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Paul M. Foreman, Robert P. Naftel, Thomas A. Moore II and Mark N. Hadley

OBJECT

Since its introduction in 1976, the lateral extracavitary approach (LECA) has been used to access ventral and ventrolateral pathology affecting the thoracolumbar spine. Reporting of outcomes and complications has been inconsistent. A case series and systematic review are presented to summarize the available data.

METHODS

A retrospective review of medical records was performed, which identified 65 consecutive patients who underwent LECA for the treatment of thoracolumbar spine and spinal cord pathology. Cases were divided according to the presenting pathology. Neurological outcomes and complications were detailed. In addition, a systematic review of outcomes and complications in patients treated with the LECA as reported in the literature was completed.

RESULTS

Sixty-five patients underwent the LECA to the spine for the treatment of thoracic spine and spinal cord pathology. The most common indication for surgery was thoracic disc herniation (23/65, 35.4%). Neurological outcomes were excellent: 69.2% improved, 29.2% experienced no change, and 1.5% were worse. Two patients (3.1%) experienced a complication. The systematic review revealed comparable neurological outcomes (74.9% improved) but a notably higher complication rate (32.2%).

CONCLUSIONS

The LECA provides dorsal and unilateral ventrolateral access to and exposure of the thoracolumbar spine and spinal cord while allowing for posterior instrumentation through the same incision. Although excellent neurological results can be expected, the risk of pulmonary complications should be considered.

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Surgical manifestations of thoracic arachnoid pathology: series of 28 cases

Presented at the 2013 Joint Spine Section Meeting 

Christoph J. Griessenauer, David F. Bauer, Thomas A. Moore II, Patrick R. Pritchard and Mark N. Hadley

Object

Various pathologies involving the thoracic arachnoid mater uniformly manifest as thoracic myelopathy and may present a significant management dilemma. The authors undertook this study to assess outcome in cases of thoracic myelopathy due to thoracic arachnoid pathology.

Methods

The authors have cared for and followed 28 patients with thoracic myelopathy from thoracic arachnoid pathology over the last 17 years. A chart review and contemporary follow-up of these patients was performed and outcomes were reported.

Results

Patients with thoracic myelopathy from thoracic arachnoid pathology often have improvement in their condition after surgical decompression/detethering procedures. While not universal, patients in this series had improvement in mJOA scores at 1 year after surgery (p = 0.0001) and at last follow-up (p = 0.04). Results indicated that across a wide variety of pathologies the extent of thoracic spinal cord involvement is a predictor of the disease course and outcome. Comparison of the group of patients with cord involvement limited to 2 vertebral segments (short-segment pathology) versus the group with cord tethering of more than 2 segments (long-segment pathology) showed that patients in the short-segment group more frequently had ventral or dorsal arachnoid bands (p = 0.003), more frequently had signal change in the cord on MRI (p = 0.02), and less frequently presented with a syrinx (p = 0.02), and a smaller percentage of patients in this group underwent reoperation (p = 0.02). While patients with short-segment pathology typically improved after a single operative intervention, patients with long-segment pathology typically improved after multiple operations, frequently for CSF diversion.

Conclusions

Thoracic arachnoid pathology causing thoracic cord dysfunction and myelopathy is varied, has multiple etiologies, and can be difficult to treat over the long term. Surgical management, when indicated, is case specific. Serial long-term follow-up is essential to document enduring clinical and radiographic success.