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Martin N. Stienen, Werner Surbeck and Gerhard Hildebrandt

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Kunal Varshneya, Adrian J. Rodrigues, Zachary A. Medress, Martin N. Stienen, Gerald A. Grant, John K. Ratliff and Anand Veeravagu

OBJECTIVE

Skull fractures are common after blunt pediatric head trauma. CSF leaks are a rare but serious complication of skull fractures; however, little evidence exists on the risk of developing a CSF leak following skull fracture in the pediatric population. In this epidemiological study, the authors investigated the risk factors of CSF leaks and their impact on pediatric skull fracture outcomes.

METHODS

The authors queried the MarketScan database (2007–2015), identifying pediatric patients (age < 18 years) with a diagnosis of skull fracture and CSF leak. Skull fractures were disaggregated by location (base, vault, facial) and severity (open, closed, multiple, concomitant cerebral or vascular injury). Descriptive statistics and hypothesis testing were used to compare baseline characteristics, complications, quality metrics, and costs.

RESULTS

The authors identified 13,861 pediatric patients admitted with a skull fracture, of whom 1.46% (n = 202) developed a CSF leak. Among patients with a skull fracture and a CSF leak, 118 (58.4%) presented with otorrhea and 84 (41.6%) presented with rhinorrhea. Patients who developed CSF leaks were older (10.4 years vs 8.7 years, p < 0.0001) and more commonly had skull base (n = 183) and multiple (n = 22) skull fractures (p < 0.05). These patients also more frequently underwent a neurosurgical intervention (24.8% vs 9.6%, p < 0.0001). Compared with the non–CSF leak population, patients with a CSF leak had longer average hospitalizations (9.6 days vs 3.7 days, p < 0.0001) and higher rates of neurological deficits (5.0% vs 0.7%, p < 0.0001; OR 7.0; 95% CI 3.6–13.6), meningitis (5.5% vs 0.3%, p < 0.0001; OR 22.4; 95% CI 11.2–44.9), nonroutine discharge (6.9% vs 2.5%, p < 0.0001; OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.7–5.0), and readmission (24.7% vs 8.5%, p < 0.0001; OR 3.4; 95% CI 2.5–4.7). Total costs at 90 days for patients with a CSF leak averaged $81,206, compared with $32,831 for patients without a CSF leak (p < 0.0001).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors found that CSF leaks occurred in 1.46% of pediatric patients with skull fractures and that skull fractures were associated with significantly increased rates of neurosurgical intervention and risks of meningitis, hospital readmission, and neurological deficits at 90 days. Pediatric patients with skull fractures also experienced longer average hospitalizations and greater healthcare costs at presentation and at 90 days.

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Anita M. Klukowska, Marc L. Schröder, Martin N. Stienen and Victor E. Staartjes

OBJECTIVE

The five-repetition sit-to-stand (5R-STS) test provides a new dimension of clinical assessment by capturing objective functional impairment (OFI). Through the utilization of data from two prospective studies, the authors sought to evaluate the concurrent validity of the proposed 5R-STS baseline severity stratification (BSS) for OFI with the following levels based on time to completion in seconds: none, ≤ 10.4; mild, 10.5–15.2; moderate, 15.3–22.0; and severe, > 22.0 seconds.

METHODS

Patients with degenerative diseases of the spine performed the 5R-STS test and completed visual analog scales (VASs) for back and leg pain, the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ), and EQ-5D questionnaires. The degree of OFI severity was assessed based on the previously proposed BSS, and its association with patient-reported scales was evaluated using ANOVA as well as crude and adjusted linear regression models.

RESULTS

Our sample included 240 patients, of whom 101 exhibited no OFI, whereas 80, 34, and 25 were judged to have mild, moderate, and severe OFI, respectively. A higher baseline severity was strongly associated with loss of working ability (p < 0.001), as well as results of all patient-reported scales (p ≤ 0.001), with the exception of the VAS for leg pain (p = 0.556). Crude and adjusted regression analyses corroborated these findings, although only patients with moderate and severe OFI as judged by using the 5R-STS BSS demonstrated clinically relevant differences compared with patients without OFI.

CONCLUSIONS

The degree of OFI—based on the 5R-STS BSS—is strongly associated with measures of back pain, subjective functional impairment, and health-related quality of life. However, leg pain severity is not reflected within the dimension of OFI measured by the 5R-STS. The proposed BSS appears to be a concurrently valid and clinically relevant measure of OFI in patients with degenerative spinal pathologies.

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Martin N. Stienen, Nicolas R. Smoll, Holger Joswig, Marco V. Corniola, Karl Schaller, Gerhard Hildebrandt and Oliver P. Gautschi

OBJECTIVE

The Timed Up and Go (TUG) test is a simple, objective, and standardized method to measure objective functional impairment (OFI) in patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). The objective of the current work was to validate the OFI baseline severity stratification (BSS; with levels of “none,” “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe”).

METHODS

Data were collected in a prospective IRB-approved 2-center study. Patients were assessed with a comprehensive panel of scales for measuring pain (visual analog scale [VAS] for back and leg pain), functional impairment (Roland-Morris Disability Index [RMDI] and Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]), and health-related quality of life (HRQOL; EQ-5D and SF-12). OFI BSS was determined using age- and sex-adjusted cutoff values.

RESULTS

A total of 375 consecutive patients scheduled for lumbar spine surgery were included. Each 1-step increase on the OFI BSS corresponded to an increase of 0.53 in the back pain VAS score, 0.69 in the leg pain VAS score, 1.81 points in the RMDI, and 5.93 points in the ODI, as well as to a decrease in HRQOL of −0.073 in the EQ-5D, −1.99 in the SF-12 physical component summary (PCS), and −1.62 in the SF-12 mental component summary (MCS; all p < 0.001). Patients with mild, moderate, and severe OFI had increased leg pain by 0.90 (p = 0.044), 1.54 (p < 0.001), and 1.94 (p < 0.001); increased ODI by 7.99 (p = 0.004), 12.64 (p < 0.001), and 17.13 (p < 0.001); and decreased SF-12 PCS by −2.57 (p = 0.049), −3.63 (p = 0.003), and −6.23 (p < 0.001), respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

The OFI BSS is a valid measure of functional impairment for use in daily clinical practice. The presence of OFI indicates the presence of significant functional impairment on subjective outcome measures.

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Martin N. Stienen, Holger Joswig, Ivan Chau, Marian C. Neidert, David Bellut, Thomas Wälchli, Karl Schaller and Oliver P. Gautschi

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to investigate whether the intraoperative application of an epidural steroid (ES) on the decompressed nerve root improves short- and midterm subjective and objective clinical outcomes after lumbar microdiscectomy.

METHODS

This study was a retrospective analysis of a 2-center database including consecutive cases in which patients underwent lumbar microdiscectomy. All patients who received ES application (40 mg triamcinolone, ES group) were matched by age and sex to patients who had not received ES application (control group). Objective functional impairment (OFI) was determined using age- and sex-adjusted T-scores of the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test. Back and leg pain (visual analog scale), functional impairment (Oswestry Disability Index [ODI], Roland-Morris Disability Index [RMDI], and health-related quality of life (hrQoL; 12-Item Short Form Health Survey [SF-12] physical component summary [PSC] score and EuroQol [EQ-5D index]) were measured at baseline, on postoperative day 3, and at postoperative week 6.

RESULTS

Fifty-three patients who received ES application were matched with 101 controls. There were no baseline demographic or disease-specific differences between the study groups, and preoperative pain, functional impairment, and hrQoL were similar. On postoperative day 3, the ES group had less disability on the RMDI (mean 7.4 vs 10.3, p = 0.003) and higher hrQoL as determined by the SF-12 PCS (36.5 vs 32.7, p = 0.004). At week 6, the ES group had less disability on the RMDI (3.6 vs 5.7, p = 0.050) and on the ODI by trend (17.0 vs 24.4, p = 0.056); better hrQoL, determined by the SF-12 PCS (44.3 vs 39.9, p = 0.018); and lower OFI (TUG test T-score 100.5 vs 110.2, p = 0.005). The week 6 responder status based on the minimum clinically important difference (MCID) was similar in the ES and control groups for each metric. The rates and severity of complications were similar, with a 3.8% and 4.0% reoperation rate in the ES group and control group, respectively (p = 0.272). There was a tendency for shorter hospitalization in the ES group (5.0 vs 5.8 days, p = 0.066).

CONCLUSIONS

Intraoperative ES application on the decompressed nerve root is an effective adjunct treatment that may lower subjective and objective functional impairment and increase hrQoL in the short and intermediate term after lumbar microdiscectomy. However, group differences were lower than the commonly accepted MCIDs for each metric, indicating that the effect size of the benefit is limited.

■ CLASSIFICATION OF EVIDENCE Type of question: therapeutic; study design: retrospective cohort trial; evidence: Class II.

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Martin N. Stienen, Oliver P. Gautschi, Karl Schaller, David Netuka, Andreas K. Demetriades, Florian Ringel, Jens Gempt and Dominique Kuhlen

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Julia Velz, Flavio Vasella, Kevin Akeret, Sandra F. Dias, Elisabeth Jehli, Oliver Bozinov, Luca Regli, Menno R. Germans and Martin N. Stienen

OBJECTIVE

Skin depressions may appear as undesired effects after burr-hole trepanation for the evacuation of chronic subdural hematomas (cSDH). Placement of burr-hole covers to reconstruct skull defects can prevent skin depressions, with the potential to improve the aesthetic result and patient satisfaction. The perception of the relevance of this practice, however, appears to vary substantially among neurosurgeons. The authors aimed to identify current practice variations with regard to the application of burr-hole covers after trepanation for cSDH.

METHODS

An electronic survey containing 12 questions was sent to resident and faculty neurosurgeons practicing in different parts of the world, as identified by an Internet search. All responses completed between September 2018 and December 2018 were considered. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were used to analyze the data.

RESULTS

A total of 604 responses were obtained, of which 576 (95.4%) provided complete data. The respondents’ mean age was 42.4 years (SD 10.5), and 86.5% were male. The sample consisted of residents, fellows, junior/senior consultants, and department chairs from 79 countries (77.4% Europe, 11.8% Asia, 5.4% America, 3.5% Africa, and 1.9% Australasia). Skin depressions were considered a relevant issue by 31.6%, and 76.0% indicated that patients complain about skin depressions more or less frequently. Burr-hole covers are placed by 28.1% in the context of cSDH evacuation more or less frequently. The most frequent reasons for not placing a burr-hole cover were the lack of proven benefit (34.8%), followed by additional costs (21.9%), technical difficulty (19.9%), and fear of increased complications (4.9%). Most respondents (77.5%) stated that they would consider placing burr-hole covers in the future if there was evidence for superiority of the practice. The use of burr-hole covers varied substantially across countries, but a country’s gross domestic product per capita was not associated with their placement.

CONCLUSIONS

Only a minority of neurosurgeons place burr-hole covers after trepanation for cSDH on a regular basis, even though the majority of participants reported complaints from patients regarding postoperative skin depressions. There are significant differences in the patterns of care among countries. Class I evidence with regard to patient satisfaction and safety of burr-hole cover placement is likely to have an impact on future cSDH management.

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Martin N. Stienen, Nicolai Maldaner, Holger Joswig, Marco V. Corniola, David Bellut, Peter Prömmel, Luca Regli, Astrid Weyerbrock, Karl Schaller and Oliver P. Gautschi

OBJECTIVE

Patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) are standard of care for the assessment of functional impairment. Subjective outcome measures are increasingly complemented by objective ones, such as the “Timed Up and Go” (TUG) test. Currently, only a few studies report pre- and postoperative TUG test assessments in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).

METHODS

A prospective two-center database was reviewed to identify patients with LSS who underwent lumbar decompression with or without fusion. The subjective functional status was estimated using PROMs for pain (visual analog scale [VAS]), disability (Roland-Morris Disability Index [RMDI] and Oswestry Disability Index [ODI]), and health-related quality of life (HRQoL; 12-Item Short-Form Physical Component Summary [SF-12 PCS] and the EQ-5D) preoperatively, as well as on postoperative day 3 (D3) and week 6 (W6). Objective functional impairment (OFI) was measured using age- and sex-standardized TUG test results.

RESULTS

Sixty-four patients (n = 32 [50%] male, mean age 66.8 ± 11.7 years) were included. Preoperatively, they reported a mean VAS back pain score of 4.1 ± 2.7, VAS leg pain score of 5.4 ± 2.7, RMDI of 10.4 ± 5.3, ODI of 41.9 ± 16.2, SF-12 PCS score of 32.7 ± 8.3, and an EQ-5D index of 0.517 ± 0.226. The preoperative rates of severe, moderate, and mild OFI were 4.7% (n = 3), 12.5% (n = 8), and 7.8% (n = 5), respectively, and the mean OFI T-score was 116.3 ± 23.7. At W6, 60 (93.8%) of 64 patients had a TUG test result within the normal population range (no OFI); 3 patients (4.7%) had mild and 1 patient (1.6%) severe OFI. The mean W6 OFI T-score was significantly decreased (103.1 ± 13.6; p < 0.001). Correspondingly, the PROMs showed a decrease in subjective VAS back pain (1.6 ± 1.7, p < 0.001) and leg pain (1.0 ± 1.8, p < 0.001) scores, disability (RMDI 5.3 ± 4.7, p < 0.001; ODI 21.3 ± 16.1, p < 0.001), and increase in HRQoL (SF-12 PCS 40.1 ± 8.3, p < 0.001; EQ-5D 0.737 ± 0.192, p < 0.001) at W6. The W6 responder status (clinically meaningful improvement) ranged between 81.3% (VAS leg pain) and 29.7% (EQ-5D index) of patients.

CONCLUSIONS

The TUG test is a quick and easily applicable tool that reliably measures OFI in patients with LSS. Objective tests incorporating longer walking time should be considered if OFI is suspected but fails to be proven by the TUG test, taking into account that neurogenic claudication may not clinically manifest during the brief TUG examination. Objective tests do not replace the subjective PROM-based assessment, but add valuable information to a comprehensive patient evaluation.

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Martin N. Stienen, Oliver P. Gautschi, Victor E. Staartjes, Nicolai Maldaner, Marketa Sosnova, Allen L. Ho, Anand Veeravagu, Atman Desai, Corinna C. Zygourakis, Jon Park, Luca Regli and John K. Ratliff

OBJECTIVE

Objective functional measures such as the 6-minute walking test (6WT) are increasingly applied to evaluate patients with degenerative diseases of the lumbar spine before and after (surgical) treatment. However, the traditional 6WT is cumbersome to apply, as it requires specialized in-hospital infrastructure and personnel. The authors set out to compare 6-minute walking distance (6WD) measurements obtained with a newly developed smartphone application (app) and those obtained with the gold-standard distance wheel (DW).

METHODS

The authors developed a free iOS- and Android-based smartphone app that allows patients to measure the 6WD in their home environment using global positioning system (GPS) coordinates. In a laboratory setting, the authors obtained 6WD measurements over a range of smartphone models, testing environments, and walking patterns and speeds. The main outcome was the relative measurement error (rME; in percent of 6WD), with |rME| < 7.5% defined as reliable. The intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for agreement between app- and DW-based 6WD was calculated.

RESULTS

Measurements (n = 406) were reliable with all smartphone types in neighborhood, nature, and city environments (without high buildings), as well as with unspecified, straight, continuous, and stop-and-go walking patterns (ICC = 0.97, 95% CI 0.97–0.98, p < 0.001). Measurements were unreliable indoors, in city areas with high buildings, and for predominantly rectangular walking courses. Walking speed had an influence on the ME, with worse accuracy (2% higher rME) for every kilometer per hour slower walking pace (95% CI 1.4%–2.5%, p < 0.001). Mathematical adjustment of the app-based 6WD for velocity-dependent error mitigated the rME (p < 0.011), attenuated velocity dependence (p = 0.362), and had a positive effect on accuracy (ICC = 0.98, 95% CI 0.98–0.99, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

The new, free, spine-specific 6WT smartphone app measures the 6WD conveniently by using GPS coordinates, empowering patients to independently determine their functional status before and after (surgical) treatment. Measurements of 6WD obtained for the target population under the recommended circumstances are highly reliable.

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Lazar Tosic, Elior Goldberger, Nicolai Maldaner, Marketa Sosnova, Anna M. Zeitlberger, Victor E. Staartjes, Pravesh S. Gadjradj, Hubert A. J. Eversdijk, Ayesha Quddusi, Maria L. Gandía-González, Jamasb Joshua Sayadi, Atman Desai, Luca Regli, Oliver P. Gautschi and Martin N. Stienen

OBJECTIVE

The 6-minute walking test (6WT) is used to determine restrictions in a subject’s 6-minute walking distance (6WD) due to lumbar degenerative disc disease. To facilitate simple and convenient patient self-measurement, a free and reliable smartphone app using Global Positioning System coordinates was previously designed. The authors aimed to determine normative values for app-based 6WD measurements.

METHODS

The maximum 6WD was determined three times using app-based measurement in a sample of 330 volunteers without previous spine surgery or current spine-related disability, recruited at 8 centers in 5 countries (mean subject age 44.2 years, range 16–91 years; 48.5% male; mean BMI 24.6 kg/m2, range 16.3–40.2 kg/m2; 67.9% working; 14.2% smokers). Subjects provided basic demographic information, including comorbidities and patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs): visual analog scale (VAS) for both low-back and lower-extremity pain, Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI), Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ), and subjective walking distance and duration. The authors determined the test-retest reliability across three measurements (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC], standard error of measurement [SEM], and mean 6WD [95% CI]) stratified for age and sex, and content validity (linear regression coefficients) between 6WD and PROMs.

RESULTS

The ICC for repeated app-based 6WD measurements was 0.89 (95% CI 0.87–0.91, p < 0.001) and the SEM was 34 meters. The overall mean 6WD was 585.9 meters (95% CI 574.7–597.0 meters), with significant differences across age categories (p < 0.001). The 6WD was on average about 32 meters less in females (570.5 vs 602.2 meters, p = 0.005). There were linear correlations between average 6WD and VAS back pain, VAS leg pain, COMI Back and COMI subscores of pain intensity and disability, ZCQ symptom severity, ZCQ physical function, and ZCQ pain and neuroischemic symptoms subscores, as well as with subjective walking distance and duration, indicating that subjects with higher pain, higher disability, and lower subjective walking capacity had significantly lower 6WD (all p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

This study provides normative data for app-based 6WD measurements in a multicenter sample from 8 institutions and 5 countries. These values can now be used as reference to compare 6WT results and quantify objective functional impairment in patients with degenerative diseases of the spine using z-scores. The authors found a good to excellent test-retest reliability of the 6WT app, a low area of uncertainty, and high content validity of the average 6WD with commonly used PROMs.