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Swetha J. Sundar, Andrew T. Healy, Varun R. Kshettry, Thomas E. Mroz, Richard Schlenk and Edward C. Benzel


Pedicle and lateral mass screw placement is technically demanding due to complex 3D spinal anatomy that is not easily visualized. Neurosurgical and orthopedic surgery residents must be properly trained in such procedures, which can be associated with significant complications and associated morbidity. Current training in pedicle and lateral mass screw placement involves didactic teaching and supervised placement in the operating room. The objective of this study was to assess whether teaching residents to place pedicle and lateral mass screws using navigation software, combined with practice using cadaveric specimens and Sawbones models, would improve screw placement accuracy.


This was a single-blinded, prospective, randomized pilot study with 8 junior neurosurgical residents and 2 senior medical students with prior neurosurgery exposure. Both the study group and the level of training-matched control group (each group with 4 level of training-matched residents and 1 senior medical student) were exposed to a standardized didactic education regarding spinal anatomy and screw placement techniques. The study group was exposed to an additional pilot program that included a training session using navigation software combined with cadaveric specimens and accessibility to Sawbones models.


A statistically significant reduction in overall surgical error was observed in the study group compared with the control group (p = 0.04). Analysis by spinal region demonstrated a significant reduction in surgical error in the thoracic and lumbar regions in the study group compared with controls (p = 0.02 and p = 0.04, respectively). The study group also was observed to place screws more optimally in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions (p = 0.02, p = 0.04, and p = 0.04, respectively).


Surgical resident education in pedicle and lateral mass screw placement is a priority for training programs. This study demonstrated that compared with a didactic-only training model, using navigation simulation with cadavers and Sawbones models significantly reduced the number of screw placement errors in a laboratory setting.

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Swetha J. Sundar, Jason K. Hsieh, Sunil Manjila, Justin D. Lathia and Andrew Sloan

Recurrence in glioblastoma is nearly universal, and its prognosis remains dismal despite significant advances in treatment over the past decade. Glioblastoma demonstrates considerable intratumoral phenotypic and molecular heterogeneity and contains a population of cancer stem cells that contributes to tumor propagation, maintenance, and treatment resistance. Cancer stem cells are functionally defined by their ability to self-renew and to differentiate, and they constitute the diverse hierarchy of cells composing a tumor. When xenografted into an appropriate host, they are capable of tumorigenesis. Given the critical role of cancer stem cells in the pathogenesis of glioblastoma, research into their molecular and phenotypic characteristics is a therapeutic priority. In this review, the authors discuss the evolution of the cancer stem cell model of tumorigenesis and describe the specific role of cancer stem cells in the pathogenesis of glioblastoma and their molecular and microenvironmental characteristics. They also discuss recent clinical investigations into targeted therapies against cancer stem cells in the treatment of glioblastoma.

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Andrew T. Healy, Swetha J. Sundar, Raul J. Cardenas, Prasath Mageswaran, Edward C. Benzel, Thomas E. Mroz and Todd B. Francis


Single-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) is an established surgical treatment for cervical myelopathy. Within 10 years of undergoing ACDF, 19.2% of patients develop symptomatic adjacent-level degeneration. Performing ACDF adjacent to prior fusion requires exposure and removal of previously placed hardware, which may increase the risk of adverse outcomes. Zero-profile cervical implants combine an interbody spacer with an anterior plate into a single device that does not extend beyond the intervertebral disc space, potentially obviating the need to remove prior hardware. This study compared the biomechanical stability and adjacent-level range of motion (ROM) following placement of a zero-profile device (ZPD) adjacent to a single-level ACDF against a standard 2-level ACDF.


In this in vitro biomechanical cadaveric study, multidirectional flexibility testing was performed by a robotic spine system that simulates flexion-extension, lateral bending, and axial rotation by applying a continuous pure moment load. Testing conditions were as follows: 1) intact, 2) C5–6 ACDF, 3) C4–5 ZPD supraadjacent to simulated fusion at C5–6, and 4) 2-level ACDF (C4–6). The sequence of the latter 2 test conditions was randomized. An unconstrained pure moment of 1.5 Nm with a 40-N simulated head weight load was applied to the intact condition first in all 3 planes of motion and then using the hybrid test protocol, overall intact kinematics were replicated subsequently for each surgical test condition. Intersegmental rotations were measured optoelectronically. Mean segmental ROM for operated levels and adjacent levels was recorded and normalized to the intact condition and expressed as a percent change from intact. A repeated-measures ANOVA was used to analyze the ROM between test conditions with a 95% level of significance.


No statistically significant differences in immediate construct stability were found between construct Patterns 3 and 4, in all planes of motion (p > 0.05). At the operated level, C4–5, the zero-profile construct showed greater decreases in axial rotation (–45% vs –36%) and lateral bending (–55% vs –38%), whereas the 2-level ACDF showed greater decreases in flexion-extension (–40% vs –34%). These differences were marginal and not statistically significant. Adjacent-level motion was nearly equivalent, with minor differences in flexion-extension.


When treating degeneration adjacent to a single-level ACDF, a zero-profile implant showed stabilizing potential at the operated level statistically similar to that of the standard revision with a 2-level plate. Revision for adjacent-level disease is common, and using a ZPD in this setting should be investigated clinically because it may be a faster, safer alternative.

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Daniel Lubelski, Matthew D. Alvin, Sergiy Nesterenko, Swetha J. Sundar, Nicolas R. Thompson, Edward C. Benzel and Thomas E. Mroz


Studies comparing surgical treatments for cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) are heterogeneous, using a variety of different quality of life (QOL) outcomes and myelopathy-specific measures. This study sought to evaluate the relationship of these measures to each other, and to better understand their use in evaluating patients with CSM.


A retrospective study was performed in all patients with CSM who underwent either ventral or dorsal cervical spine surgery at a single tertiary-care institution between January 2008 and July 2013. Severity of myelopathy was assessed pre- and postoperatively using both the Nurick scale and the modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) classification of disability. Prospectively collected QOL outcomes data included Pain Disability Questionnaire (PDQ), Patient Health Questionnaire–9 (PHQ-9), and EQ-5D. Spearman rank correlations were calculated to assess the construct convergent validity for each pair of health status measures (HSMs). To assess each HSM’s ability to discriminate favorable EQ-5D index, we performed receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analysis and assessed the area under the curve (AUC).


A total of 119 patients were included. The PDQ total score had the highest correlation with EQ-5D index (Spearman’s rho = −0.82). Neither of the myelopathy scales (mJOA or Nurick) had strong correlations between themselves (0.41) or with the other QOL measures (absolute value range 0.13–0.49). In contrast, the QOL measures correlated relatively well with each other (absolute value range 0.68–0.97). For predicting favorable EQ-5D outcomes, PDQ total score had an AUC of 0.909. The AUCs were significantly greater for the QOL measures in comparison with the myelopathy measures (AUCs were 0.677 and 0.607 for mJOA and Nurick scale scores, respectively).


The authors found that all included measures of QOL and CSM-specific (mJOA or Nurick scale) measures were valid and responsive. The PDQ was the most predictive of positive QOL after surgery (as measured by the EQ-5D index) for patients with CSM. The substantially lower correlation between myelopathy and QOL outcomes, compared with the various QOL measures themselves, suggests that these questionnaires are measuring different aspects of the patient experience. Solely assessing the myelopathy or disease-specific signs and symptoms is likely insufficient to fully understand and appreciate clinical outcome in its totality. These questionnaire types should be used together to best evaluate patients pre- and postoperatively.