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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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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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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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Donald D. Dietze Jr., M.D., 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 homoplastic 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 average follow-up period was 37 months from surgery and 31 months 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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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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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.

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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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Srinath Samudrala, Larry T. Khoo, Seung C. Rhim, and Richard G. Fessler

Procedures involving anterior surgical decompression and fusion are being performed with increasing frequency for the treatment of a variety of pathological processes of the spine including trauma, deformity, infection, degenerative disease, failed-back syndrome, discogenic pain, metastases, and primary spinal neoplasms. Because these operations involve anatomy that is often unfamiliar to many neurological and orthopedic surgeons, a significant proportion of the associated complications are not related to the actual decompressive or fusion procedure but instead to the actual exposure itself. To understand the nature of these injuries, a detailed anatomical study and dissection was undertaken in six cadaveric specimens. Critical structures at risk in the abdomen and retroperitoneum were identified, and their anatomical relationships were categorized and photographed. These structures included the psoas muscle, kidneys, ureters, diaphragm and crura, esophageal hiatus, thoracic duct, greater splanchnic nerves, phrenic nerves, sympathetic chains, medial arcuate ligament, superior and inferior hypogastric plexus, segmental and radicular vertebral vessels, aorta, vena cava, median sacral artery, common iliac vessels, iliolumbar veins, lumbosacral plexus, and presacral hypogastric plexus. Based on these dissections and an extensive review of the literature, the authors provide a detailed anatomically based discussion of the complications associated with anterior lumbar surgery.

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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.