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Sebastian Siller, Rami Kasem, Thomas-Nikolaus Witt, Joerg-Christian Tonn and Stefan Zausinger

OBJECTIVE

Various neurological diseases are known to cause progressive painless paresis of the upper limbs. In this study the authors describe the previously unspecified syndrome of compression-induced painless cervical radiculopathy with predominant motor deficit and muscular atrophy, and highlight the clinical and radiological characteristics and outcomes after surgery for this rare syndrome, along with its neurological differential diagnoses.

METHODS

Medical records of 788 patients undergoing surgical decompression due to degenerative cervical spine diseases between 2005 and 2014 were assessed. Among those patients, 31 (3.9%, male to female ratio 4.8 to 1, mean age 60 years) presented with painless compressive cervical motor radiculopathy due to neuroforaminal stenosis without signs of myelopathy; long-term evaluation was available in 23 patients with 49 symptomatic foraminal stenoses. Clinical, imaging, and operative findings as well as the long-term course of paresis and quality of life were analyzed.

RESULTS

Presenting symptoms (mean duration 13.3 months) included a defining progressive flaccid radicular paresis (median grade 3/5) without any history of radiating pain (100%) and a concomitant muscular atrophy (78%); 83% of the patients were smokers and 17% patients had diabetes. Imaging revealed a predominantly anterior nerve root compression at the neuroforaminal entrance in 98% of stenoses. Thirty stenoses (11 patients) were initially decompressed via an anterior surgical approach and 19 stenoses (12 patients) via a posterior surgical approach. Overall reoperation rate due to new or recurrent stenoses was 22%, with time to reoperation shorter in smokers (p = 0.033). Independently of the surgical procedure chosen, long-term follow-up (mean 3.9 years) revealed a stable or improved paresis in 87% of the patients (median grade 4/5) and an excellent general performance and quality of life.

CONCLUSIONS

Painless cervical motor radiculopathy predominantly occurs due to focal compression of the anterior nerve root at the neuroforaminal entrance. Surgical decompression is effective in stabilizing or improving motor function with a resulting favorable long-term outcome.

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Sebastian Siller, Andrea Szelényi, Lisa Herlitz, Joerg Christian Tonn and Stefan Zausinger

OBJECTIVE

Spinal cord hemangioblastomas are rare benign tumors developing either sporadically or as part of von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) disease. Generally, resection is the treatment of choice. However, the significance of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring (IONM) for resection and postoperative outcome is still controversial. The authors analyzed the surgical and clinical courses of patients who had undergone resection of spinal cord hemangioblastoma, with special attention to preoperative imaging, the use of IONM, and short- and long-term outcomes.

METHODS

A series of 24 patients (male/female 1:1, lesion sporadic/associated with VHL 2.4:1) who had undergone 26 operations for the resection of 27 spinal cord hemangioblastomas was analyzed. All patients had undergone pre- and postoperative contrast-enhanced MRI. In all cases, microsurgical tumor removal had been performed under continuous IONM of both somatosensory and transcranial motor evoked potentials as well as electromyographic recording. Clinical characteristics, imaging findings, and operative records were retrospectively analyzed. Outcome parameters included short- and long-term status as regards sensorimotor deficits and a questionnaire on general performance, patient satisfaction, and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) at the end of the follow-up period. The impact of IONM findings on postoperative deficits and outcome parameters as well as risk factors affecting functional prognosis was statistically assessed.

RESULTS

Preoperative symptoms (mean duration 16.2 ± 22.0 months) included sensory changes (100.0%), pain (66.7%), spinal ataxia (66.7%), motor deficit (41.7%), and bladder/bowel dysfunction (12.5%). Average age at the first operation was 36.8 ± 12.8 years. Most tumors (21 intramedullary, 6 intra- and/or extramedullary) were located dorsally (92.6%) and cervically (77.8%) and were accompanied by peritumoral edema and/or syringomyelia (81.5%). Tumor resection was achieved via laminectomy for 15 tumors, hemilaminectomy for 5, laminoplasty for 6, and interlaminar approach for 1. Gross-total resection was accomplished for 26 tumors (96.3%) with no local tumor recurrence during follow-up. Intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring was nonpathological in 11 operations (42.3%) and pathological in 15 (57.7%). Patients with nonpathological IONM had significantly fewer new sensorimotor deficits (p = 0.005). Long-term follow-up evaluation (mean 7.9 ± 4.0 years postoperatively, 7 patients lost to follow-up) revealed a stable or improved McCormick myelopathy grade in 88.2% of the patients, and 88.2% reported a stable or improved overall outcome according to Odom's criteria. Long-term general performance was excellent with 88.2% having a WHO/Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) Performance Status grade ≤ 1, 76.5% a Karnofsky Performance Scale score ≥ 80, and 70.6% a Barthel Index (BI) of 100. The mean ODI (11.4% ± 12.5%) indicated only minimal disability. There was a significant correlation between pathological IONM findings and a worse long-term status according to the BI and ODI (p = 0.011 and 0.024, respectively). Additionally, VHL disease was a risk factor affecting functional prognosis (p = 0.044).

CONCLUSIONS

Microsurgical removal of spinal cord hemangioblastomas with IONM facilitates a satisfying long-term outcome for patients. Nonpathological IONM findings are associated with a lower risk of new sensorimotor deficits and correlate with a better overall long-term outcome. von Hippel–Lindau disease is a risk factor for a worse long-term prognosis.

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Sebastian Siller, Caroline Zoellner, Manuel Fuetsch, Raimund Trabold, Joerg-Christian Tonn and Stefan Zausinger

OBJECTIVE

Since the 1970s, the operating microscope (OM) has been a standard for visualization and illumination of the surgical field in spinal microsurgery. However, due to its limitations (e.g., size, costliness, and the limited movability of the binocular lenses, in addition to discomfort experienced by surgeons due to the posture required), there are efforts to replace the OM with exoscopic video telescopes. The authors evaluated the feasibility of a new 3D exoscope as an alternative to the OM in spine surgeries.

METHODS

Patients with degenerative pathologies scheduled for single-level lumbar or cervical spinal surgery with use of a high-definition 3D exoscope were enrolled in a prospective cohort study between January 2019 and September 2019. Age-, sex-, body mass index–, and procedure-matched patients surgically treated with the assistance of the OM served as the control group. Operative baseline and postoperative outcome parameters were assessed. Periprocedural handling, visualization, and illumination by the exoscope, as well as surgeons’ comfort level in terms of posture, were scored using a questionnaire.

RESULTS

A 3D exoscope was used in 40 patients undergoing lumbar posterior decompression (LPD) and 20 patients undergoing anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF); an equal number of controls in whom an OM was used were studied. Compared with controls, there were no significant differences for mean operative time (ACDF: 132 vs 116 minutes; LPD: 112 vs 113 minutes) and blood loss (ACDF: 97 vs 93 ml; LPD: 109 vs 55 ml) as well as postoperative improvement of symptoms (ACDF/Neck Disability Index: p = 0.43; LPD/Oswestry Disability Index: p = 0.76). No intraoperative complications occurred in either group. According to the attending surgeon, the intraoperative handling of instruments was rated to be comparable to that of the OM, while the comfort level of the surgeon’s posture intraoperatively (especially during “undercutting” procedures) was rated as superior. In cases of ACDF procedures and long approaches, depth perception, image quality, and illumination were rated as inferior when compared with the OM. By contrast, for operating room nursing staff participating in 3D exoscope procedures, the visualization of intraoperative process flow and surgical situs was rated to be superior to the OM, especially for ACDF procedures.

CONCLUSIONS

A 3D exoscope seems to be a safe alternative for common spinal procedures with the unique advantage of excellent comfort for the surgical team, but the drawback is the still slightly inferior visualization/illumination quality compared with the OM.