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Bernard Guiot and Richard G. Fessler

Object. The authors conducted a retrospective study to evaluate the treatment of complex C1–2 fractures.

Methods. There were 10 cases of complex C1–2 fractures. Six patients were men (median age 58 years) and four patients were women (median age 55.5 years). Injuries resulted from seven falls, two motor vehicle accidents, and one diving incident. Three patients suffered from upper-extremity weakness. Neurological function in seven patients was intact preoperatively. Fracture combinations included six Jefferson/Type II odontoid, two anterior ring/Type II odontoid, one posterior ring/Type II odontoid, and one posterior ring/Type III odontoid/Type III hangman's fracture. All patients underwent surgery, five after halo immobilization for an average of 4 months failed to provide stability. Treatment included placement of six odontoid screws, one posterior C1–2 transarticular screw, one odontoid screw with anterior C1–2 transarticular screw fixation, one C1–2 transarticular screw with C1–2 Songer cable fusion, and one odontoid screw with bilateral C-2 pedicle screw fixation. Specific treatment was determined by the combination of fractures. Postoperatively, all patients were immobilized in a hard collar for 3 months. There were no intraoperative surgery-related complications. The mean follow-up period was 28.5 months. Neurological recovery was observed in one of three patients who presented with neurological deficits. Fusion occurred in all cases.

Conclusions. The goals in treating these complex fractures are to achieve early maximum stability and minimum reduction in range of motion. These are often competing phenomena. Frequently in cases of atlas—axis fracture, odontoid screw fixation combined with hard collar immobilization is the best therapy, provided the transverse atlantal ligament is competent. If not, C1–2 stabilization with placement of transarticular screws is required for best results.

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Edited by Richard G. Fessler and John A. Jane

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John E. O'Toole, Kurt M. Eichholz and Richard G. Fessler

Object

Postoperative surgical site infections (SSIs) have been reported after 2–6% of spinal surgeries in most large series. The incidence of SSI can be < 1% after decompressive procedures and > 10% after instrumented fusions. Anecdotal evidence has suggested that there is a lower rate of SSI when minimally invasive techniques are used.

Methods

A retrospective review of prospectively collected databases of consecutive patients who underwent minimally invasive spinal surgery was performed. Minimally invasive spinal surgery was defined as any spinal procedure performed through a tubular retractor system. All surgeries were performed under standard sterile conditions with preoperative antibiotic prophylaxis. The databases were reviewed for any infectious complications. Cases of SSI were identified and reviewed for clinically relevant details. The incidence of postoperative SSIs was then calculated for the entire cohort as well as for subgroups based on the type of procedure performed, and then compared with an analogous series selected from an extensive literature review.

Results

The authors performed 1338 minimally invasive spinal surgeries in 1274 patients of average age 55.5 years. The primary diagnosis was degenerative in nature in 93% of cases. A single minimally invasive spinal surgery procedure was undertaken in 1213 patients, 2 procedures in 58, and 3 procedures in 3 patients. The region of surgery was lumbar in 85%, cervical in 12%, and thoracic in 3%. Simple decompressive procedures comprised 78%, instrumented arthrodeses 20%, and minimally invasive intradural procedures 2% of the collected cases. Three postoperative SSIs were detected, 2 were superficial and 1 deep. The procedural rate of SSI for simple decompression was 0.10%, and for minimally invasive fusion/fixation was 0.74%. The total SSI rate for the entire group was only 0.22%.

Conclusions

Minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques may reduce postoperative wound infections as much as 10-fold compared with other large, modern series of open spinal surgery published in the literature.

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Justin S. Smith, Alfred T. Ogden and Richard G. Fessler

Thoracic spine fusion may be indicated in the surgical treatment of a wide range of pathologies, including trauma, deformity, tumor, and infection. Conventional open procedures for surgical treatment of thoracic spine disease can be associated with significant approach-related morbidity, which has motivated the development of minimally invasive approaches. Thoracoscopy and, later, video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery were developed to address diseases of the thoracic cavity and subsequently adapted for thoracic spine surgery. Although video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery has been used to treat a variety of thoracic spine diseases, its relatively steep learning curve and high rate of pulmonary complications have limited its widespread use. These limitations have motivated the development of minimally invasive posterior approaches to address thoracic spine pathology without the added risk of morbidity involved in surgically entering the chest. Many of these advances are ongoing and represent the forefront of minimally invasive spine surgery. As these techniques are developed and applied, it will be important to assess their equivalence or superiority in comparison with standard open techniques using prospective trials. In this paper the authors focus on minimally invasive posterior thoracic procedures that include fusion, and provide a review of the current literature, a discussion of future pathways for development, and case examples. The topic is divided by pathology into sections including trauma, deformity, spinal column tumors, and osteomyelitis.

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Hoang Le, Faheem A. Sandhu and Richard G. Fessler

Object

Experience with minimal-access surgical approaches for revision lumbar surgery has not been previously reported.

Methods

During a 7-month period, 10 consecutive patients with recurrent disc herniations underwent revision operations in which microendoscopic discectomy (MED) was performed. Perioperative data and clinical outcomes (according to Macnab criteria) were compared with those obtained in 25 consecutive patients who underwent routine single-level MED as well as with previously published data. Overall, outcome of the MED-treated revision group was excellent or good in 90% during a mean follow-up period of 18.5 months (minimum 12 months). Operative blood loss, duration, complications, and length of hospital stay were not significantly different between the revision and primary MED-treated groups.

Conclusions

Analysis of these early data suggests equivalent or superior results are obtained when performing MED compared with historical controls in which conventional surgery was conducted for recurrent disc surgery. The procedure appears to be a safe and effective alternative in cases in which recurrent lumbar disc herniation causes radiculopathy.

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Curtis A. Dickman, Jacqueline Locantro and Richard G. Fessler

✓ Twenty-seven cases of craniovertebral junction compression treated with transoral surgery were reviewed to assess the influences of pathological processes and surgical interventions on spinal stability. All patients presented with signs and symptoms of spinal-cord or brain-stem dysfunction. Pathology included rheumatoid arthritis in 11 patients, congenital osseous malformations in 11, spinal fractures in two, plasmacytoma in one, osteomyelitis in one, and a gunshot injury in one. Instability was defined as clear radiographic evidence of mobile subluxation in conjunction with clinical assessment.

Of 19 patients (70%) requiring internal fixation, nine underwent upper cervical fusion and 10 had occipitocervical fusion. When instability occurred, all subluxations were at the C1–2 level. There were no occipitoatlantal subluxations. Eight patients (30%) had preoperative instability of the craniovertebral junction due solely to their pathology, 11 patients (40%) suffered instability after transoral surgery, and eight (30%) were without clinical or radiographic evidence of instability (mean follow-up period 14 months).

Craniovertebral junction instability predominated among patients with rheumatoid arthritis: 91% required fusion and 45% presented with pre-existing instability. Among individuals with congenital osseous malformations, 45% required fusion and only one patient (9%) had pre-existing instability. Patients who required subsequent posterior decompression of a Chiari malformation were at risk for developing instability; three of four became unstable after posterior decompression.

Transoral resection of the dens, the anterior arch of C-1, and the lower clivus does not fully destabilize the spine; however, this operation may potentiate incipient pathological instability. The primary determinants of instability are the extent of pathological bone destruction, ligamentous weakening, and operative bone removal. Long-term follow-up monitoring is needed after transoral surgery to detect cases of late instability.

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John C. Steck, Donald D. Dietze and Richard G. Fessler

✓ Six ventrally located intradural thoracic tumors were successfully resected through the posterolateral approach. This approach allows direct visualization of the ventral and dorsal boundaries of the tumor with minimal manipulation of the spinal cord. Compared to the traditional laminectomy, the operative time is increased but visualization of the tumor and spinal cord is markedly improved. Compared to the transthoracic approach, the posterolateral approach has fewer potential complications and eliminates the necessity of vertebrectomy. Neurological improvement occurred in all six patients. It is believed that this approach offers significant advantages for the treatment of ventrally located intradural thoracic tumors, and should be considered an alternative to the transthoracic approach.

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Donald D. Dietze Jr., Richard G. Fessler and R. Patrick Jacob

✓ Primary reconstruction using bone grafts and instrumentation for spinal infections remains controversial. Between 1991 and 1993, 27 infections of the spinal column were treated at the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Florida. Of the 27 cases 20 (six cervical, eight thoracic, and six lumbar spine) required surgical debridement and spinal reconstruction to maximize eradication of the infection and maintenance of spinal alignment. All of the cervical and lumbar cases were caused by bacterial infections, and two of eight thoracic cases were caused by tuberculous infections. Spinal arthrodesis was performed in all cases: interbody grafts were used in 18 procedures and posterolateral onlay grafts in 14. Interbody grafts were autologous in 10 cases (six rib and four iliac crest) and allograft in eight (six fibular and two humerus). All of the posterolateral onlay grafts were autologous (three rib and 11 iliac crest). Spinal instrumentation was used in 15 cases: four with Caspar plates and 11 with posterior segmental fixation (five hook/rod constructs and six screw/rod constructs). Seventeen of 20 patients achieved improved clinical status postoperatively and 18 of 20 showed radiographic evidence of bone fusion. Antibiotic drugs were administered parenterally for an average of 6 weeks followed by a 3-month course of oral antibiotic medications. Tuberculous infections were treated for 1 year with antibiotic therapy. The after completion of treatment with antibiotic drugs. The authors conclude that primary arthrodesis and instrumentation can be performed in acute spinal infections; however, successful management depends on aggressive debridement of infectious foci and prolonged treatment with parenteral antibiotic drugs.

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Robert E. Isaacs, Vinod Podichetty and Richard G. Fessler

Object

The use of microendoscopic discectomy (MED) for the treatment of primary lumbar disc herniations has become fairly well accepted; its role in recurrent disc herniations is less clear. The reluctance of many surgeons to use this technique stems, in part, from the concern of undertaking an endoscopic discectomy in a patient in whom the anatomy is distorted from a previous operation. It appears counterintuitive to operate through a limited working area when the traditional open approach for recurrence favors wider exposure of the surgical field. Given that operating on previously exposed tissue can be associated with even greater morbidity than on virginal tissue, the authors describe their experience with performing MED for recurrent disc herniation.

Methods

Unilateral MED was performed in patients with classic symptoms of lumbar radiculopathy, a previous operation at that level, and findings of recurrent disc herniation on magnetic resonance imaging. The approach was similar to a standard MED. Aided by fluoroscopic guidance, a working cannula was docked on the laminofacet junction at the level of the nerve root, with care taken to ensure a slightly more lateral initial trajectory. A good decompression of the nerve root could then be achieved through the use of the endoscope with preservation of the paraspinous musculature and much of the remaining facet capsule.

Ten consecutive patients undergoing the procedure were analyzed prospectively and compared with the previous 25 who underwent routine single-level MED. Use of the MED technique provided excellent visualization and decompression of the nerve root; no conversions to open procedures were necessary in either group. The average operative time in the experimental group was 98.5 minutes, with a mean blood loss of 33 ml and an approximate hospital stay of 7.3 hours. In this respect, there was no statistical difference between the two groups (analysis of variance, p = 0.39, 0.68, and 0.51, respectively). There was one cerebrospinal fluid leak in each group.

Conclusions

Microendoscopic discectomy for recurrent disc herniation can be safely performed without an increase in surgery related morbidity.

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Gregory J. Zipfel, Bernard H. Guiot and Richard G. Fessler

In recent years our understanding of spinal fusion biology has improved. This includes the continued elucidation of the step-by-step cellular and molecular events involved in the prototypic bone induction cascade, as well as the identification and characterization of the various critical growth factors governing the process of bone formation and bone graft incorporation. Based on these fundamental principles, growth factor technology has been exploited in an attempt to improve rates of spinal fusion, and promising results have been realized in preclinical animal studies and initial clinical human studies. In this article the authors review the recent advances in the biology of bone fusion and provide a perspective on the future of spinal fusion, a future that will very likely include increased graft fusion rates and improved patient outcome as a result of the successful translation of fundamental bone fusion principles to the bedside.