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Aditya Vedantam, Daniel Hansen, Valentina Briceño, Alison Brayton and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

There is limited literature on patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes in pediatric patients undergoing surgery for craniovertebral junction pathology. The aim of the present study was to assess surgical and quality of life outcomes in children who had undergone occipitocervical or atlantoaxial fusion.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographics, procedural data, and outcomes of 77 consecutive pediatric patients who underwent posterior occipitocervical or atlantoaxial fusion between 2008 and 2015 at Texas Children's Hospital. Outcome measures (collected at last follow-up) included mortality, neurological improvement, complications, Scoliosis Research Society Outcomes Measure–22 (SRS-22) score, SF-36 score, Neck Disability Index (NDI), and Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL). Multivariate linear regression analysis was performed to identify factors affecting PROs and HRQOL scores at follow-up.

RESULTS

The average age in this series was 10.6 ± 4.5 years. The median follow-up was 13.9 months (range 0.5–121.5 months). Sixty-three patients (81.8%) were treated with occipitocervical fusion, and 14 patients (18.1%) were treated with atlantoaxial fusion. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade at discharge was unchanged in 73 patients (94.8%). The average PRO metrics at the time of last follow-up were as follows: SRS-22 score, 4.2 ± 0.8; NDI, 3.0 ± 2.6; the parent's PedsQL (ParentPedsQL) score, 69.6 ± 22.7, and child's PedsQL score, 75.5 ± 18.7. Multivariate linear regression analysis revealed that older age at surgery was significantly associated with lower SRS-22 scores at follow-up (B = −0.06, p = 0.03), and the presence of comorbidities was associated with poorer ParentPedsQL scores at follow-up (B = −19.68, p = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS

This study indicates that occipitocervical and atlantoaxial fusions in children preserve neurological function and are associated with acceptable PROs and ParentPedsQL scores, considering the serious nature and potential for morbidity in this patient population. However, longer follow-up and disease-specific scales are necessary to fully elucidate the impact of occipitocervical and atlantoaxial fusions on children.

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Daniel Hansen, Aditya Vedantam, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The emphasis on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes is increasing, along with an emphasis on evidence-based medicine. However, there is a notable paucity of validated HRQOL instruments for the pediatric population. Furthermore, no standardization or consensus currently exists concerning which HRQOL outcome measures ought to be used in pediatric neurosurgery. The authors wished to identify HRQOL outcomes used in pediatric neurosurgery research over the past 10 years, their frequency, and usage trends.

METHODS

Three top pediatric neurosurgical journals were reviewed for the decade from 2005 to 2014 for clinical studies of pediatric neurosurgical procedures that report HRQOL outcomes. Similar studies in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics were also used as a benchmark. Publication year, level of evidence, and HRQOL outcomes were collected for each article.

RESULTS

A total of 31 HRQOL studies were published in the pediatric neurosurgical literature over the study period. By comparison, there were 55 such articles in Pediatrics. The number of publications using HRQOL instruments showed a significant positive trend over time for Pediatrics (B = 0.62, p = 0.02) but did not increase significantly over time for the 3 neurosurgical journals (B = 0.12, p = 0.5). The authors identified a total of 46 different HRQOL instruments used across all journals. Within the neurosurgical journals, the Hydrocephalus Outcome Questionnaire (HOQ) (24%) was the most frequently used, followed by the Health Utilities Index (HUI) (16%), the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) (12%), and the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) (12%). Of the 55 articles identified in Pediatrics, 22 (40%) used a version of the PedsQL. No neurosurgical study reached above Level 4 on the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (OCEBM) system. However, multiple studies from Pediatrics achieved OCEBM Level 3, several were categorized as Level 2, and one reached Level 1.

CONCLUSIONS

The frequency of studies using HRQOL outcomes in pediatric neurosurgical research has not increased over the past 10 years. Within pediatric neurosurgery, high-quality studies and standardization are lacking, as compared with contemporary studies in Pediatrics. In general, although the HOQ, HUI, PedsQL, and SF-36 instruments are emerging as standards in pediatric neurosurgery, even greater standardization across the specialty is needed, along with the design and implementation of more rigorous studies.

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Aditya Vedantam, Daniel Hansen, Valentina Briceño, Amee Moreno, Sheila L. Ryan and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to describe patterns of transfer, resource utilization, and clinical outcomes associated with the interhospital transfer of pediatric neurosurgical patients.

METHODS

All consecutive, prospectively collected requests for interhospital patient transfer to the pediatric neurosurgical service at Texas Children's Hospital were retrospectively analyzed from October 2013 to September 2014. Demographic patient information, resource utilization, and outcomes were recorded and compared across predefined strata (low [< 5%], moderate [5%–30%], and high [> 30%]) of predicted probability of mortality using the Pediatric Risk of Mortality score.

RESULTS

Requests for pediatric neurosurgical care comprised 400 (3.7%) of a total of 10,833 calls. Of 400 transfer admissions, 96.5%, 2.8%, and 0.8% were in the low, moderate, and high mortality risk groups, respectively. The median age was 54 months, and 45% were female. The median transit time was 125 minutes. The majority of transfers were after-hours (69.8%); nearly a third occurred during the weekend (32.3%). The median intensive care unit stay for 103 patients was 3 days (range 1–269 days). Median length of hospital stay was 2 days (range 1–269 days). Ninety patients (22.5%) were discharged from the emergency room after transfer. Seventy-seven patients (19.3%) required neurosurgical intervention after transfer, with the majority requiring a cranial procedure (66.2%); 87.3% of patients were discharged home.

CONCLUSIONS

This study highlights patient characteristics, resource utilization, and outcomes among pediatric neurosurgical patients. Opportunities for quality improvement were identified in diagnosing and managing isolated skull fractures and neck pain after trauma.

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Sohum K. Desai, Christina Sayama, Daniel Vener, Alison Brayton, Valentina Briceño, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

The authors have previously reported on their early experience with sublaminar polyester bands in spine surgery. In this paper, the authors describe the use of sublaminar polyester bands in long-segment posterior instrumented spinal fusions from the upper thoracic spine to the ilium in 21 children and transitional adults with progressive neuromuscular scoliosis. Transitional adults were patients older than 18 years of age with a spinal disorder of pediatric onset, such as spina bifida. This dedicated study represents the first reported use of polyester bands in spine surgery for neuromuscular scoliosis in this patient population in the US.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographics and procedural data of patients who underwent posterior instrumented fusion using sublaminar polyester bands for neuromuscular scoliosis.

RESULTS

Twenty-one pediatric and adult transitional patients, ranging in age from 10 to 20 years (mean 14 years), underwent posterior instrumented fusion for progressive neuromuscular scoliosis. The average coronal Cobb angle measured 66° before surgery (range 37°–125°). Immediately after surgery, the mean coronal Cobb angle was 40° (range 13°–85°). At last follow-up, the average coronal Cobb angle was maintained at 42° (range 5°–112°). Regarding sagittal parameters, thoracic kyphosis was restored by 8%, and lumbar lordosis improved by 20% after surgery. Mean follow-up duration was 17 months (range 2–54 months). One patient with an aborted procedure due to loss of intraoperative evoked potentials was excluded from the analysis of radiographic outcomes. Mean surgical time was 7 hours 43 minutes (range 3 hours 59 minutes to 10 hours 23 minutes). All patients received either a 12- or 24-mg dose of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2. Average estimated blood loss was 976 ml (range 300–2700 ml). Complications directly related to the use of sublaminar instrumentation included transient proprioceptive deficit (1 patient) and prolonged paraparesis (1 patient). Other complications noted in this series included disengagement of the rod from an iliac screw (1 patient), proximal junctional kyphosis (1 patient), noninfected wound drainage (2 patients), and perioperative death (1 patient). The lessons learned from these complications are discussed.

CONCLUSIONS

Pedicle screws, laminar/pedicle/transverse process hooks, and sublaminar metal wires have been incorporated into posterior spinal constructs and widely reported and used in the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum with varying success. This report demonstrates the satisfactory radiological outcomes of hybrid posterior spinal constructs in pediatric and adult neuromuscular scoliosis that include sublaminar polyester bands that promise the technical ease of passing sublaminar instrumentation with the immediate biomechanical rigidity of pedicle screws and hooks. However, the high neurological complication rate associated with this technique (2/21, or 10%) tempers the acceptable radiographic outcomes.

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John R. W. Kestle

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Caroline Hadley, Sandi K. Lam, Valentina Briceño, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

Currently there is no standardized tool for assessment of neurosurgical resident performance in the operating room. In light of enhanced requirements issued by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s Milestone Project and the Matrix Curriculum Project from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, the implementation of such a tool seems essential for objective evaluation of resident competence. Beyond compliance with governing body guidelines, objective assessment tools may be useful to direct early intervention for trainees performing below the level of their peers so that they may be given more hands-on teaching, while strong residents can be encouraged by faculty members to progress to conducting operations more independently with passive supervision. The aims of this study were to implement a validated assessment tool for evaluation of operative skills in pediatric neurosurgery and determine its feasibility and reliability.

METHODS

All neurosurgery residents completing their pediatric rotation over a 6-month period from January 1, 2014, to June 30, 2014, at the authors’ institution were enrolled in this study. For each procedure, residents were evaluated by means of a form, with one copy being completed by the resident and a separate copy being completed by the attending surgeon. The evaluation form was based on the validated Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills for Surgery (OSATS) and used a 5-point Likert-type scale with 7 categories: respect for tissue; time and motion; instrument handling; knowledge of instruments; flow of operation; use of assistants; and knowledge of specific procedure. Data were then stratified by faculty versus resident (self-) assessment; postgraduate year level; and difficulty of procedure. Descriptive statistics (means and SDs) were calculated, and the results were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test and Student t-test. A p value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS

Six faculty members, 1 fellow, and 8 residents completed evaluations for 299 procedures, including 32 ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt revisions, 23 VP shunt placements, 19 endoscopic third ventriculostomies, and 18 craniotomies for tumor resection. There was no significant difference between faculty and resident self-assessment scores overall or in any of the 7 domains scores for each of the involved residents. On self-assessment, senior residents scored themselves significantly higher (p < 0.02) than junior residents overall and in all domains except for “time and motion.” Faculty members scored senior residents significantly higher than junior residents only for the “knowledge of instruments” domain (p = 0.05). When procedure difficulty was considered, senior residents’ scores from faculty members were significantly higher (p = 0.04) than the scores given to junior residents for expert procedures only. Senior residents’ self-evaluation scores were significantly higher than those of junior residents for both expert (p = 0.03) and novice (p = 0.006) procedures.

CONCLUSIONS

OSATS is a feasible and reliable assessment tool for the comprehensive evaluation of neurosurgery resident performance in the operating room. The authors plan to use this tool to assess resident operative skill development and to improve direct resident feedback.

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Ben A. Strickland, Christina Sayama, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

In a previous study, the authors reported on their experience with the use of sublaminar polyester bands as part of segmental spinal constructs. However, the risk of neurological complications with sublaminar passage of instrumentation, such as spinal cord injury, limits the use of this technique. The present study reports the novel use of subtransverse process polyester bands in posterior instrumented spinal fusions of the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum or ilium in 4 patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographic and procedural data of patients who had undergone posterior instrumented fusion using subtransverse process polyester bands.

RESULTS

Four patients, ranging in age from 11 to 22 years, underwent posterior instrumented fusion for neuromuscular scoliosis (3 patients) and thoracic hyperkyphosis (1 patient). There were 3 instances of transverse process fracture, with application and tensioning of the polyester band in 1 patient. Importantly, there was no instance of spinal cord injury with subtransverse process passage of the polyester band. The lessons learned from this technique are discussed.

CONCLUSIONS

This study has shown the “Eleghia” technique of passing subtransverse process bands to be a technically straightforward and neurologically safe method of spinal fixation. Pedicle screws, laminar/pedicle/transverse process hooks, and sublaminar metal wires/bands have been incorporated into posterior spinal constructs; they have been widely reported and used in the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum or ilium with varying success. This report demonstrates the promising results of hybrid posterior spinal constructs that include the Eleghia technique of passing subtransverse process polyester bands. This technique incorporates technical ease with minimal risk of neurological injury and biomechanical stability.

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Guillermo Aldave, Daniel Hansen, Steven W. Hwang, Amee Moreno, Valentina Briceño and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

Tethered cord syndrome is the clinical manifestation of an abnormal stretch on the spinal cord, presumably causing mechanical injury, a compromised blood supply, and altered spinal cord metabolism. Tethered cord release is the standard treatment for tethered cord syndrome. However, direct untethering of the spinal cord carries potential risks, such as new neurological deficits from spinal cord injury, a CSF leak from opening the dura, and retethering of the spinal cord from normal scar formation after surgery. To avoid these risks, the authors applied spinal column shortening to children and transitional adults with primary and secondary tethered cord syndrome and report treatment outcomes. The authors' aim with this study was to determine the safety and efficacy of spinal column shortening for tethered cord syndrome by analyzing their experience with this surgical technique.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographic and procedural data of children and young adults who had undergone spinal column shortening for primary or secondary tethered cord syndrome.

RESULTS

Seven patients with tethered cord syndrome caused by myelomeningocele, lipomyelomeningocele, and transitional spinal lipoma were treated with spinal column shortening. One patient with less than 24 months of follow-up was excluded from further analysis. There were 3 males and 4 females; the average age at the time was surgery was 16 years (range 8–30 years). Clinical presentations for our patients included pain (in 5 patients), weakness (in 4 patients), and bowel/bladder dysfunction (in 4 patients). Spinal column osteotomy was most commonly performed at the L-1 level, with fusion between T-12 and L-2 using a pedicle screw-rod construct. Pedicle subtraction osteotomy was performed in 6 patients, and vertebral column resection was performed in 1 patient. The average follow-up period was 31 months (range 26–37 months). Computed tomography–based radiographic outcomes showed solid fusion and no instrumentation failure in all cases by the most recent follow-up. Five of 7 patients (71%) reported improvement in preoperative symptoms during the follow-up period. The mean differences in initial and most recent Scoliosis Research Society Outcomes Questionnaire and Oswestry Disability Index scores were 0.26 and –13%, respectively; minimum clinically important difference in SRS-22 and ODI were assumed to be 0.4% and –12.8%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Spinal column shortening seems to represent a safe and efficacious alternative to traditional untethering of the spinal cord for tethered cord syndrome.

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Sandi K. Lam, Christina Sayama, Dominic A. Harris, Valentina Briceño, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

Object

Current national patterns as a function of patient-, hospital-, and procedure-related factors, and complication rates in the use of recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein–2 (rhBMP-2) as an adjunct to the practice of pediatric spine surgery have scarcely been investigated.

Methods

The authors conducted a cross-sectional study using data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids' Inpatient Database. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression were used to calculate unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals, and p values < 0.05 were considered to be statistically significant.

Results

The authors identified 9538 hospitalizations in pediatric patients 20 years old or younger who had undergone spinal fusion in the US in 2009; 1541 of these admissions were associated with rhBMP-2 use. By multivariate logistic regression, the following factors were associated with rhBMP-2 use: patient age 15–20 years; length of hospital stay (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.01, p = 0.017); insurance status (private [aOR 1.49, p < 0.001] compared with Medicaid); hospital type (nonchildren's hospital); region (Midwest [aOR 2.49, p = 0.008] compared with Northeast); spinal refusion (aOR 2.20, p < 0.001); spinal fusion approach/segment (anterior lumbar [aOR 1.73, p < 0.001] and occipitocervical [aOR 1.86, p = 0.013] compared with posterior lumbar); short segment length (aOR 1.42, p = 0.016) and midlength (aOR 1.44, p = 0.005) compared with long; and preoperative diagnosis (Scheuermann kyphosis [aOR 1.56, p < 0.017] and spondylolisthesis [aOR 1.93, p < 0.001]).

Conclusions

Use of BMP in pediatric spine procedures now comprises more than 10% of pediatric spinal fusion. Patient-related (age, insurance type, diagnosis); hospital-related (children's hospital vs general hospital, region in the US); and procedure-related (redo fusion, anterior vs posterior approach, spinal levels, number of levels fused) factors are associated with the variation in BMP use in the US.

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Meng Huang, David D. Gonda, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

Upper airway obstruction resulting from overflexion of the craniocervical junction after occipitocervical fusion is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication and is associated with morbidity. The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records and diagnostic images of 2 pediatrie patients who underwent occipitocervical fusion by the Neuro-Spine Program at Texas Children’s Hospital and experienced dyspnea and/or dysphagia from new upper airway obstruction in the postoperative period. Patient demographics, operative data, and preoperative and postoperative occiput-C2 angles were recorded. A review of the literature for similar complications after occipitocervical fusion was performed. A total of 13 cases of prolonged upper airway obstruction after occipitocervical fusion were analyzed. Most of these cases involved adults with rheumatoid arthritis. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there have been no previous reports of prolonged upper airway obstruction in children after an occipitocervical fusion. Fixation of the neck in increased flexion (−18° to −5°) was a common finding among these adult and pediatrie cases. The authors’ cases involved children with micrognathia and comparatively large tongues, which may predispose the oropharynx to obstruction with even the slightest amount of increased flexion. Close attention to a satisfactory fixation angle (occiput-C2 angle) is necessary to avoid airway obstruction after an occipitocervical fusion. Children with micrognathia are particularly sensitive to changes in flexion at the craniocervical junction after occipitocervical fixation.