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Gerald A. Grant, Sohail K. Mirza, Jens R. Chapman, H. Richard Winn, David W. Newell, Dolors T. Jones and M. Sean Grady

Object. The authors retrospectively reviewed 121 patients with traumatic cervical spine injuries to determine the risk of neurological deterioration following early closed reduction.

Methods. After excluding minor fractures and injuries without subluxation, the medical records and imaging studies (computerized tomography and magnetic resonance [MR] images) of 82 patients with bilateral and unilateral locked facet dislocations, burst fractures, extension injuries, or miscellaneous cervical fractures with subluxation were reviewed. Disc injury was defined on MR imaging as the presence of herniation or disruption: a herniation was described as deforming the thecal sac or nerve roots, and a disruption was defined as a disc with high T2-weighted signal characteristics in a widened disc space. Fifty-eight percent of patients presented with complete or incomplete spinal cord injuries. Thirteen percent of patients presented with a cervical radiculopathy, 22% were intact, and 9% had only transient neurological deficits in the field.

Early, rapid closed reduction, using serial plain radiographs or fluoroscopy and Gardner—Wells craniocervical traction, was achieved in 97.6% of patients. In two patients (2.4%) closed reduction failed and they underwent emergency open surgical reduction. The average time to achieve closed reduction was 2.1 ± 0.24 hours (standard error of the mean).

The incidence of disc herniation and disruption in the 80 patients who underwent postreduction MR imaging was 22% and 24%, respectively. However, the presence of disc herniation or disruption did not affect the degree of neurological recovery, as measured by American Spinal Injury Association motor score and the Frankel scale following early closed reduction. Only one (1.3%) of 80 patients deteriorated, but that occurred more than 6 hours following closed reduction.

Conclusions. Although disc herniation and disruption can occur following all types of traumatic cervical fracture subluxations, the incidence of neurological deterioration following closed reduction in these patients is rare. The authors recommend early closed reduction in patients presenting with significant motor deficits without prior MR imaging.

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Charles Kuntz IV, Sohail K. Mirza, Abel D. Jarell, Jens R. Chapman, Christopher I. Shaffrey and David W. Newell

The optimum treatment of Type II odontoid fractures in the geriatric population remains controversial. Coexisting medical conditions encountered in the elderly patient often increase operative risk and make cervical immobilization difficult to tolerate. Previous studies have shown increased morbidity and mortality and decreased fusion rates for Type II odontoid fractures treated with cervical orthoses in the geriatric population, whereas low morbidity and mortality rates with operative management have recently been documented. To investigate the role of surgical and nonsurgical treatment, a retrospective analysis was performed of patients with Type II odontoid fractures who were at least 65 years old and were consecutively admitted to a single medical center from 1994 to 1998. Twenty patients met inclusion criteria. In 12 patients nonsurgical management with a cervical orthosis was attempted. The nonsurgical management failed early in six patients, with one associated death. Eleven patients were treated surgically with either anterior odontoid screw fixation or posterior C1–2 transarticular screw fixation and modified Gallie fusion. Postoperatively one patient required revision of the C1–2 transarticular screws, and there was one death. In conclusion Type II odontoid fractures in this elderly population were associated with early 10% morbidity and 20% mortality rates. Nonsurgical management of Type II odontoid fractures failed early in six (50%) of 12 patients, whereas surgical treatment failed early in one of 11 (9%) patients. Both the nonsurgical and surgical treatments resulted in approximately 10% morbidity and 10% mortality rates.

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James M. Schuster, Anthony M. Avellino, Frederick A. Mann, Allain A. Girouard, M. Sean Grady, David W. Newell, H. Richard Winn, Jens R. Chapman and Sohail K. Mirza

Object. The use of structural allografts in spinal osteomyelitis remains controversial because of the perceived risk of persistent infection related to a devitalized graft and spinal hardware. The authors have identified 47 patients over the last 3.5 years who underwent a surgical decompression and stabilization procedure in which fresh-frozen allografts were used after aggressive removal of infected and devitalized tissue. The patients subsequently underwent 6 weeks of postoperative antibiotic therapy (12 months for those with tuberculosis [TB]).

Methods. Follow-up data included results of serial clinical examinations, radiography, laboratory analysis (erythrocyte sedimentation rate and white blood cell count), and clinical outcome questionnaires. Of the original 47 patients (14 women and 33 men, aged 14–83 years), 39 were available for follow up. The average follow-up period at the time this article was submitted was 17 ± 9 months (median 14 months, range 6–45 months). In the majority of cases (57%), a Staphylococcus species was the infectious organism. Predisposing risk factors included intravenous drug abuse (IVDA), previous surgery, diabetes, TB, and concurrent infections. During the follow-up period only two patients suffered recurrent infection at a contiguous level; both had a history of IVDA and one also had a chronic excoriating skin condition. No other recurrent infections have been identified, and no patient has required reoperation for persistent infection or allograft/hardware failure.

Conclusions. It is the authors' opinion that the use of structural allografts in combination with aggressive tissue debridement and adjuvant antibiotic therapy provide a safe and effective therapy in cases of spinal osteomyelitis requiring surgery.

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Gregory C. Wiggins, Sohail Mirza, Carlo Bellabarba, G. Alex West, Jens R. Chapman and Christopher I. Shaffrey

Object

Anterior decompression and stabilization for thoracic spinal tumors often involves a thoracotomy and can be associated with surgical approach–related complications. An alternative to thoracotomy is surgery via a costotransversectomy exposure.

To delineate the risks of surgery, the authors reviewed their prospective database for patients who had undergone surgery via either of these approaches for thoracic or thoracolumbar tumors. The complications were recorded and graded based on severity and risk of impact on patient outcome.

Methods

Between September 1995 and April 2001, the authors performed 29 costotransversectomies (Group 1) and 18 thoracolumbar or combined (Group 2) approaches as initial operations for thoracic neoplasms. The age, sex, pre-operative motor score, and preoperative Frankel grade did not significantly differ between the groups. In the costotransversectomy group there were greater numbers of metastases, upper thoracic procedures, and affected vertebral levels; additionally, the comorbidity rate based on Charlson score, was higher. The mean Frankel grades at discharge were not significantly different whereas the discharge motor and last follow-up motor scores were better in Group 2. There were 11 Group 1 and seven Group 2 patients who suffered at least one complication. The number or patients with complications, the mean number of complications, and severity of complications did not differ between the groups.

Conclusions

Compared with anterior or combined approaches, the incidence and severity of perioperative complications in the surgical treatment of thoracic and thoracolumbar spinal tumors is similar in patients who undergo costotransversectomy. Costotransversectomy may be the preferred operation in patients with significant medical comorbidity or tumors involving more than one thoracic vertebra.

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Saadi Ghatan, David W. Newell, M. Sean Grady, Sohail K. Mirza, Jens R. Chapman, Frederick A. Mann and Richard G. Ellenbogen

✓ Children younger than 3 years of age represent a distinct subpopulation of patients at particular risk for high cervical and craniovertebral injuries. There are few descriptions of survivors of severe craniocervical trauma among the very young, and scarce data exist regarding management after initial emergency stabilization.

The authors describe three children, age 1 to 32 months, who presented with craniocervical junction injuries. Variable neurological findings were observed at presentation (cranial nerve deficits, obtundation, and moderate-to-severe quadriparesis). All three were treated with prolonged immobilization and have recovered with minimal to no neurological deficit.

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A. Alex Mohit, Sohail Mirza, Jennifer James and Robert Goodkin

✓ Charcot spinal arthropathy has been described as a late complication of spinal cord injury. In patients with these injuries in whom the spine below the level of injury is insensate, joint trauma can progress until spinal instability ensues. The authors describe the case of a 50-year-old man with complete C-8 tetraplegia who experienced a 4-month history of episodic severe headaches, profuse sweating over his face and arms, and episodic severe hypertension in addition to a “grinding” sensation in the lower back. Charcot arthropathy at the T11–12 levels with pathological mobility was demonstrated on neuroimaging. Intraoperatively, a complete spinal cord transection was identified. Anterior and posterior thoracolumbar fusion across the mobile segment resulted in complete amelioration of signs and symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia. This entity, a common condition in the setting of spinal cord injury, has many triggers. Definitive treatment is targeted at the removal of the underlying cause. As demonstrated here, Charcot spinal arthropathy can act as a powerful trigger for induction of autonomic dysreflexia. Treatment of the associated spinal instability resulted in eradication of all signs and symptoms of the dysreflexia.

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Carlo Bellabarba, Sohail K. Mirza, G. Alexander West, Frederick A. Mann, Andrew T. Dailey, David W. Newell and Jens R. Chapman

Object

Craniocervical dissociation (CCD) is a highly unstable and usually fatal injury resulting from osseoligamentous disruption between the occiput and C-2. The purpose of this study was to elucidate systematic factors associated with delays in diagnosing and treating this life-threatening condition and to introduce an injury-severity classification with therapeutic implications.

Methods

In a retrospective evaluation of institutional databases, the authors reviewed medical records and original images obtained in 17 consecutive surviving patients with CCD treated between 1994 and 2002. Images and clinical results of treatment were evaluated, emphasizing the timing of diagnosis, clinical effect of delayed diagnosis, potential clinical or imaging warning signs, and response to treatment.

Craniocervical dissociation was identified or suspected on the initial lateral cervical spine radiograph acquired in two patients (12%) and was diagnosed based on screening computerized tomography findings in two additional patients (12%). A retrospective review of initial lateral x-ray films showed an abnormal dens–basion interval in 16 patients (94%). The 2-day average delay in diagnosis was associated with profound neurological deterioration in five patients (29%). Neurological status declined in one patient after a fixation procedure was performed. There were no cases of craniocervical pseudarthrosis or hardware failure during a mean 26-month follow-up period. The mean American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor score of 50 improved to 79, and the number of patients with useful motor function (ASIA Grade D or E) increased from seven (41%) preoperatively to 13 (76%) postoperatively.

Conclusions

The diagnosis of CCD was frequently delayed, and the delay was associated with an increased likelihood of neurological deterioration. Early diagnosis and spinal stabilization protected against worsening spinal cord injury.

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Oral Presentations

2010 AANS Annual Meeting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 1–5, 2010

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Atman Desai, Perry A. Ball, Kimon Bekelis, Jon D. Lurie, Sohail K. Mirza, Tor D. Tosteson and James N. Weinstein

Object

Incidental durotomy is an infrequent but well-recognized complication during lumbar disc surgery. The effect of a durotomy on long-term outcomes is, however, controversial. The authors sought to examine whether the occurrence of durotomy during surgery impacts long-term clinical outcome.

Methods

Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) participants who had a confirmed diagnosis of intervertebral disc herniation and were undergoing standard first-time open discectomy were followed up at 6 weeks and at 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery and annually thereafter at 13 spine clinics in 11 US states. Patient data from this prospectively gathered database were reviewed. As of May 2009, the mean (± SD) duration of follow-up among all of the intervertebral disc herniation patients whose data were analyzed was 41.5 ± 14.5 months (41.4 months in those with no durotomy vs 40.2 months in those with durotomy, p < 0.68). The median duration of follow-up among all of these patients was 47 months (range 1–95 months).

Results

A total of 799 patients underwent first-time lumbar discectomy. There was an incidental durotomy in 25 (3.1%) of these cases. There were no significant differences between the durotomy and no-durotomy groups with respect to age, sex, race, body mass index, herniation level or type, or the prevalence of smoking, diabetes, or hypertension. When outcome differences between the groups were analyzed, the durotomy group was found to have significantly increased operative duration, operative blood loss, and length of inpatient stay. However, there were no significant differences in incidence rates for nerve root injury, postoperative mortality, additional surgeries, or SF-36 scores for Bodily Pain or Physical Function, or Oswestry Disability Index scores at 1, 2, 3, or 4 years.

Conclusions

Incidental durotomy during first-time lumbar discectomy does not appear to impact long-term outcome in affected patients.

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Mahesh Karandikar, Sohail K. Mirza, Kit Song, Tong Yang, Walter F. Krengel II, Kevin F. Spratt and Anthony M. Avellino

Object

The treatment of craniocervical instability in children is often challenging due to their small spine bones, complex anatomy, and unique syndromes. The authors discuss their surgical experience with 33 cases in the treatment of 31 children (≤17 years of age) with craniocervical spine instability using smaller nontraditional titanium screws and plates, as well as intraoperative CT.

Methods

All craniocervical fusion procedures were performed using intraoperative fluoroscopic imaging and electrophysiological monitoring. Nontraditional spine hardware included smaller screw sizes (2.4 and 2.7 mm) from the orthopedic hand/foot set and mandibular plates. Twenty-three of the 33 surgical procedures were performed with intraoperative CT, which was used to confirm adequate position of the spine hardware and alignment of the spine.

Results

The mean patient age was 9.5 years (range 2–17 years). Eleven children underwent a posterior C1–2 transarticular screw fusion, 17 had an occipitocervical fusion, and 3 had a posterior subaxial cervical fusion. The follow-up duration ranged from 9 to 72 months (mean 53 months). All children demonstrated successful fusion at their 3-month follow-up visit, except 1 patient whose unilateral C1–2 transarticular screw fusion required a repeat surgery before proper fusion was achieved. Of the 47 C1–2 transarticular screws that were placed, 13 were 2.4 mm, 15 were 2.7 mm, 7 were 3.5 mm, and 12 were 4.0 mm. Eighteen of the 47 C1–2 transarticular screws were suboptimally placed. Eleven of these misplaced screws were removed and redirected within the same operation because these surgeries benefitted from the use of intraoperative CT; 6 of the 7 remaining suboptimally placed screws were left in place because a second surgery for screw replacement was not warranted. The other suboptimally placed C1–2 screw was replaced during a repeat operation due to failure of fusion. Use of intraoperative CT was invaluable because it enabled the authors to reposition suboptimal C1–2 transarticular screws without necessitating a second operation.

Conclusions

Successful craniocervical fusion procedures were achieved using smaller nontraditional titanium screws and plates. Intraoperative CT was a helpful adjunct for confirming and readjusting the trajectory of the screws prior to leaving the operating room, which decreases overall treatment costs and reduces complications.