapular notch and result in significant patient morbidity. Seven patients with suprascapular nerve palsy are presented, and their evaluation, treatment, and outcome over a mean follow-up period of 24 months are described. Six of these patients were treated surgically and one medically; all experienced good results. In a review of the relevant literature, this entity is distinguished from other causes of shoulder pain, the typical presenting signs and symptoms are outlined, and the appropriate management of these patients is addressed.

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Mark J. Cuffe, Mark N. Hadley, Guillermo A. Herrera and Richard B. Morawetz

✓ Ten patients undergoing long-term renal dialysis for end-stage renal failure developed a destructive, noninfectious spondylarthropathy. All 10 patients had biopsy-proven dialysis-associated spondylarthropathy and subsequent spinal instability secondary to beta 2-microglobulin deposition in the vertebrae, intervertebral disc spaces, and support structures of the spine. Nine patients had cervical spinal instability and one had thoracolumbar spinal instability, with resultant neural compression. In at least one patient, the spinal instability was rapidly progressive. All had received renal dialysis for 34 months or longer (mean 109 months, range 34 to 154 months). Each patient required spinal stabilization (external in seven patients, internal in three). Nine of the 10 patients underwent neural decompression and spinal stabilization and fusion procedures.

One patient's neurological condition was worse following surgery due to a postoperative cervical epidural hematoma; in the other nine patients, the presenting symptoms and signs improved. Three of these chronically ill patients did not survive their hospitalization, for a perioperative mortality rate of 30%. Death was due to cardiopulmonary arrest in two patients on Day 5 and 9 postoperatively and to sepsis in the third on Day 14. Of the seven early survivors, two additional patients died: one on Day 59 due to congestive heart failure and the other on Day 273 due to a cerebrovascular accident. Four of five patients who were followed for 8 months or longer (mean 14 months, range 8 to 20 months) had successful neural decompression and spinal stabilization procedures with evidence of stable bone fusion, indicating that these chronically ill, difficult-to-manage patients can be successfully treated. Clinicians who treat patients with renal disease and neurosurgeons who treat spinal disorders should be aware of dialysis-associated spondylarthropathy as a potential cause of degenerative vertebral column instability.

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Fernando L. Vale, Jennifer Burns, Amie B. Jackson and Mark N. Hadley

✓ The optimal management of acute spinal cord injuries remains to be defined. The authors prospectively applied resuscitation principles of volume expansion and blood pressure maintenance to 77 patients who presented with acute neurological deficits as a result of spinal cord injuries occurring from C-1 through T-12 in an effort to maintain spinal cord blood flow and prevent secondary injury. According to the Intensive Care Unit protocol, all patients were managed by using Swan—Ganz and arterial blood pressure catheters and were treated with immobilization and fracture reduction as indicated. Intravenous fluids, colloid, and vasopressors were administered as necessary to maintain mean arterial blood pressure above 85 mm Hg. Surgery was performed for decompression and stabilization, and fusion in selected cases. Sixty-four patients have been followed at least 12 months postinjury by means of detailed neurological assessments and functional ability evaluations.

Sixty percent of patients with complete cervical spinal cord injuries improved at least one Frankel or American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade at the last follow-up review. Thirty percent regained the ability to walk and 20% had return of bladder function 1 year postinjury.

Thirty-three percent of the patients with complete thoracic spinal cord injuries improved at least one Frankel or ASIA grade. Approximately 10% of the patients regained the ability to walk and had return of bladder function.

As of the 12-month follow-up review, 92% of patients demonstrated clinical improvement after sustaining incomplete cervical spinal cord injuries compared to their initial neurological status. Ninety-two percent regained the ability to walk and 88% regained bladder function.

Eighty-eight percent of patients with incomplete thoracic spinal cord injuries demonstrated significant improvements in neurological function 1 year postinjury. Eighty-eight percent were able to walk and 63% had return of bladder function.

The authors conclude that the enhanced neurological outcome that was observed in patients after spinal cord injury in this study was in addition to, and/or distinct from, any potential benefit provided by surgery. Early and aggressive medical management (volume resuscitation and blood pressure augmentation) of patients with acute spinal cord injuries optimizes the potential for neurological recovery after sustaining trauma.

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Metastatic spinal cord tumors

Mark N. Hadley

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Mark N. Hadley

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Julian E. Bailes, Robert F. Spetzler, Mark N. Hadley and Hillel Z. Baldwin

✓ Preliminary experience with the occasional good survival of patients in Hunt and Hess Grade IV or V with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) led to a prospective management protocol employed during a 2½-year period. The protocol utilized computerized tomography (CT) scanning to diagnose SAH and to obtain evidence for irreversible brain destruction, consisting of massive cerebral infarction with midline shift or dominant basal ganglia or brain-stem hematoma. These patients, along with those who exhibited poor or absent intracranial filling on CT or angiography, were excluded from active treatment and given supportive care only. All other patients had immediate ventriculostomy placement and, if intracranial pressure (ICP) was controllable (≤ 30 cm H2O without an intracranial clot or ≤ 50 cm H2O in the presence of a clot), went on to have craniotomy for aneurysm clipping. Aggressive postoperative hypertensive, hypervolemic, hemodilutional therapy was subsequently employed. Of 54 patients with poor-grade aneurysms, ventriculostomy was placed in 47 (87.0%) and yielded high ICP's in the overwhelming majority, with the mean ICP being 40.2 cm H2O. Nineteen poor-grade aneurysm patients received no surgical treatment and survived a mean of 31.8 hours with 100% mortality. Thirty-five patients underwent placement of a ventriculostomy, craniotomy for aneurysm clipping and intracranial clot evacuation, and postoperative hypertensive, hypervolemic, hemodilutional therapy. The outcome at 3 months of the 35 patients who were selected for active treatment was good in 19 (54.3%), fair in four (11.4%), poor in four (11.4%), and death in eight (22.9%).

It is concluded that poor-grade aneurysm patients usually present with intracranial hypertension, even those without an intracranial clot. Based on radiographic rather than neurological criteria, a portion of these patients can be selected for active and successful treatment. Increased ICP can be present without ventriculomegaly, and immediate ventriculostomy should be performed. As long as ICP is controllable, craniotomy and postoperative intensive care can effect a favorable outcome in a significant percentage of these patients.

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Curtis A. Dickman, Mark N. Hadley, Carol Browner and Volker K. H. Sonntag

✓ Combination atlas-axis fractures occur relatively frequently and have a higher incidence of neurological morbidity than isolated C-1 or isolated C-2 injuries. Patients with combination C1–2 fracture-subluxation injuries should be studied with thin-section computerized tomography. Appropriate treatment is determined by the type of axis fracture present and includes surgical and nonsurgical strategies. An experience with 25 patients with combination C1–2 fractures is presented, and management and follow-up guidelines are reviewed.

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Mark N. Hadley, Neil A. Martin, Robert F. Spetzler and Peter C. Johnson

✓ True mycotic (fungal) aneurysms are distinctly uncommon. The case of a young woman with multiple intracranial aneurysms of Coccidioides immitis origin is presented. Coccidioides immitis organisms are not uncommon central nervous system pathogens and usually cause basilar meningitis and hydrocephalus. There are no previous reports of a coccidioidal mycotic aneurysm. The management of intracranial coccidioidomycosis and fungal aneurysms is reviewed.