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Biagio Azzarelli, Joseph Moore, Richard Gilmor, Jans Muller, Mary Edwards and John Mealey

✓ A 17-year-old girl died from the rupture of a large fusiform aneurysm of the terminal internal carotid artery. Autopsy revealed three other fusiform aneurysms originating from major cerebral arteries clearly within the ports of previously administered telecobalt radiation therapy. Five years prior to her death, a suprasellar germinoma was partially removed and the area was treated by radiation therapy via three ports. The original arteriograms showed a normal vascular tree. Repeat arteriograms, 3 years and 8 months before her death, demonstrated the aneurysms. The development of aneurysms following radiation damage of the arteries has been reported previously, but not in intracranial vessels.

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Mitchel S. Berger, Lawrence H. Pitts, Mary Lovely, Michael S. B. Edwards and Henry M. Bartkowski

✓ A consecutive series of 37 children (17 years old and under) with severe head injury is presented. The data confirm that morbidity and mortality are lower in children than in adults: 51% of these young patients had a good recovery or moderate disability at 6 months. The mortality rate in this series (33%) is higher than in some reports, but probably more closely approximates the death rate from these injuries in an unselected pediatric population than do statistics from tertiary care hospitals. There was no significant relationship between age and outcome in this age group, but mass lesions and uncontrolled intracranial hypertension adversely affected outcome. Diffuse cerebral swelling was commonly seen on computerized tomography scans, and generally was associated with a satisfactory outcome (75%). Two of 13 deaths were considered preventable, emphasizing the narrow therapeutic safety margin and extreme care required in treating these patients.

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Rajiv Sethi, Quinlan D. Buchlak, Vijay Yanamadala, Melissa L. Anderson, Eric A. Baldwin, Robert S. Mecklenburg, Jean-Christophe Leveque, Alicia M. Edwards, Mary Shea, Lisa Ross and Karen J. Wernli

OBJECTIVE

Systematic multidisciplinary approaches to improving quality and safety in complex surgical care have shown promise. Complication rates from complex spine surgery range from 10% to 90% for all surgeries, and the overall mortality rate is 1%–4%. These rates suggest the need for improved perioperative complex spine surgery processes designed to minimize risk and improve quality.

METHODS

The Group Health Research Institute and Virginia Mason Medical Center implemented a systematic multidisciplinary protocol, the Seattle Spine Team Protocol, in 2010. This protocol involves the following elements: 1) a comprehensive multidisciplinary conference including clinicians from neurosurgery, anesthesia, orthopedics, internal medicine, behavioral health, and nursing, collaboratively deciding on each patient's suitability for surgery; 2) a mandatory patient education course that reviews the risks of surgery, preparation for the surgery, and postoperative care; 3) a dual-attending-surgeon approach involving 1 neurosurgeon and 1 orthopedic spine surgeon; 4) a dedicated specialist complex spine anesthesia team; and 5) rigorous intraoperative monitoring of a patient's blood loss and coagulopathy. The authors identified 71 patients who underwent complex spine surgery involving fusion of 6 or more levels before implementation of the protocol (surgery between 2008 and 2010) and 69 patients who underwent complex spine surgery after the implementation of the protocol (2010 and 2012). All patient demographic variables, including age, sex, body mass index, smoking status, diagnosis of diabetes and/or osteoporosis, previous surgery, and the nature of the spinal deformity, were comprehensively assessed. Also comprehensively assessed were surgical variables, including operative time, number of levels fused, and length of stay. The authors assessed overall complication rates at 30 days and 1 year and detailed deaths, cardiovascular events, infections, instrumentation failures, and CSF leaks. Chi-square and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests were used to assess differences in patient characteristics for patients with a procedure in the preimplementation period from those in the postimplementation period under a Poisson distribution model.

RESULTS

Patients who underwent surgery after implementation of the Seattle Spine Team Protocol had a statistically significant reduction (relative risk 0.49 [95% CI 0.30–0.78]) in all measured complications, including cardiovascular events, wound infections, other perioperative infections, and implant failures within 30 days after surgery; the analysis was adjusted for age and Charlson comorbidity score. A trend toward fewer deaths in this group was also found.

CONCLUSIONS

This type of systematic quality improvement strategy can improve quality and patient safety and might be applicable to other complex surgical disciplines. Implementation of these strategies in the treatment of adult spinal deformity will likely lead to better patient outcomes.