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Enrico Tessitore and Oliver P. Gautschi

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Oliver P. Gautschi, Bawarjan Schatlo, Karl Schaller, and Enrico Tessitore

Object

The technique of pedicle screw insertion is a mainstay of spinal instrumentation. Some of its potential complications are clinically relevant and may require reoperation or further postoperative care.

Methods

A literature search was performed using MEDLINE (between 1999 and June 2011) for studies on pedicle screw placement in thoracolumbar surgery. The authors included randomized controlled trials, case-control studies, and case series (≥ 20 patients) from the English-, German-, and French-language literature. The authors assessed study type, the number of patients, the anatomical area, the number of pedicle screws, duration of follow-up, type of pedicle screw placement, incidence of complications, and type of complication. The management of specific complications is discussed.

Results

Thirty-nine articles with 46 patient groups were reviewed with a total of 35,630 pedicle screws. One study was a randomized controlled trial, 8 were case-control studies, and the remaining articles were case series. Dural lesions and irritation of nerve roots were reported in a mean of 0.18% and 0.19% per pedicle screws, respectively. Thirty-two patients in 10 studies (of 5654 patients from all 39 studies) required further revision surgeries for misplaced pedicle screws causing neurological problems. None of the analyzed studies reported vascular complications, and only 2 studies reported visceral complications of clinical significance.

Conclusions

Pedicle screw placement in the thoracolumbar region is a safe procedure with an overall high accuracy and a very low rate of clinically relevant complications.

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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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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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Nicolai Maldaner, Marketa Sosnova, Anna M. Zeitlberger, Michal Ziga, Oliver P. Gautschi, Luca Regli, Oliver Bozinov, Astrid Weyerbrock, and Martin N. Stienen

OBJECTIVE

The 6-minute walking test (6WT) and the Timed Up and Go (TUG) test are two of the most commonly applied standardized measures of objective functional impairment that help support clinical decision-making for patients undergoing surgery for degenerative lumbar disorders. This study correlates smartphone-app–based 6WT and TUG results to evaluate their responsiveness.

METHODS

In a prospective study, 49 consecutive patients were assessed preoperatively and 6 weeks postoperatively using the 6WT, the TUG test, and commonly used patient-reported outcome measures. Raw values and standardized z-scores of both objective tests were correlated. An external criterion for treatment success was created based on the Zurich Claudication Questionnaire patient satisfaction subscale. Internal and external responsiveness for both functional tests was evaluated.

RESULTS

The mean preoperative 6WT results improved from 401 m (SD 129 m), z-score −1.65 (SD 1.6) to 495 m (SD 129 m), z-score −0.71 (SD 1.6, p < 0.001). The mean preoperative TUG test results improved from 10.44 seconds (SD 4.37, z-score: −3.22) to 8.47 seconds (SD 3.38, z-score: −1.93, p < 0.001). The 6WT showed a strong negative correlation with TUG test results (r = −66, 95% CI 0.76–0.53, p < 0.001). The 6WT showed higher internal responsiveness (standardized responsive mean = 0.86) compared to the TUG test (standardized responsive mean = 0.67). Evaluation of external responsiveness revealed that the 6WT was capable of differentiating between patients who were satisfied and those who were unsatisfied with their treatment results (area under the curve = 0.70), whereas this was not evident for the TUG test ( area under the curve = 0.53).

CONCLUSIONS

Both tests adequately quantified functional impairment in surgical candidates with degenerative lumbar disorders. The 6WT demonstrated better internal and external responsiveness compared with the TUG test.

Clinical trial registration no.: NCT03977961 (clinicaltrials.gov)

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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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Bawarjan Schatlo, Oliver P. Gautschi, Christoph M. Friedrich, Christian Ebeling, Max Jägersberg, Zsolt Kulscar, Vitor Mendes Pereira, Karl Schaller, and Philippe Bijlenga

OBJECTIVE

Although several studies have suggested that the incidence of intracranial aneurysms (IAs) is higher in smokers, the higher prevalence of subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) in smokers remains uncertain. It is unclear whether smoking additionally contributes to the formation of multiple aneurysms and the risk of rupture. The aim of this study was to determine whether smoking is associated with IA formation, multiplicity, or rupture.

METHODS

Patients from the prospective multicenter @neurIST database (n = 1410; 985 females [69.9%]) were reviewed for the presence of SAH, multiple aneurysms, and smoking status. The prevalence of smokers in the population of patients diagnosed with at least one IA was compared with that of smokers in the general population.

RESULTS

The proportion of smokers was higher in patients with IAs (56.2%) than in the reference population (51.4%; p < 0.001). A significant association of smoking with the presence of an IA was found throughout group comparisons (p = 0.01). The presence of multiple IAs was also significantly associated with smoking (p = 0.003). A trend was found between duration of smoking and the presence of multiple IAs (p = 0.057). However, the proportion of smokers among patients suffering SAH was similar to that of smokers among patients diagnosed with unruptured IAs (p = 0.48).

CONCLUSIONS

Smoking is strongly associated with IA formation. Once an IA is present, however, smoking does not appear to increase the risk of rupture compared with IAs in the nonsmoking population. The trend toward an association between duration of smoking and the presence of multiple IAs stresses the need for counseling patients with IAs regarding lifestyle modification.

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Nicolai Maldaner, Marketa Sosnova, Anna M. Zeitlberger, Michal Ziga, Oliver P. Gautschi, Luca Regli, Astrid Weyerbrock, Martin N. Stienen, and for the International 6WT Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Digital transformation enables new possibilities to assess objective functional impairment (OFI) in patients with lumbar degenerative disc disease (DDD). This study examines the psychometric properties of an app-based 6-minute walking test (6WT) and determines OFI in patients with lumbar DDD.

METHODS

The maximum 6-minute walking distance (6WD) was determined in patients with lumbar DDD. The results were expressed as raw 6WDs (in meters), as well as in standardized z-scores referenced to age- and sex-specific values of spine-healthy volunteers. The 6WT results were assessed for reliability and content validity using established disease-specific patient-reported outcome measures.

RESULTS

Seventy consecutive patients and 330 volunteers were enrolled. The mean 6WD was 370 m (SD 137 m) in patients with lumbar DDD. Significant correlations between 6WD and the Core Outcome Measures Index for the back (r = −0.31), Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ) symptom severity (r = −0.32), ZCQ physical function (r = −0.33), visual analog scale (VAS) for back pain (r = −0.42), and VAS for leg pain (r = −0.32) were observed (all p < 0.05). The 6WT revealed good test-retest reliability (intraclass correlation coefficient 0.82), and the standard error of measurement was 58.3 m. A 4-tier severity stratification classified patients with z-scores > −1 (no OFI), −1 to −1.9 (mild OFI), −2 to −2.9 (moderate OFI), and ≤ −3 (severe OFI).

CONCLUSIONS

The smartphone app-based self-measurement of the 6WT is a convenient, reliable, and valid way to determine OFI in patients with lumbar DDD. The 6WT app facilitates the digital evaluation and monitoring of patients with lumbar DDD.