Low-flow spinal extradural arteriovenous fistulas (SEAVFs) are frequently misdiagnosed as spinal dural arteriovenous fistulas (SDAVFs), and their true prevalence is unknown. The principal feature distinguishing low-flow SEAVFs from SDAVFs is the location of the shunt, which involves a pouch of epidural plexus in SEAVFs and a radiculomedullary vein (RMV) in SDAVFs. A venous hypertensive myelopathy comparable to the one observed with SDAVFs develops when the arterialized venous pouch of an SEAVF is connected to an RMV. Depending on the size of the epidural pouch, a low-flow SEAVF may uncommonly drain into multiple RMVs. The authors present an observation of a low-flow SEAVF whose double radiculomedullary drainage was revealed only after intraoperative digital subtraction angiography, and they discuss the surgical implications of this anatomical configuration.
Risheng Xu, Lydia Gregg, Sheng-fu Larry Lo, and Philippe Gailloud
Camilo A. Molina, Christopher F. Dibble, Sheng-fu Larry Lo, Timothy Witham, and Daniel M. Sciubba
En bloc spinal tumor resections are technically demanding procedures with high morbidity because of the conventionally large exposure area and aggressive resection goals. Stereotactic surgical navigation presents an opportunity to perform the smallest possible resection plan while still achieving an en bloc resection. Augmented reality (AR)–mediated spine surgery (ARMSS) via a mounted display with an integrated tracking camera is a novel FDA-approved technology for intraoperative “heads up” neuronavigation, with the proposed advantages of increased precision, workflow efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. As surgical experience and capability with this technology grow, the potential for more technically demanding surgical applications arises. Here, the authors describe the use of ARMSS for guidance in a unique osteotomy execution to achieve an en bloc wide marginal resection of an L1 chordoma through a posterior-only approach while avoiding a tumor capsule breach. A technique is described to simultaneously visualize the navigational guidance provided by the contralateral surgeon’s tracked pointer and the progress of the BoneScalpel aligned in parallel with the tracked instrument, providing maximum precision and safety. The procedure was completed by reconstruction performed with a quad-rod and cabled fibular strut allograft construct, and the patient did well postoperatively. Finally, the authors review the technical aspects of the approach, as well as the applications and limitations of this new technology.
Zach Pennington, Daniel Lubelski, Erick M. Westbroek, A. Karim Ahmed, Jeff Ehresman, Matthew L. Goodwin, Sheng-Fu Lo, Timothy F. Witham, Ali Bydon, Nicholas Theodore, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Postoperative C5 palsy affects 7%–12% of patients who undergo posterior cervical decompression for degenerative cervical spine pathologies. Minimal evidence exists regarding the natural history of expected recovery and variables that affect palsy recovery. The authors investigated pre- and postoperative variables that predict recovery and recovery time among patients with postoperative C5 palsy.
The authors included patients who underwent posterior cervical decompression at a tertiary referral center between 2004 and 2018 and who experienced postoperative C5 palsy. All patients had preoperative MR images and full records, including operative note, postoperative course, and clinical presentation. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis was used to evaluate both times to complete recovery and to new neurological baseline—defined by deltoid strength on manual motor testing of the affected side—as a function of clinical symptoms, surgical maneuvers, and the severity of postoperative deficits.
Seventy-seven patients were included, with an average age of 64 years. The mean follow-up period was 17.7 months. The mean postoperative C5 strength was grade 2.7/5, and the mean time to first motor examination with documented C5 palsy was 3.5 days. Sixteen patients (21%) had bilateral deficits, and 9 (12%) had new-onset biceps weakness; 36% of patients had undergone C4–5 foraminotomy of the affected root, and 17% had presented with radicular pain in the dermatome of the affected root. On univariable analysis, patients’ reporting of numbness or tingling (p = 0.02) and a baseline deficit (p < 0.001) were the only predictors of time to recovery. Patients with grade 4+/5 weakness had significantly shorter times to recovery than patients with grade 4/5 weakness (p = 0.001) or ≤ grade 3/5 weakness (p < 0.001). There was no difference between those with grade 4/5 weakness and those with ≤ grade 3/5 weakness. Patients with postoperative strength < grade 3/5 had a < 50% chance of achieving complete recovery.
The timing and odds of recovery following C5 palsy were best predicted by the magnitude of the postoperative deficit. The use of C4–5 foraminotomy did not predict the time to or likelihood of recovery.
C. Rory Goodwin, Eric W. Sankey, Ann Liu, Benjamin D. Elder, Thomas Kosztowski, Sheng-Fu L. Lo, Charles G. Fisher, Michelle J. Clarke, Ziya L. Gokaslan, and Daniel M. Sciubba
Surgical procedures and/or adjuvant therapies are effective modalities for the treatment of symptomatic spinal metastases. However, clinical results specific to the skin cancer spinal metastasis cohort are generally lacking. The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature for treatments, clinical outcomes, and survival following the diagnosis of a skin cancer spinal metastasis and evaluate prognostic factors in the context of spinal skin cancer metastases stratified by tumor subtype.
The authors performed a literature review using PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, and Web of Science to identify articles since 1950 that reported survival, clinical outcomes, and/or prognostic factors for the skin cancer patient population with spinal metastases. The methodological quality of reviews was assessed using the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) tool.
Sixty-five studies met the preset criteria and were included in the analysis. Of these studies, a total of 25, 40, 25, and 12 studies included patients who underwent some form of surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or observation alone, respectively. Sixty-three of the 65 included studies were retrospective in nature (Class of Evidence [CoE] IV), and the 2 prospective studies were CoE II. Based on the studies analyzed, the median overall survival for a patient with a spinal metastasis from a primary skin malignancy is 4.0 months; survival by tumor subtype is 12.5 months for patients with basal cell carcinoma (BCC), 4.0 months for those with melanoma, 4.0 months for those with squamous cell carcinoma, 3.0 months for those with pilomatrix carcinoma, and 1.5 months for those with Merkel cell carcinoma (p < 0.0001). The overall percentage of known continued disease progression after spine metastasis diagnosis was 40.1% (n = 244/608, range 25.0%–88.9%), the rate of known recurrence of the primary skin cancer lesion was 3.5% (n = 21/608, range 0.2%–100.0%), and the rate of known spine metastasis recurrence despite treatment for all skin malignancies was 2.8% (n = 17/608, range 0.0%–33.3%). Age greater than 65 years, sacral spinal involvement, presence of a neurological deficit, and nonambulatory status were associated with decreased survival in patients diagnosed with a primary skin cancer spinal metastasis. All other clinical or prognostic parameters were of low or insufficient strength.
Patients diagnosed with a primary skin cancer metastasis to the spine have poor overall survival with the exception of those with BCC. The median duration of survival for patients who received surgical intervention alone, medical management (chemotherapy and/or radiation) alone, or the combination of therapies was similar across interventions. Age, spinal region, and neurological status may be associated with poor survival following surgery.
Adham M. Khalafallah, Adrian E. Jimenez, Nathan A. Shlobin, Collin J. Larkin, Debraj Mukherjee, Corinna C. Zygourakis, Sheng-Fu Lo, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ali Bydon, Timothy F. Witham, Nader S. Dahdaleh, and Nicholas Theodore
Although fellowship training is becoming increasingly common in neurosurgery, it is unclear which factors predict an academic career trajectory among spinal neurosurgeons. In this study, the authors sought to identify predictors associated with academic career placement among fellowship-trained neurological spinal surgeons.
Demographic data and bibliometric information on neurosurgeons who completed a residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education between 1983 and 2019 were gathered, and those who completed a spine fellowship were identified. Employment was denoted as academic if the hospital where a neurosurgeon worked was affiliated with a neurosurgical residency program; all other positions were denoted as nonacademic. A logistic regression model was used for multivariate statistical analysis.
A total of 376 fellowship-trained spinal neurosurgeons were identified, of whom 140 (37.2%) held academic positions. The top 5 programs that graduated the most fellows in the cohort were Cleveland Clinic, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Miami, Barrow Neurological Institute, and Northwestern University. On multivariate analysis, increased protected research time during residency (OR 1.03, p = 0.044), a higher h-index during residency (OR 1.12, p < 0.001), completing more than one clinical fellowship (OR 2.16, p = 0.024), and attending any of the top 5 programs that graduated the most fellows (OR 2.01, p = 0.0069) were independently associated with an academic career trajectory.
Increased protected research time during residency, a higher h-index during residency, completing more than one clinical fellowship, and attending one of the 5 programs graduating the most fellowship-trained neurosurgical spinal surgeons independently predicted an academic career. These results may be useful in identifying and advising trainees interested in academic spine neurosurgery.
Wataru Ishida, Joshua Casaos, Arun Chandra, Adam D’Sa, Seba Ramhmdani, Alexander Perdomo-Pantoja, Nicholas Theodore, George Jallo, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ali Bydon, Timothy F. Witham, and Sheng-Fu L. Lo
With the advent of intraoperative electrophysiological neuromonitoring (IONM), surgical outcomes of various neurosurgical pathologies, such as brain tumors and spinal deformities, have improved. However, its diagnostic and therapeutic value in resecting intradural extramedullary (ID-EM) spinal tumors has not been well documented in the literature. The objective of this study was to summarize the clinical results of IONM in patients with ID-EM spinal tumors.
A retrospective patient database review identified 103 patients with ID-EM spinal tumors who underwent tumor resection with IONM (motor evoked potentials, somatosensory evoked potentials, and free-running electromyography) from January 2010 to December 2015. Patients were classified as those without any new neurological deficits at the 6-month follow-up (group A; n = 86) and those with new deficits (group B; n = 17). Baseline characteristics, clinical outcomes, and IONM findings were collected and statistically analyzed. In addition, a meta-analysis in compliance with the PRISMA guidelines was performed to estimate the overall pooled diagnostic accuracy of IONM in ID-EM spinal tumor resection.
No intergroup differences were discovered between the groups regarding baseline characteristics and operative data. In multivariate analysis, significant IONM changes (p < 0.001) and tumor location (thoracic vs others, p = 0.018) were associated with new neurological deficits at the 6-month follow-up. In predicting these changes, IONM yielded a sensitivity of 82.4% (14/17), specificity of 90.7% (78/86), positive predictive value (PPV) of 63.6% (14/22), negative predictive value (NPV) of 96.3% (78/81), and area under the curve (AUC) of 0.893. The diagnostic value slightly decreased in patients with schwannomas (AUC = 0.875) and thoracic tumors (AUC = 0.842). Among 81 patients who did not demonstrate significant IONM changes at the end of surgery, 19 patients (23.5%) exhibited temporary intraoperative exacerbation of IONM signals, which were recovered by interruption of surgical maneuvers; none of these patients developed new neurological deficits postoperatively. Including the present study, 5 articles encompassing 323 patients were eligible for this meta-analysis, and the overall pooled diagnostic value of IONM was a sensitivity of 77.9%, a specificity of 91.1%, PPV of 56.7%, and NPV of 95.7%.
IONM for the resection of ID-EM spinal tumors is a reasonable modality to predict new postoperative neurological deficits at the 6-month follow-up. Future prospective studies are warranted to further elucidate its diagnostic and therapeutic utility.
Varun Puvanesarajah, Sheng-fu Larry Lo, Nafi Aygun, Jason A. Liauw, Ignacio Jusué-Torres, Ioan A. Lina, Uri Hadelsberg, Benjamin D. Elder, Ali Bydon, Chetan Bettegowda, Daniel M. Sciubba, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Daniele Rigamonti, Lawrence R. Kleinberg, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Timothy F. Witham, Kristin J. Redmond, and Michael Lim
The number of patients with spinal tumors is rapidly increasing; spinal metastases develop in more than 30% of cancer patients during the course of their illness. Such lesions can significantly decrease quality of life, often necessitating treatment. Stereotactic radiosurgery has effectively achieved local control and symptomatic relief for these patients. The authors determined prognostic factors that predicted pain palliation and report overall institutional outcomes after spine stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).
Records of patients who had undergone treatment with SBRT for either primary spinal tumors or spinal metastases from June 2008 through June 2013 were retrospectively reviewed. Data were collected at the initial visit just before treatment and at 1-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month follow-up visits. Collected clinical data included Karnofsky Performance Scale scores, pain status, presence of neurological deficits, and prior radiation exposure at the level of interest. Radiation treatment plan parameters (dose, fractionation, and target coverage) were recorded. To determine the initial extent of epidural spinal cord compression (ESCC), the authors retrospectively reviewed MR images, assessed spinal instability according to the Bilsky scale, and evaluated lesion progression after treatment.
The study included 99 patients (mean age 60.4 years). The median survival time was 9.1 months (95% CI 6.9–17.2 months). Significant decreases in the proportion of patients reporting pain were observed at 3 months (p < 0.0001), 6 months (p = 0.0002), and 12 months (p = 0.0019) after treatment. Significant decreases in the number of patients reporting pain were also observed at the last follow-up visit (p = 0.00020) (median follow-up time 6.1 months, range 1.0–56.6 months). Univariate analyses revealed that significant predictors of persistent pain after intervention were initial ESCC grade, stratified by a Bilsky grade of 1c (p = 0.0058); initial American Spinal Injury Association grade of D (p = 0.011); initial Karnofsky Performance Scale score, stratified by a score of 80 (p = 0.002); the presence of multiple treated lesions (p = 0.044); and prior radiation at the site of interest (p < 0.0001). However, when multivariate analyses were performed on all variables with p values less than 0.05, the only predictor of pain at last follow-up visit was a prior history of radiation at the site of interest (p = 0.0038), although initial ESCC grade trended toward significance (p = 0.073). Using pain outcomes at 3 months, at this follow-up time point, pain could be predicted by receipt of radiation above a threshold biologically effective dose of 66.7 Gy.
Pain palliation occurs as early as 3 months after treatment; significant differences in pain reporting are also observed at 6 and 12 months. Pain palliation is limited for patients with spinal tumors with epidural extension that deforms the cord and for patients who have previously received radiation to the same site. Further investigation into the optimal dose and fractionation schedule are needed, but improved outcomes were observed in patients who received radiation at a biologically effective dose (with an a/b of 3.0) of 66.7 Gy or higher.