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Miki Katzir, Aboubakr T. Amer, Asad S. Akhter, Stephanus V. Viljoen, and Ehud Mendel

The patient is a 69-year-old woman with a history of atlantoaxial instability and cervical pain who underwent an occipital-cervical fusion at an outside hospital. Five days following the procedure she required a PEG tube due to progressive dysphagia. Compared with preoperative imaging, x-ray shows cervical spine hyperextension with a significant decrease in the occipital–C2 angle. A swallow test confirmed aspiration and pharyngeal phase functional impairment. Two-stage surgery consisted of hardware removal, drilling the fused right C1–2 facet, reinstrumentation, and halo placement. The swallowing test confirmed there is no aspiration. We proceeded with rod placement. The patient recovered completely.

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Justin Baum, Stephanus V. Viljoen, Connor S. Gifford, Amy J. Minnema, Ammar Shaikhouni, Andrew J. Grossbach, Shahid Nimjee, and H. Francis Farhadi


Despite the increasing incidence of spinal epidural abscess (SEA), the baseline parameters potentially predictive of treatment failure remain poorly characterized. In this study, the authors identify the relevant baseline parameters that predict multimodal treatment failure in patients with either intravenous drug use (IVDU)–associated SEA or non-IVDU–associated SEA.


The authors reviewed the electronic medical records of a large institutional series of consecutive patients with diagnosed SEA between January 2011 and December 2017 to characterize epidemiological trends as well as the complement of baseline measures that are predictive of failure after multimodal treatment in patients with and without concomitant IVDU. The independent impact of clinical and imaging factors in detecting treatment failure was assessed by performing stepwise binary logistic regression analysis.


A total of 324 consecutive patients with diagnosed SEA were identified. Overall, 226 patients (69.8%) had SEA related to other causes and 98 (30.2%) had a history of recent IVDU. While non-IVDU SEA admission rates remained constant, year-over-year admissions of patients with IVDU SEA nearly tripled. At baseline, patients with IVDU SEA were distinct in many respects including younger age, greater unemployment and disability, less frequent diabetes mellitus (DM), and more frequent methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus infection. However, differences in length of stay, loss to follow-up, and treatment failure did not reach statistical significance between the groups. The authors constructed independent multivariate logistic regression models for treatment failure based on identified parameters in the two cohorts. For the non-IVDU cohort, the authors identified four variables as independent factors: DM, hepatitis B/C, osteomyelitis, and compression deformity severity. In contrast, for patients with IVDU, the authors identified three variables: albumin, endocarditis, and endplate destruction. Receiver operating characteristic and area under the curve (AUC) analyses were undertaken for the multivariate models predicting the likelihood of treatment failure in the two cohorts (AUC = 0.88 and 0.89, respectively), demonstrating that the derived models could adequately predict the risk of multimodal treatment failure. Treatment failure risk factor point scales were derived for the identified variables separately for both cohorts.


Patients with IVDU SEA represent a unique population with a distinct set of baseline parameters that predict treatment failure. Identification of relevant prognosticating factors will allow for the design of tailored treatment and follow-up regimens.

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Stephanus V. Viljoen, Nicole A. DeVries Watson, Nicole M. Grosland, James Torner, Brian Dalm, and Patrick W. Hitchon


The objective of this study was to evaluate the biomechanical properties of lateral instrumentation compared with short- and long-segment pedicle screw constructs following an L-1 corpectomy and reconstruction with an expandable cage.


Eight human cadaveric T10–L4 spines underwent an L-1 corpectomy followed by placement of an expandable cage. The spines then underwent placement of lateral instrumentation consisting of 4 monoaxial screws and 2 rods with 2 cross-connectors, short-segment pedicle screw fixation involving 1 level above and below the corpectomy, and long-segment pedicle screw fixation (2 levels above and below). The order of instrumentation was randomized in the 8 specimens. Testing was conducted for each fixation technique. The spines were tested with a pure moment of 6 Nm in all 6 degrees of freedom (flexion, extension, right and left lateral bending, and right and left axial rotation).


In flexion, extension, and left/right lateral bending, posterior long-segment instrumentation had significantly less motion compared with the intact state. Additionally, posterior long-segment instrumentation was significantly more rigid than short-segment and lateral instrumentation in flexion, extension, and left/right lateral bending. In axial rotation, the posterior long-segment construct as well as lateral instrumentation were not significantly more rigid than the intact state. The posterior long-segment construct was the most rigid in all 6 degrees of freedom.


In the setting of highly unstable fractures requiring anterior reconstruction, and involving all 3 columns, long-segment posterior pedicle screw constructs are the most rigid.

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Vibhu K. Viswanathan, Ranjit Ganguly, Amy J. Minnema, Nicole A. DeVries Watson, Nicole M. Grosland, Douglas C. Fredericks, Andrew J. Grossbach, Stephanus V. Viljoen, and H. Francis Farhadi


Proximal junctional kyphosis (PJK) and failure (PJF) are potentially catastrophic complications that result from abrupt changes in stress across rigid instrumented and mobile non-fused segments of the spine (transition zone) after adult spinal deformity surgery. Recently, data have indicated that extension (widening) of the transitional zone via use of proximal junctional (PJ) semi-rigid fixation can mitigate this complication. To assess the biomechanical effectiveness of 3 semi-rigid fixation constructs (compared to pedicle screw fixation alone), the authors performed cadaveric studies that measured the extent of PJ motion and intradiscal pressure changes (ΔIDP).


To measure flexibility and ΔIDP at the PJ segments, moments in flexion, extension, lateral bending (LB), and torsion were conducted in 13 fresh-frozen human cadaveric specimens. Five testing cycles were conducted, including intact (INT), T10–L2 pedicle screw-rod fixation alone (PSF), supplemental hybrid T9 Mersilene tape insertion (MT), hybrid T9 sublaminar band insertion (SLB1), and hybrid T8/T9 sublaminar band insertion (SLB2).


Compared to PSF, SLB1 significantly reduced flexibility at the level rostral to the upper-instrumented vertebral level (UIV+1) under moments in 3 directions (flexion, LB, and torsion, p ≤ 0.01). SLB2 significantly reduced motion in all directions at UIV+1 (flexion, extension, LB, torsion, p < 0.05) and at UIV+2 (LB, torsion, p ≤ 0.03). MT only reduced flexibility in extension at UIV+1 (p = 0.02). All 3 constructs revealed significant reductions in ΔIDP at UIV+1 in flexion (MT, SLB1, SLB2, p ≤ 0.02) and torsion (MT, SLB1, SLB2, p ≤ 0.05), while SLB1 and SLB2 significantly reduced ΔIDP in extension (SLB1, SLB2, p ≤ 0.02) and SLB2 reduced ΔIDP in LB (p = 0.05). At UIV+2, SLB2 similarly significantly reduced ΔIDP in extension, LB, and torsion (p ≤ 0.05).


Compared to MT, the SLB1 and SLB2 constructs significantly reduced flexibility and ΔIDP in various directions through the application of robust anteroposterior force vectors at UIV+1 and UIV+2. These findings indicate that semi-rigid sublaminar banding can most effectively expand the transition zone and mitigate stresses at the PJ levels of long-segment thoracolumbar constructs.