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Timing of surgical stabilization after cervical and thoracic trauma

Invited submission from the Joint Section Meeting on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves, March 2004

Todd J. Albert and David H. Kim

✓ Appropriate timing for surgical intervention following destabilizing cervical or thoracic spine trauma remains controversial. Clinical investigators have failed to provide convincing evidence that the timing of surgery significantly affects neurological outcome in most situations. Nevertheless, early surgical stabilization of the injured spine has been shown to provide significant nonneurological benefits such as more rapid patient mobilization, facilitation of treating associated injuries, reduction in rates of pulmonary and pressure sore complications, reduction in duration of intensive care unit and hospital stays, and a decrease in overall medical costs.

The findings of basic science studies have improved our understanding of the molecular and cellular events surrounding initial and secondary spinal cord injury (SCI), and analysis of these findings suggests that the early postinjury period may present a unique opportunity for meaningful intervention. This possibility has been supported by results obtained in animal studies that demonstrate the potential for improving functional outcome when surgical intervention is performed within a few hours following experimental SCI. Despite the absence of significant neurological recovery in most clinical studies, the results of most recent clinical studies strongly support the overall clinical benefits of early surgical intervention, particularly in the setting of unstable thoracic spinal column injury with associated SCI. Based on the best available scientific and clinical evidence, the authors report that it is therefore recommended that surgical stabilization be performed in as timely a fashion as possible, particularly for unstable thoracic spine trauma, within the constraints of the patient's overall medical condition and availability of appropriate resources.

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Kris Radcliff, Domagoj Coric and Todd Albert

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to report the outcome of a study of 2-level cervical total disc replacement (Mobi-C) versus anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). Although the long-term outcome of single-level disc replacement has been extensively described, there have not been previous reports of the 5-year outcome of 2-level cervical disc replacement.

METHODS

This study reports the 5-year results of a prospective, randomized US FDA investigational device exemption (IDE) study conducted at 24 centers in patients with 2-level, contiguous, cervical spondylosis. Clinical outcomes at up to 60 months were evaluated, including validated outcome measures, incidence of reoperation, and adverse events. The complete study data and methodology were critically reviewed by 3 independent surgeon authors without affiliation with the IDE study or financial or institutional bias toward the study sponsor.

RESULTS

A total of 225 patients received the Mobi-C cervical total disc replacement device and 105 patients received ACDF. The Mobi-C and ACDF follow-up rates were 90.7% and 86.7%, respectively (p = 0.39), at 60 months. There was significant improvement in all outcome scores relative to baseline at all time points. The Mobi-C patients had significantly more improvement than ACDF patients in terms of Neck Disability Index score, SF-12 Physical Component Summary, and overall satisfaction with treatment at 60 months. The reoperation rate was significantly lower with Mobi-C (4%) versus ACDF (16%). There were no significant differences in the adverse event rate between groups.

CONCLUSIONS

Both cervical total disc replacement and ACDF significantly improved general and disease-specific measures compared with baseline. However, there was significantly greater improvement in general and disease-specific outcome measures and a lower rate of reoperation in the 2-level disc replacement patients versus ACDF control patients.

Clinical trial registration no. NCT00389597 (clinicaltrials.gov)

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Alexander R. Vaccaro, Matthew M. Robbins, Luke Madigan, Todd J. Albert, William Smith and Alan S. Hilibrand

Object

In this pilot study the authors assessed the efficacy of bioabsorbable interbody spacers in the treatment of cervical degenerative disease. Metallic cages or interbody spacers have been widely used in the treatment of degenerative and traumatic cervical disease. Bioabsorbable technology has been used to develop a resorbable cage that can eliminate the complications and drawbacks seen with the use of traditional metallic implants. In general clinical practice bioabsorbable implants have shown the ability to degrade safely while demonstrating optimal imaging characteristics as a result of their radiolucency, and these devices eliminate stress shielding by their gradual dissolution.

Methods

This study is a retrospective evaluation of charts and x-ray films obtained in the first eight patients who underwent an anterior cervical decompression and fusion procedure with placement of a bioabsorbable interbody spacer and anterior cervical plate. All patients were treated in one surgeon's practice and had a minimum follow-up period of at least 6 months. At a follow-up interval of approximately 7 months, five patients exhibited an excellent result and three had a good result; no patient was noted to have a satisfactory or poor outcome according to the Odom criteria at their most recent follow-up visit. Seventeen (94%) of 18 grafted levels appeared to be solidly fused. One patient experienced a perisurgical complication consisting of a symptomatic hematoma, which was successfully drained.

Conclusions

Bioabsorbable interbody spacers appear to be a safe and effective interbody implant in terms of clinical outcome and radiographically confirmed healing.

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Shannon Hann, Nohra Chalouhi, Ravichandra Madineni, Alexander R. Vaccaro, Todd J. Albert, James Harrop and Joshua E. Heller

Adult degenerative cervical kyphosis is a debilitating disease that often requires complex surgical management. Young spine surgeons, residents, and fellows are often confused as to which surgical approach to choose due to lack of experience, absence of a systematic method of surgical management, and today's plethora of information regarding surgical techniques. Although surgeons may be able to perform anterior, posterior, or combined (360°) approaches to the cervical spine, many struggle to rationally choose an appropriate approach for deformity correction. The authors introduce an algorithm based on morphology and pathology of adult cervical kyphosis to help the surgeon select the appropriate approach when performing cervical deformity surgery. Cervical deformities are categorized into 5 different prevalent morphological types encountered in clinical settings. A surgical approach tailored to each category/type of deformity is then discussed, with a concrete case illustration provided for each. Preoperative assessment of kyphosis, determination of the goal for surgery, and the complications associated with cervical deformity correction are also summarized. This article's goal is to assist with understanding the big picture for surgical management in cervical spinal deformity.

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Steven M. Kurtz, Edmund Lau, Kevin L. Ong, Leah Carreon, Heather Watson, Todd Albert and Steven Glassman

Object

This retrospective analysis of Medicare administrative data was performed to evaluate the risk of infection following instrumented lumbar fusion over a 10-year follow-up period in the Medicare population. Although infection can be a devastating complication, due to its rarity it is difficult to characterize infection risk except in large patient populations.

Methods

Using ICD-9-CM and CPT4 procedure codes, the Medicare 5% analytical research files for inpatient, outpatient, and physician carrier claims were checked to identify patients who were treated between 1997 and 2009 with lumbar spine fusion in which cages or posterior instrumentation were used. Patients younger than 65 years old were excluded. Patients were followed continuously by using the matching denominator file until they withdrew from Medicare or died. The authors identified 15,069 patients with primary fusion procedures and 605 with revision of instrumented lumbar fusion. Infections were identified by the related ICD-9 codes (998.59 or 996.67) after fusion. Kaplan-Meier survival analysis and Cox regression were performed to determine adjusted infection risk for each type of spine procedure (primary vs revision) and surgical approach (anterior, posterior, combined anteroposterior), accounting for patient (for example, age, sex, comorbidities/Charlson Comorbidity Index [CCI], and state buy-in) and hospital (census region) characteristics.

Results

At 10 years, the overall infection incidence, including superficial and deep infections, was 8.5% in primary procedures and 12.2% in revisions. Among the factors considered, infection risk within 10 years was most influenced by comorbidities: for a CCI of 5 versus 0, the adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) was 2.48 (95% CI 1.93–3.19, p < 0.001); for ≥ 9 versus 2–3 fused vertebrae, the AHR was 2.39 (95% CI 1.20–4.76, p < 0.001); for revision versus primary fusion procedures, the AHR was 1.66 (95% CI 1.28–2.15, p < 0.001). Other significant predictors of 10-year infection risk included diagnosis of obesity (p < 0.001); state buy-in—a proxy for socioeconomic status (p = 0.02); age (p = 0.003); surgical approach (p = 0.03); census region (p = 0.02); and the year of the index procedure (p = 0.03).

Conclusions

Patient comorbidities were the greatest predictor of infection risk for the Medicare population. The high incidence of infection following instrumented fusion warrants increased focus on infection risk mitigation, especially for patients with comorbid conditions.

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Gursukhman S. Sidhu, Christopher K. Kepler, Katherine E. Savage, Benjamin Eachus, Todd J. Albert and Alexander R. Vaccaro

The authors endeavor to highlight the surgical management of severe neurological deficit resulting from cement leakage after percutaneous vertebroplasty and to systematically review the literature on the management of this complication.

A patient presented after a vertebroplasty procedure for traumatic injury. A CT scan showed polymethylmethacrylate leakage into the right foramina at T-11 and L-1 and associated central stenosis at L-1. He underwent decompression and fusion for removal of cement and stabilization of the fracture segment. In the authors' systematic review, they searched Medline, Scopus, and Cochrane databases to determine the overall number of reported cases of neurological deficit after cement leakage, and they collected data on symptom onset, clinical presentation, surgical management, and outcome.

After surgery, despite neurological recovery postoperatively, the patient developed pneumonia and died 16 days after surgery. The literature review showed 21 cases of cement extravasation with neurological deficit. Ultimately, 15 patients had resolution of the postoperative deficit, 5 had limited change in neurological status, and 2 had no improvement.

Cement augmentation procedures are relatively safe, but certain precautions should be taken to avoid such complications including high-resolution biplanar fluoroscopy, considering the use of a local anesthetic, and controlling the location of cement spread in relationship to the posterior vertebral body. Immediate surgical intervention with removal of cement provides good results with complete recovery in most cases.

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Francis Lovecchio, Jeffrey G. Stepan, Ajay Premkumar, Michael E. Steinhaus, Maria Sava, Peter Derman, Han Jo Kim and Todd Albert

OBJECTIVE

Patients with lumbar spine pathology are at high risk for opioid misuse. Standardizing prescribing practices through an institutional intervention may reduce the overprescribing of opiates, leading to a decrease in the risk for opioid misuse and the number of pills available for diversion. Without quantitative data on the “minimum necessary quantity” of opioids appropriate for postdischarge prescriptions, the optimal method for changing existing prescribing practices is unknown. The purpose of this study was to determine whether mandatory provider education and prescribing guidelines could modify prescriber behavior and lead to a decreased amount of opioids prescribed at hospital discharge following lumbar spine surgery.

METHODS

Qualified staff were required to attend a mandatory educational conference, and a consensus method among the spine service was used to publish qualitative prescribing guidelines. Prescription data for 2479 patients who had undergone lumbar spine surgery were captured and compared based on the timing of surgery. The preintervention group consisted of 1177 patients who had undergone spine surgery in the period before prescriber education and guidelines (March 1, 2016–November 1, 2016). The postintervention group consisted of 1302 patients who had undergone spine surgery after the dissemination of the guidelines (February 1, 2017–October 1, 2017). Surgeries were classified as decompression or fusion procedures. Patients who had undergone surgeries for infection and patients on long-acting opioids were excluded.

RESULTS

For all lumbar spine surgeries (decompression and fusion), the mean amount of opioids prescribed at discharge was lower after the educational program and distribution of prescribing guidelines (629 ± 294 oral morphine equivalent [OME] preintervention vs 490 ± 245 OME postintervention, p < 0.001). The mean number of prescribed pills also decreased (81 ± 26 vs 66 ± 22, p < 0.001). Prescriptions for 81 or more tablets dropped from 65.5% to 25.5%. Tramadol was prescribed more frequently after prescriber education (9.9% vs 18.6%, p < 0.001). Refill rates within 6 weeks were higher after the institutional intervention (7.6% vs 12.4%, p < 0.07).

CONCLUSIONS

Qualitative guidelines and prescriber education are effective in reducing the amount of opioids prescribed at discharge and encouraging the use of weaker opioids. Coupling provider education with prescribing guidelines is likely synergistic in achieving larger reductions. The sustainability of these changes is yet to be determined.

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Yong Hu, Christopher K. Kepler, Todd J. Albert, Zhen-shan Yuan, Wei-hu Ma, Yong-jie Gu and Rong-ming Xu

Object

The aims of this study were to evaluate a large series of posterior C-1 lateral mass screws (LMSs) to determine accuracy based on CT scanning findings and to assess the perioperative complication rate related to errant screw placement.

Methods

Accuracy of screw placement was evaluated using postoperative CT scans obtained in 196 patients with atlantoaxial instability. Radiographic analysis included measurement of preoperative and postoperative CT scans to evaluate relevant anatomy and classify accuracy of instrumentation placement. Screws were graded using the following definitions: Type I, screw threads completely within the bone (ideal); Type II, less than half the diameter of the screw violates the surrounding cortex (safe); and Type III, clear violation of transverse foramen or spinal canal (unacceptable).

Results

A total of 390 C-1 LMSs were placed, but 32 screws (8.2%) were excluded from accuracy measurements because of a lack of postoperative CT scans; patients in these cases were still included in the assessment of potential clinical complications based on clinical records. Of the 358 evaluable screws with postoperative CT scanning, 85.5% of screws (Type I) were rated as being in the ideal position, 11.7% of screws (Type II) were rated as occupying a safe position, and 10 screws (2.8%) were unacceptable (Type III). Overall, 97.2% of screws were rated Type I or II. Of the 10 screws that were unacceptable on postoperative CT scans, there were no known associated neurological or vertebral artery (VA) injuries. Seven unacceptable screws erred medially into the spinal canal, and 2 patients underwent revision surgery for medial screws. In 2 patients, unilateral C-1 LMSs penetrated the C-1 anterior cortex by approximately 4 mm. Neither patient with anterior C-1 penetration had evidence of internal carotid artery or hypoglossal nerve injury. Computed tomography scanning showed partial entry of C-1 LMSs into the VA foramen of C-1 in 10 cases; no occlusion, associated aneurysm, or fistula of the VA was found. Two patients complained of postoperative occipital neuralgia. This was transient in one patient and resolved by 2 months after surgery. The second patient developed persistent neuralgia, which remained 2 years after surgery, necessitating referral to the pain service.

Conclusions

The technique for freehand C-1 LMS fixation appears to be safe and effective without intraoperative fluoroscopy guidance. Preoperative planning and determination of the ideal screw insertion point, the ideal trajectory, and screw length are the most important considerations. In addition, fewer malpositioned screws were inserted as the study progressed, suggesting a learning curve to the technique.

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Jordan Gruskay, Jeremy Smith, Christopher K. Kepler, Kristen Radcliff, James Harrop, Todd Albert and Alexander Vaccaro

Object

Studies from many disciplines have found an association with the summer months, elevated temperature, humidity, and an increased rate of infection. The “July effect,” a hypothesis that the inexperience of new house staff at the beginning of an academic year leads to an increase in wound complications, has also been considered. Finally, an increase in trauma-related admissions in the summer months is likely to result in an increased incidence of postoperative infections. Two previous studies revealed mixed results concerning perioperative spinal wound infections in the summer months. The purpose of this study was to determine the months and/or seasons of the year that display significant fluctuation of postoperative infection rate in spine surgery. Based on the idea that infection rates are susceptible to seasonal factors, the authors hypothesized that spinal infections would increase during the summer months.

Methods

Inclusion criteria were all spine surgery cases at a single tertiary referral institution between January 2005 and December 2009; 8122 cases were included. Patients presenting with a contaminated wound or active infection were excluded. Infection rates were calculated on a monthly and seasonal basis and compared.

Results

A statistically significant increase in the infection rate was present on both a seasonal and monthly basis (p = 0.03 and p = 0.024) when looking at the seasonal change from spring to summer. A significant decrease in the infection rate was seen on a seasonal basis during the change from fall to winter (p = 0.04). The seasonal rate of infection was highest in the summer (4.1%) and decreased to the lowest point in the spring (2.8%) (p = 0.03).

Conclusions

At the authors' institution, spine surgeries performed during the summer and fall months were associated with a significantly higher incidence of wound infection compared with the winter and spring. These data support the existence of a seasonal effect on perioperative spinal infection rates, which may be explained by seasonal variation in weather patterns and house staff experience, among other factors.

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Avraam Ploumis, Todd J. Albert, Zoe Brown, Amir A. Mehbod and Ensor E. Transfeldt

Object

The objective of this study was to examine the efficacy and safety of Healos graft carrier with bone marrow aspirate and local autograft compared with the results of allograft in patients with lumbar degenerative scoliosis undergoing posterolateral fusion.

Methods

Twenty-eight patients with degenerative scoliosis underwent posterolateral instrumented fusion and decompression. Patients were grouped according to the graft used. Group A consisted of 12 cases in which the authors used a Healos graft carrier, bone marrow aspirate, and local autograft, and Group B consisted of 16 cases in which the authors used cancellous allograft and local autograft. Patients were followed for a minimum of 2 years postoperatively in terms of pain (visual analog scale), function (Oswestry Disability Index), curve magnitude (Cobb angle), and fusion status (plain and dynamic radiographs). The 2 groups did not differ statistically significantly (p > 0.05) in age, sex, smoking habits, magnitude of preoperative visual analog scale score, Oswestry Disability Index score, Cobb angle, or number of levels requiring decompression and fusion.

Results

The groups had similar (p > 0.05) results in terms of pain, function, curve progression, and fusion rates at the 2-year follow-up examination. Radiographic fusion was achieved in all but 2 cases, 1 in each group, in which the patients were asymptomatic. Patients in the allograft group (Group B) showed evidence of fusion earlier than in the Healos group (p < 0.05). No toxicity from Healos graft was recorded.

Conclusions

The combination of Healos hydroxyapatite sponge and bone marrow aspirate plus local allograft had significantly slower fusion rates but equal clinical outcomes compared with cancellous allograft plus local autograft when used for posterolateral fusion in patients with degenerative lumbar scoliosis.