Helmets are one of the earliest and most enduring methods of personal protection in human civilization. Although primarily developed for combat purposes in ancient times, modern helmets have become highly diversified to sports, recreation, and transportation. History and the scientific literature exhibit that helmets continue to be the primary and most effective prevention method against traumatic brain injury (TBI), which presents high mortality and morbidity rates in the US. The neurosurgical and neurotrauma literature on helmets and TBI indicate that helmets provide effectual protection against moderate to severe head trauma resulting in severe disability or death. However, there is a dearth of scientific data on helmet efficacy against concussion in both civilian and military aspects. The objective of this literature review was to explore the historical evolution of helmets, consider the effectiveness of helmets in protecting against severe intracranial injuries, and examine recent evidence on helmet efficacy against concussion. It was also the goal of this report to emphasize the need for more research on helmet efficacy with improved experimental design and quantitative standardization of assessments for concussion and TBI, and to promote expanded involvement of neurosurgery in studying the quantitative diagnostics of concussion and TBI. Recent evidence summarized by this literature review suggests that helmeted patients do not have better relative clinical outcome and protection against concussion than unhelmeted patients.
Je Yeong Sone, Douglas Kondziolka, Jason H. Huang, and Uzma Samadani
Shaun D. Rodgers, Bryan J. Marascalchi, Bartosz T. Grobelny, Michael L. Smith, and Uzma Samadani
Recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) promotes the induction of bone growth and is widely used in spine surgery to enhance arthrodesis. Recombinant human BMP-2 has been associated with a variety of complications including ectopic bone formation, adjacent-level fusion, local bone resorption, osteolysis, and radiculitis. Some of the complications associated with rhBMP-2 may be the result of rhBMP-2 induction of the inflammatory host response. In this paper the authors report on a patient with prior transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) using an interbody cage packed with rhBMP-2, in which rhBMP-2 possibly contributed to vascular injury during an attempted anterior lumbar interbody fusion. This 63-year-old man presented with a 1-year history of worsening refractory low-back pain and radiculopathy caused by a Grade 1 spondylolisthesis at L4–5. He underwent an uncomplicated L4–5 TLIF using an rhBMP-2–packed interbody cage. Postoperatively, he experienced marginal improvement of his symptoms. Within the next year and a half the patient returned with unremitting low-back pain and neurogenic claudication that failed to respond to conservative measures. Radiological imaging of the patient revealed screw loosening and pseudarthrosis. He underwent an anterior retroperitoneal approach with a plan for removal of the previous cage, complete discectomy, and placement of a femoral ring. During the retroperitoneal approach the iliac vein was adhered with scarring and fibrosis to the underlying previously operated L4–5 interbody space. During mobilization the left iliac vein was torn, resulting in significant blood loss and cardiac arrest requiring chest compression, defibrillator shocks, and blood transfusion. The patient was stabilized, the operation was terminated, and he was transferred to the intensive care unit. He recovered over the next several days and was discharged at his neurological baseline. The authors propose that the rhBMP-2–induced host inflammatory response partially contributed to vessel fibrosis and scarring, resulting in the life-threatening vascular injury during the reoperation. Spine surgeons should be aware of this potential inflammatory fibrosis in addition to other reported complications related to rhBMP-2.
Kenneth C. Foxx III, Roy C. Kwak, Jonathan M. Latzman, and Uzma Samadani
Pedicle screws placed in the thoracic, lumbar, and sacral spine occasionally come in contact with the aorta, vena cava, or iliac vessels. When such screws are seen on postoperative imaging in an asymptomatic patient, the surgeon must decide whether it is riskier to revise the screw or to observe it. The authors hypothesized that the incidence of screw placement causing perioperative vessel injury is low and, further, that screws placed in contact with major vessels do not always result in vessel injury.
A retrospective review of the operative records of 182 consecutive patients undergoing thoracic, lumbar, and lumbosacral pedicle screw fusion was performed to determine the frequency of intraoperative vessel injury. Postoperative imaging for 107 patients was available to determine the incidence of screws in contact with major vessels. Charts were examined to determine if any adverse sequelae had resulted from malpositioned screws. Patient outcomes were documented.
There were no intraoperative vessel injuries or deaths in 182 consecutive operations. One hundred seven patients with available postoperative films had 680 pedicle screws placed between T-3 and the sacrum during 115 operations. No patient had arterial screw penetration or deformation on postoperative imaging. Thirty-three of the 680 inserted screws were in contact with a major vessel on routine postoperative imaging. The contacted vessels included the aorta (4 cases), the iliac artery (7 cases), and the iliac veins (22 cases). Patients were followed up until death or November 2009, for a mean follow-up of 44 months (median 44 months, range 5–109 months). None of the patients with vessel contact was noted to suffer symptoms or sequelae as a result of vessel contact. Radiographic follow-up as long as 50 months after surgery revealed no detectable vessel abnormality at the contacted site.
Placing pedicle screws in contact with major vessels is a known risk of spinal surgery. The risk of repositioning a screw in contact with a major vessel but causing no symptoms must be weighed against the relative risk of leaving it in place.
Veit Rohde and Uzma Samadani
Currently no adequate surgical treatment exists for spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH). Implantable polymers can be used effectively to deliver therapeutic agents to the local site of the pathological process, thus reducing adverse systemic effects. The authors report the use of stereotactically implanted polymers loaded with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to induce lysis of ICH in a rabbit model.
Ethylene vinyl acetate (EVAc) polymers were loaded with bovine serum albumin (BSA) only or with BSA plus tPA. In vitro pharmacokinetic (three polymers) and thrombolysis (12 polymers) studies were performed. For the in vivo study, 12 rabbits were fixed in a stereotactic frame, and 0.2 ml of clotted autologous blood was injected into the right frontal lobe parenchyma. After 20 minutes, control BSA polymers were stereotactically implanted at the hemorrhage site in six rabbits, and experimental BSA plus tPA polymers were implanted in six rabbits. Animals were killed at 3 days, and blood clot volume was assessed.
The pharmacokinetic study showed release of 146 ng of tPA over 3 days. The tPA activity correlated with in vitro thrombolysis. In the in vivo study, the six animals treated with tPA polymers had a mean (±standard error of the mean [SEM]) thrombus volume of 1.43 ±0.29 mm3 at 3 days, whereas the six animals treated with blank (BSA-only) polymers had a mean (±SEM) thrombus volume of 19.99 ±3.74 mm3 (p <0.001).
Ethylene vinyl acetate polymers release tPA over the course of 3 days. Stereotactic implantation of tPA-loaded EVAc polymers significantly reduced ICH volume. Polymers loaded with tPA may be useful clinically for lysis of ICH without the side effects of systemic administration of tPA.
David Balser, Sameer Farooq, Talha Mehmood, Marleen Reyes, and Uzma Samadani
Chronic subdural hematomas (SDHs) are more common among veterans and elderly persons than among members of the general population; however, precise incidence rates are unknown. The purposes of this study were 1) to determine the current incidence of chronic SDH in a US Veterans Administration (VA) population and 2) to create a mathematical model for determining the current and future incidence of chronic SDH as a function of population age, sex, and comorbidity in the United States VA and civilian populations.
To determine the actual number of veterans who received a radiographic diagnosis and surgical treatment for SDH during 2000–2012, the authors used the VISN03 VA database. On the basis of this result and data from outside the United States, they then created a mathematical model accounting for age, sex, and alcohol consumption to predict the incidence of SDH in the VA and civilian populations during 2012–2040.
Of 875,842 unique (different patient) visits to a VA hospital during the study period, 695 new SDHs were identified on CT images. Of these 695 SDHs, 203 (29%) required surgical drainage. The incidence rate was 79.4 SDHs per 100,000 persons, and the age-standardized rate was 39.1 ± 4.74 SDHs per 100,000 persons. The authors' model predicts that incidence rates of chronic SDH in aging United States VA and civilian populations will reach 121.4 and 17.4 cases per 100,000 persons, respectively, by 2030, at which time, approximately 60,000 cases of chronic SDH will occur each year in the United States.
The incidence of chronic SDH is rising; SDH is projected to become the most common cranial neurosurgical condition among adults by the year 2030.
Pedicle screws and great vessels
Michael G. Fehlings and Sorin C. Craciunas
Daniel Rafter, Ranveer Vasdev, Duncan Hurrelbrink, Mark Gormley III, Tabitha Chettupally, Francis X. Shen, and Uzma Samadani
Current guidelines do not specify timing for management of acute spinal cord injury (aSCI) due to lack of high-quality evidence supporting specific intervals for intervention. Randomized prospective trials may be unethical. Nonetheless, physicians have been sued for delays in diagnosis and intervention.
The authors reviewed both the medical literature supporting the guidelines and the legal cases reported in the Westlaw and Lexis Advance databases from 1972 to 2018 resulting in awards or settlements, to identify whether surgeons are vulnerable to litigation despite the existence of guidelines not mandating specific timing of care.
Timing of intervention was related to claims in 59 (36%) of 163 cases involving SCI. All 22 trauma cases identified cited timing of intervention, sometimes related to delayed diagnosis, as a reason for the lawsuit. The mean award of 10 cases in which the plaintiffs’ awards were disclosed was $4,294,384. In the majority of cases, award amounts were not disclosed.
Because conduct of a prospective, randomized trial to investigate surgical timing of intervention for aSCI may not be achievable, evidence-based guidelines will be unlikely to mandate specific timing. Nonetheless, surgeons who unreasonably delay intervention for aSCI may be at risk for litigation due to treatment delay. This is increasingly likely in an environment where “complete” SCI is difficult to verify. SCI may at some point be recognized as a surgical emergency, as brain injury generally is, despite a lack of prospective randomized trials supporting this implementation, challenging the feasibility of the US trauma infrastructure to provide care for these patients.
Uzma Samadani, Atsushi Umemura, Jurg L. Jaggi, Amy Colcher, Eric L. Zager, and Gordon H. Baltuch
✓ Thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been demonstrated to be effective for the treatment of parkinsonian or essential tremor. To date, however, few data exist to support the application of this method to treat midbrain tremor.
A 24-year-old right-handed man underwent radiosurgery and subsequent resection of a recurrently hemorrhaging cavernous angioma located in the left side of the midbrain. The surgery exacerbated severe choreoathetotic resting and action tremors of his right extremities and trunk. The patient underwent placement of a deep brain stimulator into the left ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus (Vim). Postoperatively, decreased truncal ataxia and right-sided choreoathetotic tremor were demonstrated, with a 57% increase in dexterity as measured by task testing.
The authors demonstrate that DBS can be an effective treatment modality for disabling tremor after resection of a midbrain cavernous angioma.
Abdullah Bin Zahid, David Balser, Rebekah Thomas, Margaret Y. Mahan, Molly E. Hubbard, and Uzma Samadani
Chronic subdural hematoma (cSDH) is a highly morbid condition associated with brain atrophy in the elderly. It has a reported 30% 1-year mortality rate. Approximately half of afflicted individuals report either no or relatively unremarkable trauma preceding their diagnosis, raising the possibility that cSDH is a manifestation of degenerative or inflammatory disease rather than trauma. The purpose of this study was to compare the rates of cerebral atrophy before and after cSDH to determine whether it is more likely that cSDH causes atrophy or that atrophy causes cSDH. The authors also compared atrophy rates in patients with cSDH to the rates in patients with and without dementia.
The authors developed algorithmic segmentation analysis software to measure whole-brain, CSF, and intracranial space volumes. They then identified military veterans who had undergone at least 4 brain CT scans over a period of 10 years. Within this database, the authors identified 146 patients with 962 head CT scans who had received diagnoses of either cSDH, dementia, or no known dementia condition. Volumetric analyses of brains in 45 patients with dementia (dementia group) and 73 patients without dementia (nondementia group), in whom 262 and 519 head CT scans were obtained, respectively, were compared with 11 patients in whom 81 CT scans were obtained a mean of 4.21 years before a cSDH diagnosis and 17 patients in whom 100 scans were obtained a mean of 4.24 years after SDH. Longitudinal measures were then related to disease status and the time since first scan by using hierarchical models, and atrophy rates between the groups were compared.
Head CT scans from patients were obtained for an average time period of 4.21 years (SD 1.69) starting at a mean patient age of 74 years. Absolute brain volume loss for the 17 patients in the post-SDH group (13 were treated surgically) was significantly greater, at 16.32 ml/year, compared with 6.61 ml/year in patients with dementia, 5.33 ml/year in patients without dementia, and 3.57 ml/year in pre-SDH patients. The atrophy rate for these individuals prior to enrollment in the study was 2.32 ml/year (p = 0.001). In terms of brain volume normalized to cranial cavity size, the post-SDH group had an atrophy rate of 0.7801%/year, compared with 0.4467%/year in patients with dementia, 0.3474%/year in patients without dementia, and 0.2135%/year in the pre-SDH group.
Prior to development of a cSDH, the atrophy rates in patients who ultimately develop cSDH are similar to those of patients without dementia. After development of a cSDH, the atrophy rates increase to more than twice those of patients with dementia. Chronic subdural hematoma is thus associated with a significant increase in brain atrophy rate. These findings suggest the neurotoxic consequences of cSDH and may have implications for better understanding of the pathophysiology of cerebral atrophy and dementia.
Yaron A. Moshel, Edgar I. Hernandez, Li Kong, Chuanju Liu, and Uzma Samadani
✓The authors report on a case of a patient who received recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein-2 (rhBMP-2) to augment spinal fusion for the first and third of 3 lumbosacral fusion surgeries. After receiving rhBMP-2 the first time, the patient became febrile and developed mild acute renal insufficiency and transient supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). The second operation was complicated only by perioperative fever. When the patient received rhBMP-2 again during the third operation, he developed fever, acute oliguric renal insufficiency, symptomatic SVT with hypoxemia, confusion, and joint pain. No clear cause of these problems was identified; however serum analysis revealed the presence of an antibody to rhBMP-2. The authors discuss potential mechanisms for the patient's putative reaction to rhBMP-2, as the findings from a literature review suggest this is the first such reaction to be reported.