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Michael A. Mooney, Mark E. Oppenlander, U. Kumar Kakarla and Nicholas Theodore

Tumoral calcinosis is characterized by tumor-like deposition of calcium in periarticular soft tissue. Spinal involvement is rare, and perioperative diagnosis of tumoral calcinosis can be difficult because lesions may be confused with bony neoplasms. Symptoms of tumoral calcinosis result from bony involvement and/or direct compression of surrounding anatomical structures, for which treatment with surgical decompression can be highly successful. The craniovertebral junction is rarely affected by tumoral calcinosis, and patients with this condition may present with distinct symptoms. Herein, to their knowledge the authors present the first case of tumoral calcinosis affecting the craniovertebral junction in a patient who presented with severe dysphagia and required transoral decompression. Recognition of tumoral calcinosis by neurosurgeons is essential for facilitating diagnosis and treatment, and the transoral approach is an effective method for decompression in select patients.

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Matthew T. Neal, Randall J. Hlubek, Alexander E. Ropper and U. Kumar Kakarla

When a dural defect is encountered during spine surgery, the dura mater must be reconstituted to minimize the occurrence of minor or major life-threatening sequelae. The neurosurgical literature lacks strategies for managing large dural defects encountered during surgery. The authors describe a 24-year-old man who developed cauda equina syndrome secondary to altered CSF flow in a large thoracolumbar arachnoid cyst. Surgical decompression and fenestration of the arachnoid cyst were performed, and the large dural defect was treated using a multilayer closure with collagen matrix, titanium mesh, and methylmethacrylate. At his 24-month postoperative follow-up, the patient had recovered full strength in his legs, and his sensory deficits and sexual dysfunction had resolved. His incision had healed well, and there were no signs of pseudomeningocele. He had no additional positional headaches. The defect was managed effectively with this technique. Although this technique is not a first-line strategy for dural closure in the spine, it can be considered in challenging cases when large dural defects are not amenable to traditional closure techniques.

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History and advances in spinal neurosurgery

JNSPG 75th Anniversary Invited Review Article

Corey T. Walker, U. Kumar Kakarla, Steve W. Chang and Volker K. H. Sonntag

Insight into the historic contributions made to modern-day spine surgery provides context for understanding the monumental accomplishments comprising current techniques, technology, and clinical success. Only during the last century did surgical growth occur in the treatment of spinal disorders. With that growth came a renaissance of innovation, particularly with the evolution of spinal instrumentation and fixation techniques. In this article, the authors capture some of the key milestones that have led to the field of spine surgery today, with an emphasis on the historical advances related to instrumentation, navigation, minimally invasive surgery, robotics, and neurosurgical training.

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Tyler S. Cole, Kaith K. Almefty, Jakub Godzik, Amy H. Muma, Randall J. Hlubek, Eduardo Martinez-del-Campo, Nicholas Theodore, U. Kumar Kakarla and Jay D. Turner


Cervical spondylotic myelopathy (CSM) is the primary cause of adult spinal cord dysfunction. Diminished hand strength and reduced dexterity associated with CSM contribute to disability. Here, the authors investigated the impact of CSM severity on hand function using quantitative testing and evaluated the response to surgical intervention.


Thirty-three patients undergoing surgical treatment of CSM were prospectively enrolled in the study. An occupational therapist conducted 3 functional hand tests: 1) palmar dynamometry to measure grip strength, 2) hydraulic pinch gauge test to measure pinch strength, and 3) 9-hole peg test (9-HPT) to evaluate upper extremity dexterity. Tests were performed preoperatively and 6–8 weeks postoperatively. Test results were expressed as 1) a percentile relative to age- and sex-stratified norms and 2) achievement of a minimum clinically important (MCI) difference. Patients were stratified into groups (mild, moderate, and severe myelopathy) based on their modified Japanese Orthopaedic Association (mJOA) score. The severity of stenosis on preoperative MRI was graded by three independent physicians using the Kang classification.


The primary presenting symptoms were neck pain (33%), numbness (21%), imbalance (12%), and upper extremity weakness (12%). Among the 33 patients, 61% (20) underwent anterior approach decompression, with a mean (SD) of 2.9 (1.5) levels treated. At baseline, patients with moderate and low mJOA scores (indicating more severe myelopathy) had lower preoperative pinch (p < 0.001) and grip (p = 0.01) strength than those with high mJOA scores/mild myelopathy. Postoperative improvement was observed in all hand function domains except pinch strength in the nondominant hand, with MCI differences at 6 weeks ranging from 33% of patients in dominant-hand strength tests to 73% of patients in nondominant-hand dexterity tests. Patients with moderate baseline mJOA scores were more likely to have MCI improvement in dominant grip strength (58.3%) than those with low mJOA scores/severe myelopathy (30%) and high mJOA scores/mild myelopathy (9%, p = 0.04). Dexterity in the dominant hand as measured by the 9-HPT ranged from < 1 in patients with cord signal change to 15.9 in patients with subarachnoid effacement only (p = 0.03).


Patients with CSM achieved significant improvement in strength and dexterity postoperatively. Baseline strength measures correlated best with the preoperative mJOA score; baseline dexterity correlated best with the severity of stenosis on MRI. The majority of patients experienced MCI improvements in dexterity. Baseline pinch strength correlated with postoperative mJOA MCI improvement, and patients with moderate baseline mJOA scores were the most likely to have improvement in dominant grip strength postoperatively.