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Letter to the Editor: “Cured” intracranial dural arteriovenous fistulas

Michael M. McDowell and Andrew F. Ducruet

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The rise of AI co-authors: navigating the future of scientific writing with ChatGPT

Ali A. Alattar and Michael M. McDowell

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Shunt infection and malfunction in patients with myelomeningocele

Michael D. White, Michael M. McDowell, Nitin Agarwal, and Stephanie Greene

OBJECTIVE

Myelomeningocele (MMC) is frequently complicated by symptomatic hydrocephalus, necessitating early permanent CSF diversion and revision surgeries. Shunt infections are a common cause of shunt malfunction. This study aims to characterize long-term shunt-related outcomes of patients undergoing MMC closure.

METHODS

A total of 170 patients undergoing MMC closure between the years of 1995 and 2017 were identified from a retrospective review of a prospectively populated surgical database at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Patients who underwent MMC closure and required ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt insertion met criteria and were included in the primary study analysis. Analysis with a Fisher exact test was performed for categorical variables, and Mann-Whitney U-tests were utilized for numerical data.

RESULTS

Of the 158 total patients undergoing MMC closure and meeting inclusion criteria, 137 (87%) required VP shunt insertion. These 137 patients demonstrated a shunt revision rate of 21.1% per person-year and a shunt infection rate of 2.1% per person-year over a mean follow-up of 10.8 years. Patients had a mean of 3.4 ± 0.6 shunt surgeries prior to their first infection. Patients undergoing immediate shunt removal, external ventricular drain placement, or shunt replacement after clearing the infection had lower rates of subsequent infections than patients who initially were managed with shunt externalization (p < 0.001). Placement of a shunt at the time of MMC closure was not found to be a risk factor for infection. Of patients with initial shunt placement after the implementation of the Hydrocephalus Clinical Research Network protocol in 2011, the authors’ institution has had a shunt infection rate of 4.2% per person-year and a revision rate of 35.7% per person-year.

CONCLUSIONS

This study describes long-term outcomes of shunted MMC patients and factors associated with shunt infections. Most patients underwent multiple revisions prior to the first shunt infection. Shunt externalization may be ineffective at clearing the infection and should be avoided in favor of early shunt removal and external ventricular drainage, followed by shunt replacement once infection is demonstrated to have cleared.

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Development and implementation of a novel child life protocol to enhance psychosocial support for pediatric awake craniotomies: technical note

Michael M. McDowell, Daniela Ortega Peraza, and Taylor J. Abel

Awake craniotomies are a crucial tool for identifying eloquent cortex, but significant limitations frequently related to patient tolerance have limited their applicability in pediatric cases. The authors describe a comprehensive, longitudinal protocol developed in collaboration with a certified child life specialist (CCLS) in order to enhance patient experiences and develop resiliency related to the intraoperative portion of cases. This protocol includes preoperative conditioning, intraoperative support, and postoperative positive reinforcement and debriefing. A unique coping plan is developed for each prospective patient. With appropriate support, awake craniotomy may be applicable in a wider array of preadolescent and adolescent patients than has previously been possible. Future prospective studies are needed to validate this approach.

Open access

Endoscope-assisted right coronal suturectomy

Michael M. McDowell, Robert Kellogg, Jesse A. Goldstein, and Taylor J. Abel

Endoscopic suturectomy combined with supplementary techniques such as spring-assisted expansion and cranial molding helmets for the correction of craniosynostosis is growing in popularity due to the reduced scar burdened, decreased morbidity, and reduced overall cost. The authors present their technique for the correction of isolated coronal craniosynostosis. The use of dedicated endoscopic tools and lit endoscopes permits enhanced visualization and technical ability, particularly at the distal portions of the suturectomy, and may reduce operative time and cerebrospinal fluid leak risk.

The video can be found here: https://vimeo.com/515401366.

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Transnasal endoscopic approach to the pediatric craniovertebral junction and rostral cervical spine: case series and literature review

Zachary L. Hickman, Michael M. McDowell, Sunjay M. Barton, Eric S. Sussman, Eli Grunstein, and Richard C. E. Anderson

The endoscopic transnasal approach to the rostral pediatric spine and craniovertebral junction is a relatively new technique that provides an alternative to the traditional transoral approach to the anterior pediatric spine. In this case series, the authors provide 2 additional examples of patients undergoing endoscopic transnasal odontoidectomies for ventral decompression of the spinal cord. Both patients would have required transection of the palate to undergo an effective transoral operation, which can be a cause of significant morbidity. In one case, transnasal decompression was initially incomplete, and decompression was successfully achieved via a second endoscopic transnasal operation. Both cases resulted in significant neurological recovery and stable long-term spinal alignment. The transnasal approach benefits from entering into the posterior pharynx at an angle that often reduces the length of postoperative intubation and may speed a patient's return to oral intake. Higher reoperation rates are a concern for many endoscopic approaches, but there are insufficient data to conclude if this is the case for this procedure. Further experience with this technique will provide a better understanding of the indications for which it is most effective. Transcervical and transoral endoscopic approaches have also been reported and provide additional options for pediatric anterior cervical spine surgery.

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Comparative durability and costs analysis of ventricular shunts

Nitin Agarwal, Ahmed Kashkoush, Michael M. McDowell, William R. Lariviere, Naveed Ismail, and Robert M. Friedlander

OBJECTIVE

Ventricular shunt (VS) durability has been well studied in the pediatric population and in patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus; however, further evaluation in a more heterogeneous adult population is needed. This study aims to evaluate the effect of diagnosis and valve type—fixed versus programmable—on shunt durability and cost for placement of shunts in adult patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all patients who underwent implantation of a VS for hydrocephalus at their institution over a 3-year period between August 2013 and October 2016 with a minimum postoperative follow-up of 6 months. The primary outcome was shunt revision, which was defined as reoperation for any indication after the initial procedure. Supply costs, shunt durability, and hydrocephalus etiologies were compared between fixed and programmable valves.

RESULTS

A total of 417 patients underwent shunt placement during the index time frame, consisting of 62 fixed shunts (15%) and 355 programmable shunts (85%). The mean follow-up was 30 ± 12 (SD) months. The shunt revision rate was 22% for programmable pressure valves and 21% for fixed pressure valves (HR 1.1 [95% CI 0.6–1.8]). Shunt complications, such as valve failure, infection, and overdrainage, occurred with similar frequency across valve types. Kaplan-Meier survival curve analysis showed no difference in durability between fixed (mean 39 months) and programmable (mean 40 months) shunts (p = 0.980, log-rank test). The median shunt supply cost per index case and accounting for subsequent revisions was $3438 (interquartile range $2938–$3876) and $1504 (interquartile range $753–$1584) for programmable and fixed shunts, respectively (p < 0.001, Wilcoxon rank-sum test). Of all hydrocephalus etiologies, pseudotumor cerebri (HR 1.9 [95% CI 1.2–3.1]) and previous shunt malfunction (HR 1.8 [95% CI 1.2–2.7]) were found to significantly increase the risk of shunt revision. Within each diagnosis, there were no significant differences in revision rates between shunts with a fixed valve and shunts with a programmable valve.

CONCLUSIONS

Long-term shunt revision rates are similar for fixed and programmable shunt pressure valves in adult patients. Hydrocephalus etiology may play a significant role in predicting shunt revision, although programmable valves incur higher supply costs regardless of initial diagnosis. Utilization of fixed pressure valves versus programmable pressure valves may reduce supply costs while maintaining similar revision rates. Given the importance of developing cost-effective management protocols, this study highlights the critical need for large-scale prospective observational studies and randomized clinical trials of ventricular shunt valve revisions and additional patient-centered outcomes.

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Graft subsidence as a predictor of revision surgery following stand-alone lateral lumbar interbody fusion

Zachary J. Tempel, Michael M. McDowell, David M. Panczykowski, Gurpreet S. Gandhoke, D. Kojo Hamilton, David O. Okonkwo, and Adam S. Kanter

OBJECTIVE

Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) is a less invasive surgical option commonly used for a variety of spinal conditions, including in high-risk patient populations. LLIF is often performed as a stand-alone procedure, and may be complicated by graft subsidence, the clinical ramifications of which remain unclear. The aim of this study was to characterize further the sequelae of graft subsidence following stand-alone LLIF.

METHODS

A retrospective review of prospectively collected data was conducted on consecutive patients who underwent stand-alone LLIF between July 2008 and June 2015; 297 patients (623 levels) met inclusion criteria. Imaging studies were examined to grade graft subsidence according to Marchi criteria, and compared between those who required revision surgery and those who did not. Additional variables recorded included levels fused, DEXA (dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry) T-score, body mass index, and routine demographic information. The data were analyzed using the Student t-test, chi-square analysis, and logistic regression analysis to identify potential confounding factors.

RESULTS

Of 297 patients, 34 (11.4%) had radiographic evidence of subsidence and 18 (6.1%) required revision surgery. The median subsidence grade for patients requiring revision surgery was 2.5, compared with 1 for those who did not. Chi-square analysis revealed a significantly higher incidence of revision surgery in patients with high-grade subsidence compared with those with low-grade subsidence. Seven of 18 patients (38.9%) requiring revision surgery suffered a vertebral body fracture. High-grade subsidence was a significant predictor of the need for revision surgery (p < 0.05; OR 12, 95% CI 1.29–13.6), whereas age, body mass index, T-score, and number of levels fused were not. This relationship remained significant despite adjustment for the other variables (OR 14.4; 95% CI 1.30–15.9).

CONCLUSIONS

In this series, more than half of the patients who developed graft subsidence following stand-alone LLIF required revision surgery. When evaluating patients for LLIF, supplemental instrumentation should be considered during the index surgery in patients with a significant risk of graft subsidence.

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Severe cerebral edema following nivolumab treatment for pediatric glioblastoma: case report

Xiao Zhu, Michael M. McDowell, William C. Newman, Gary E. Mason, Stephanie Greene, and Mandeep S. Tamber

Nivolumab is an immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) currently undergoing Phase III clinical trials for the treatment of glioblastoma. The authors present the case of a 10-year-old girl with glioblastoma treated with nivolumab under compassionate-use guidelines. After the first dose of nivolumab the patient developed hemiparesis, cerebral edema, and significant midline shift due to severe tumor necrosis. She was managed using intravenous dexamethasone and discharged on a dexamethasone taper. The patient's condition rapidly deteriorated after the second dose of nivolumab, demonstrating hemiplegia, seizures, and eventually unresponsiveness with a fixed and dilated left pupil. Computed tomography of her brain revealed malignant cerebral edema requiring emergency decompressive hemicraniectomy. Repeat imaging demonstrated increased size of the lesion, reflecting immune-mediated inflammation and tumor necrosis. The patient remained densely hemiplegic, but became progressively more interactive and was ultimately extubated. She resumed nivolumab several weeks later, but again her condition deteriorated with headache, vomiting, swelling at the craniectomy site, and limited right-sided facial movement following the sixth dose. MRI demonstrated severe midline shift and uncal herniation despite her craniectomy. Her condition gradually declined, and she died several days later under “do not resuscitate/do not intubate” orders. To the authors' knowledge, this represents the first case of malignant cerebral edema requiring operative intervention following nivolumab treatment for glioblastoma in a pediatric patient.

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Predictors of mortality in children with myelomeningocele and symptomatic Chiari type II malformation

Michael M. McDowell, Jason E. Blatt, Christopher P. Deibert, Nathan T. Zwagerman, Zachary J. Tempel, and Stephanie Greene

OBJECTIVE

Chiari malformation type II (CM-II) in myelomeningocele is associated with a significant rate of mortality and poor outcome. Death is frequently heralded by the onset or progression of neurological symptoms. The authors sought to identify predictors of poor outcome and mortality within the myelomeningocele population at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

METHODS

A retrospective chart and radiology review was performed on all infants who underwent primary closure of a myelomeningocele defect at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh between the years of 1995 and 2015. Preoperative symptoms and signs leading to CM-II decompression, as well as operative details and postoperative changes in these symptoms and signs, were investigated in detail and correlated to outcome. Poor outcome was defined as death, stridor, or ventilator dependence. Deceased patients were separately assessed within this subgroup.

RESULTS

Thirty-two (21%) of 153 patients were found to have symptomatic CM-II. Of the 32 patients meeting inclusion criteria, 12 (38%) had poor outcomes. Eight patients (25%) died since initial presentation; 5 of these patients (16% of the overall cohort) died within the 1st year of life and 3 (9%) died during adolescence. Seven (88%) of the 8 patients who died had central apnea on presentation (p = 0.001) and 7 (44%) of the 16 patients who developed symptoms in the first 3 months of life died, compared with 1 (6.3%) of 16 who developed symptoms later in childhood (p = 0.04). The median Apgar score at 1 minute was 4.5 for patients who died and 8 for surviving patients (p = 0.006). The median diameter of the myelomeningocele defect was 5.75 cm for patients who died and 5 for those who survived (p = 0.01). The anatomical level of defect trended toward higher levels in patients who died, with 4 patients in that group having an anatomical level at L-2 or higher compared with 5 of the surviving patients (p = 0.001). The median initial head circumference for the 5 patients dying in the 1st year of life was 41.5 cm, versus 34 cm for all other patients (p = 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS

CM-II in spina bifida is associated with a significant mortality rate even when surgical intervention is performed. Death is more frequent in symptomatic patients presenting prior to 1 year of age. Late deaths are associated with symptom progression despite aggressive surgical and medical intervention. In this patient cohort, death was more likely in patients with symptomatic presentation during the first 3 months of life, low Apgar scores, large myelomeningocele defects, early central apnea, and large head circumference at birth.