Fred C. Lam and Michael W. Groff
Surgical pathology in the region of the upper thoracic spine (T1–4) is uncommon compared with other regions of the spine. Often times posterior and posterolateral approaches can be used, but formal anterior decompression often requires a low anterior cervical approach combined with a sternotomy, which yields significant perioperative morbidity. The authors describe a modified low anterior cervical dissection combined with a partial manubriotomy that they have used to successfully access and decompress anterior pathology of the upper thoracic spine. Their modified approach spares the sternoclavicular joints and leaves the sternum intact, decreasing the morbidity associated with these added procedures.
Viren S. Vasudeva, John H. Chi and Michael W. Groff
Vertebral hemangiomas are common tumors that are benign and generally asymptomatic. Occasionally these lesions can exhibit aggressive features such as bony expansion and erosion into the epidural space resulting in neurological symptoms. Surgery is often recommended in these cases, especially if symptoms are severe or rapidly progressive. Some surgeons perform decompression alone, others perform gross-total resection, while others perform en bloc resection. Radiation, embolization, vertebroplasty, and ethanol injection have also been used in combination with surgery. Despite the variety of available treatment options, the optimal management strategy is unclear because aggressive vertebral hemangiomas are uncommon lesions, making it difficult to perform large trials. For this reason, the authors chose instead to report their institutional experience along with a comprehensive review of the literature.
A departmental database was searched for patients with a pathological diagnosis of “hemangioma” between 2008 and 2015. Medical records were reviewed to identify patients with aggressive vertebral hemangiomas, and these cases were reviewed in detail.
Five patients were identified who underwent surgery for treatment of aggressive vertebral hemangiomas during the specified time period. There were 2 lumbar and 3 thoracic lesions. One patient underwent en bloc spondylectomy, 2 patients had piecemeal gross-total resection, and the remaining 2 had subtotal tumor resection. Intraoperative vertebroplasty was used in 3 cases to augment the anterior column or to obliterate residual tumor. Adjuvant radiation was used in 1 case where there was residual tumor as well. The patient who underwent en bloc spondylectomy experienced several postoperative complications requiring additional medical care and reoperation. At an average follow-up of 31 months (range 3–65 months), no patient had any recurrence of disease and all were clinically asymptomatic, except the patient who underwent en bloc resection who continued to have back pain.
Gross-total resection or subtotal resection in combination with vertebroplasty or adjuvant radiation therapy to treat residual tumor seems sufficient in the treatment of aggressive vertebral hemangiomas. En bloc resection appears to provide a similar oncological benefit, but it carries higher morbidity to the patient.
Fred C. Lam, Michael W. Groff and Ron N. Alkalay
The use of fixed-axis pedicle screws for correction of thoracolumbar deformity in adult surgery is demanding because of the challenge of assembling the bent rod to the screw in order to achieve curve correction. Polyaxial screw designs, providing increased degrees of freedom at the screw-rod interface, were reported to be insufficient in achieving correction of thoracic deformity in the axial plane. Using a multisegment bovine calf spine model, this study investigated the ability of a new uniplanar screw design to achieve derotation correction of the vertebrae and maintain a degree of correction comparable to that of fixed-axis and polyaxial screw designs.
Eighteen calf thoracolumbar spine segments from T-6 to L-1 (n = 6 per screw design) underwent bilateral facetectomies at the T9–11 levels and were instrumented bilaterally with pedicle screws and rods. To assess the efficacy of each screw design in imparting rotational correction, each instrumented level was tested under applied torsional moments designed to simulate the motion applied during derotation surgery. Once rotation was achieved, the whole spine was tested to assess the overall stiffness of the construct.
The fixed-axis construct showed increased efficacy in imparting rotation compared with the uniplanar (115% increase, p > 0.05) and polyaxial (210% increase, p < 0.05) constructs. Uniplanar screws showed a 21% increase in torsional stiffness compared with the polyaxial screws, but this difference was not statistically significant.
The design of screw heads plays a significant role in affecting the rotation of the vertebrae during the derotation procedure. Uniplanar screws may have the advantage of maintaining construct stiffness after derotation.
Justin Slavin, Marcello DiStasio, Paul F. Dellaripa and Michael Groff
The authors present a case report of a patient discovered to have a rotatory subluxation of the C1–2 joint and a large retroodontoid pannus with an enhancing lesion in the odontoid process eventually proving to be caused by gout. This patient represented a diagnostic conundrum as she had known prior diagnoses of not only gout but also sarcoidosis and possible rheumatoid arthritis, and was in the demographic range where concern for an oncological process cannot fully be ruled out. Because she presented with signs and symptoms of atlantoaxial instability, she required posterior stabilization to reduce the rotatory subluxation and to stabilize the C1–2 instability. However, despite the presence of a large retroodontoid pannus, she had no evidence of spinal cord compression on physical examination or imaging and did not require an anterior procedure to decompress the pannus. To confirm the diagnosis but avoid additional procedures and morbidity, the authors proceeded with the fusion as well as a posterior biopsy to the retroodontoid pannus and confirmed a diagnosis of gout.
Yakov Gologorsky, John J. Knightly, John H. Chi and Michael W. Groff
The rates of lumbar spinal fusion operations have increased dramatically over the past 2 decades, and several studies based on administrative databases such as the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS) have suggested that the greatest rise is in the general categories of degenerative disc disease and disc herniation, neither of which is a well-accepted indication for lumbar fusion. The administrative databases classify cases with the International Classification of Disease, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). The ICD-9-CM discharge codes are not generated by surgeons but rather are assigned by trained hospital medical coders. It is unclear how accurately they capture the surgeon's indication for fusion. The authors sought to compare the ICD-9-CM code(s) assigned by the medical coder to the surgeon's indication based on a review of the medical chart.
A retrospective review was undertaken of all lumbar fusions performed at our institution by the department of neurosurgery between 8/1/2011 and 8/31/2013. Based on the authors' review, the indication for fusion for each case was categorized as spondylolisthesis, deformity, tumor, infection, nonpathological fracture, pseudarthrosis, adjacent-level degeneration, stenosis, degenerative disc pathology, or disc herniation. These surgeon diagnoses were compared with the primary ICD-9-CM codes that were submitted to administrative databases.
There were 178 lumbar fusion operations performed for 170 hospital admissions. There were 44 hospitalizations in which fusion was performed for tumor, infection, or nonpathological fracture; the remaining 126 were for degenerative diagnoses. For these degenerative cases, the primary ICD-9-CM diagnosis matched the surgeon's diagnosis in only 61 of 126 degenerative cases (48.4%). When both the primary and all secondary ICD-9-CM diagnoses were considered, the indication for fusion was identified in 100 of 126 cases (79.4%).
Characterizing indications for fusion based solely on primary ICD-9-CM codes extracted from large administrative databases does not accurately reflect the surgeon's indication. While these databases may accurately describe national rates of lumbar fusion surgery, the lack of fidelity in the source codes limits their role in accurately identifying indications for surgery. Studying relationships among indications, complications, and outcomes stratified solely by ICD-9-CM codes is not well founded.
Yakov Gologorsky, John J. Knightly, Yi Lu, John H. Chi and Michael W. Groff
Large administrative databases have assumed a major role in population-based studies examining health care delivery. Lumbar fusion surgeries specifically have been scrutinized for rising rates coupled with ill-defined indications for fusion such as stenosis and spondylosis. Administrative databases classify cases with the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). The ICD-9-CM discharge codes are not designated by surgeons, but rather are assigned by trained hospital medical coders. It is unclear how accurately they capture the surgeon's indication for fusion. The authors first sought to compare the ICD-9-CM code(s) assigned by the medical coder according to the surgeon's indication based on a review of the medical chart, and then to elucidate barriers to data fidelity.
A retrospective review was undertaken of all lumbar fusions performed in the Department of Neurosurgery at the authors' institution between August 1, 2011, and August 31, 2013. Based on this review, the indication for fusion in each case was categorized as follows: spondylolisthesis, deformity, tumor, infection, nonpathological fracture, pseudarthrosis, adjacent-level degeneration, stenosis, degenerative disc disease, or disc herniation. These surgeon diagnoses were compared with the primary ICD-9-CM codes that were generated by the medical coders and submitted to administrative databases. A follow-up interview with the hospital's coders and coding manager was undertaken to review causes of error and suggestions for future improvement in data fidelity.
There were 178 lumbar fusion operations performed in the course of 170 hospital admissions. There were 44 hospitalizations in which fusion was performed for tumor, infection, or nonpathological fracture. Of these, the primary diagnosis matched the surgical indication for fusion in 98% of cases. The remaining 126 hospitalizations were for degenerative diseases, and of these, the primary ICD-9-CM diagnosis matched the surgeon's diagnosis in only 61 (48%) of 126 cases of degenerative disease. When both the primary and all secondary ICD-9-CM diagnoses were considered, the indication for fusion was identified in 100 (79%) of 126 cases. Still, in 21% of hospitalizations, the coder did not identify the surgical diagnosis, which was in fact present in the chart. There are many different causes of coding inaccuracy and data corruption. They include factors related to the quality of documentation by the physicians, coder training and experience, and ICD code ambiguity.
Researchers, policymakers, payers, and physicians should note these limitations when reviewing studies in which hospital claims data are used. Advanced domain-specific coder training, increased attention to detail and utilization of ICD-9-CM diagnoses by the surgeon, and improved direction from the surgeon to the coder may augment data fidelity and minimize coding errors. By understanding sources of error, users of these large databases can evaluate their limitations and make more useful decisions based on them.
Aditya V. Karhade, Viren S. Vasudeva, Hormuzdiyar H. Dasenbrock, Yi Lu, William B. Gormley, Michael W. Groff, John H. Chi and Timothy R. Smith
The goal of this study was to use a large national registry to evaluate the 30-day cumulative incidence and predictors of adverse events, readmissions, and reoperations after surgery for primary and secondary spinal tumors.
Data from adult patients who underwent surgery for spinal tumors (2011–2014) were extracted from the prospective National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) registry. Multivariable logistic regression was used to evaluate predictors of reoperation, readmission, and major complications (death, neurological, cardiopulmonary, venous thromboembolism [VTE], surgical site infection [SSI], and sepsis). Variables screened included patient age, sex, tumor location, American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) physical classification, preoperative functional status, comorbidities, preoperative laboratory values, case urgency, and operative time. Additional variables that were evaluated when analyzing readmission included complications during the surgical hospitalization, hospital length of stay (LOS), and discharge disposition.
Among the 2207 patients evaluated, 51.4% had extradural tumors, 36.4% had intradural extramedullary tumors, and 12.3% had intramedullary tumors. By spinal level, 20.7% were cervical lesions, 47.4% were thoracic lesions, 29.1% were lumbar lesions, and 2.8% were sacral lesions. Readmission occurred in 10.2% of patients at a median of 18 days (interquartile range [IQR] 12–23 days); the most common reasons for readmission were SSIs (23.7%), systemic infections (17.8%), VTE (12.7%), and CNS complications (11.9%). Predictors of readmission were comorbidities (dyspnea, hypertension, and anemia), disseminated cancer, preoperative steroid use, and an extended hospitalization. Reoperation occurred in 5.3% of patients at a median of 13 days (IQR 8–20 days) postoperatively and was associated with preoperative steroid use and ASA Class 4–5 designation. Major complications occurred in 14.4% of patients: the most common complications and their median time to occurrence were VTE (4.5%) at 9 days (IQR 4–19 days) postoperatively, SSIs (3.6%) at 18 days (IQR 14–25 days), and sepsis (2.9%) at 13 days (IQR 7–21 days). Predictors of major complications included dependent functional status, emergency case status, male sex, comorbidities (dyspnea, bleeding disorders, preoperative systemic inflammatory response syndrome, preoperative leukocytosis), and ASA Class 3–5 designation (p < 0.05). The median hospital LOS was 5 days (IQR 3–9 days), the 30-day mortality rate was 3.3%, and the median time to death was 20 days (IQR 12.5–26 days).
In this NSQIP analysis, 10.2% of patients undergoing surgery for spinal tumors were readmitted within 30 days, 5.3% underwent a reoperation, and 14.4% experienced a major complication. The most common complications were SSIs, systemic infections, and VTE, which often occurred late (after discharge from the surgical hospitalization). Patients were primarily readmitted for new complications that developed following discharge rather than exacerbation of complications from the surgical hospital stay. The strongest predictors of adverse events were comorbidities, preoperative steroid use, and higher ASA classification. These models can be used by surgeons to risk-stratify patients preoperatively and identify those who may benefit from increased surveillance following hospital discharge.
Scott Shapiro, Richard Borgens, Robert Pascuzzi, Karen Roos, Michael Groff, Scott Purvines, Richard Ben Rodgers, Shannon Hagy and Paul Nelson
Object. An electrical field cathode (negative pole) has trophic and tropic effects on injured spinal cord axons in in vitro and in vivo models of sea lamprey, rodent, and canine spinal cord injury (SCI) and it improves functional outcome. A human oscillating field stimulator (OFS) was built, a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) exemption number was obtained, and institutional review board approval was given for a Phase 1 trial to study 10 humans with complete motor and sensory SCI.
Methods. Entry criteria were complete SCI between C-5 and T-10 in patients 18 to 65 years of age and no transection demonstrated on magnetic resonance imaging. All participants received the National Acute Spinal Cord Injury Study (NASCIS) III methylprednisilone protocol. Cord compression and/or vertebral instability was treated before study entry. After treatment complete SCI (according to the American Spinal Injury Association [ASIA] score) remained in all patients with no somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEPs) below the injury level after surgery or for 48 hours. All patients underwent implantation of the OFS within 18 days. Patients underwent evaluation every 2 weeks postimplantation; the OFS was explanted at 15 weeks. Independent neurological status was assessed based on the ASIA score, visual analog scale (VAS) pain score, and SSEPs at 6 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year. Statistical analyses were performed using the two-tailed Wilcoxon test and analysis of variance (ANOVA).
There were no complications at insertion of the OFS; there was one case of wound infection after explantation (5% infection rate). One patient was lost to follow up after 6 months. In all 10 patients the mean VAS pain score was 8 at implantation, 2 at 6 months, and in the nine attending follow up for 1 year it remained 2. At 1 year, the mean improvement in light touch was 25.5 points (ANOVA p < 0.001, Wilcoxon test p = 0.02), the mean improvement in pinprick sensation was 20.4 points (ANOVA p < 0.001, Wilcoxon test p = 0.02), and the mean improvement in motor status was 6.3 points (ANOVA p < 0.01, Wilcoxon test p = 0.02). Of five cases involving cervical cord injuries, bilateral upper-extremity SSEPs were normal in one, unilateral upper-extremity SSEPs were recovered in four, bilateral upper-extremity SSEPs were recovered in one, and abnormal lower-extremity SSEPs resolved in one case. In one of the five cases involving thoracic injuries an abnormal lower-extremity SSEP resolved.
Conclusions. The use of OFS treatment in patients with SCI is safe, reliable, and easy. Compared with the outcomes obtained in compliant NASCIS III plegic patients, the results of the present study indicate efficacy, and the FDA has given permission for enrollment of 10 additional patients.