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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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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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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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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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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.

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Kristen Radcliff, Christopher K. Kepler, Todd A. Rubin, Motasem Maaieh, Alan S. Hilibrand, James Harrop, Jeffrey A. Rihn, Todd J. Albert and Alexander R. Vaccaro

Object

The load-sharing score (LSS) of vertebral body comminution is predictive of results after short-segment posterior instrumentation of thoracolumbar burst fractures. Some authors have posited that an LSS > 6 is predictive of neurological injury, ligamentous injury, and the need for surgical intervention. However, the authors of the present study hypothesized that the LSS does not predict ligamentous or neurological injury.

Methods

The prospectively collected spinal cord injury database from a single institution was queried for thoracolumbar burst fractures. Study inclusion criteria were acute (< 24 hours) burst fractures between T-10 and L-2 with preoperative CT and MRI. Flexion-distraction injuries and pathological fractures were excluded. Four experienced spine surgeons determined the LSS and posterior ligamentous complex (PLC) integrity. Neurological status was assessed from a review of the medical records.

Results

Forty-four patients were included in the study. There were 4 patients for whom all observers assigned an LSS > 6, recommending operative treatment. Eleven patients had LSSs ≤ 6 across all observers, suggesting that nonoperative treatment would be appropriate. There was moderate interobserver agreement (0.43) for the overall LSS and fair agreement (0.24) for an LSS > 6. Correlations between the LSS and the PLC score averaged 0.18 across all observers (range −0.02 to 0.34, p value range 0.02–0.89). Correlations between the LSS and the American Spinal Injury Association motor score averaged −0.12 across all observers (range −0.25 to −0.03, p value range 0.1–0.87). Correlations describing the relationship between an LSS > 6 and the treating physician's decision to operate averaged 0.17 across all observers (range 0.11–0.24, p value range 0.12–0.47).

Conclusions

The LSS does not uniformly correlate with the PLC injury, neurological status, or empirical clinical decision making. The LSSs of only one observer correlated significantly with PLC injury. There were no significant correlations between the LSS as determined by any observer and neurological status or clinical decision making.

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Albert F. Pull ter Gunne, Cees J. H. M. van Laarhoven, Allard J. F. Hosman and Joost J. van Middendorp

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Francis C. Lovecchio, Avani S. Vaishnav, Michael E. Steinhaus, Yahya A. Othman, Catherine Himo Gang, Sravisht Iyer, Steven J. McAnany, Todd J. Albert and Sheeraz A. Qureshi

OBJECTIVE

In an effort to prevent loss of segmental lordosis (SL) with minimally invasive interbody fusions, manufacturers have increased the amount of lordosis that is built into interbody cages. However, the relationship between cage lordotic angle and actual SL achieved intraoperatively remains unclear. The purpose of this study was to determine if the lordotic angle manufactured into an interbody cage impacts the change in SL during minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for lumbar interbody fusion (LIF) done for degenerative pathology.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective review of a single-surgeon database of adult patients who underwent primary LIF between April 2017 and December 2018. Procedures were performed for 1–2-level lumbar degenerative disease using contemporary MIS techniques, including transforaminal LIF (TLIF), lateral LIF (LLIF), and anterior LIF (ALIF). Surgical levels were classified on lateral radiographs based on the cage lordotic angle (6°–8°, 10°–12°, and 15°–20°) and the position of the cage in the disc space (anterior vs posterior). Change in SL was the primary outcome of interest. Subgroup analyses of the cage lordotic angle within each surgical approach were also conducted.

RESULTS

A total of 116 surgical levels in 98 patients were included. Surgical approaches included TLIF (56.1%), LLIF (32.7%), and ALIF (11.2%). There were no differences in SL gained by cage lordotic angle (2.7° SL gain with 6°–8° cages, 1.6° with 10°–12° cages, and 3.4° with 15°–20° cages, p = 0.581). Subgroup analysis of LLIF showed increased SL with 15° cages only (p = 0.002). The change in SL was highest after ALIF (average increase 9.8° in SL vs 1.8° in TLIF vs 1.8° in LLIF, p < 0.001). Anterior position of the cage in the disc space was also associated with a significantly greater gain in SL (4.2° vs −0.3°, p = 0.001), and was the only factor independently correlated with SL gain (p = 0.016).

CONCLUSIONS

Compared with cage lordotic angle, cage position and approach play larger roles in the generation of SL in 1–2-level MIS for lumbar degenerative disease.

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Ellen M. Soffin, Douglas S. Wetmore, James D. Beckman, Evan D. Sheha, Avani S. Vaishnav, Todd J. Albert, Catherine H. Gang and Sheeraz A. Qureshi

OBJECTIVE

Enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) and multimodal analgesia are established care models that minimize perioperative opioid consumption and promote positive outcomes after spine surgery. Opioid-free anesthesia (OFA) is an emerging technique that may achieve similar goals. The purpose of this study was to evaluate an OFA regimen within an ERAS pathway for lumbar decompressive surgery and to compare perioperative opioid requirements in a matched cohort of patients managed with traditional opioid-containing anesthesia (OCA).

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data. They included 36 patients who underwent lumbar decompression under their ERAS pathway for spinal decompression between February and August 2018. Eighteen patients who received OFA were matched in a 1:1 ratio to a cohort managed with a traditional OCA regimen. The primary outcome was total perioperative opioid consumption. Postoperative pain scores (measured using the numerical rating scale [NRS]), opioid consumption (total morphine equivalents), and length of stay (time to readiness for discharge) were compared in the postanesthesia care unit (PACU). The authors also assessed compliance with ERAS process measures and compared compliance during 3 phases of care: pre-, intra-, and postoperative.

RESULTS

There was a significant reduction in total perioperative opioid consumption in patients who received OFA (2.43 ± 0.86 oral morphine equivalents [OMEs]; mean ± SEM), compared to patients who received OCA (38.125 ± 6.11 OMEs). There were no significant differences in worst postoperative pain scores (NRS scores 2.55 ± 0.70 vs 2.58 ± 0.73) or opioid consumption (5.28 ± 1.7 vs 4.86 ± 1.5 OMEs) in the PACU between OFA and OCA groups, respectively. There was a clinically significant decrease in time to readiness for discharge from the PACU associated with OFA (37 minutes), although this was not statistically significantly different. The authors found high overall compliance with ERAS process measures (91.4%) but variation in compliance according to phase of care. The highest compliance occurred during the preoperative phase (94.71% ± 2.88%), and the lowest compliance occurred during the postoperative phase of care (85.4% ± 5.7%).

CONCLUSIONS

OFA within an ERAS pathway for lumbar spinal decompression represents an opportunity to minimize perioperative opioid exposure without adversely affecting pain control or recovery. This study reveals opportunities for patient and provider education to reinforce ERAS and highlights the postoperative phase of care as a time when resources should be focused to increase ERAS adherence.