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  • Author or Editor: Vernard S. Fennell x
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Walter Montanera

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Vernard S. Fennell, Sheri Palejwala, Jesse Skoch, David A. Stidd and Ali A. Baaj


Experience with freehand thoracic pedicle screw placement is well described in the literature. Published techniques rely on various starting points and trajectories for each level or segment of the thoracic spine. Furthermore, few studies provide specific guidance on sagittal and axial trajectories. The goal of this study was to propose a uniform entry point and sagittal trajectory for all thoracic levels during freehand pedicle screw placement and determine the accuracy of this technique.


The authors retrospectively reviewed postoperative CT scans of 33 consecutive patients who underwent open, freehand thoracic pedicle-screw fixation using a uniform entry point and sagittal trajectory for all levels. The same entry point for each level was defined as a point 3 mm caudal to the junction of the transverse process and the lateral margin of the superior articulating process, and the sagittal trajectory was always orthogonal to the dorsal curvature of the spine at that level. The medial angulation (axial trajectory) was approximately 30° at T-1 and T-2, and 20° from T-3 to T-12. Breach was defined as greater than 25% of the screw diameter residing outside of the pedicle or vertebral body.


A total of 219 thoracic pedicle screws were placed with a 96% accuracy rate. There were no medial breaches and 9 minor lateral breaches (4.1%). None of the screws had to be repositioned postoperatively, and there were no neurovascular complications associated with the breaches.


It is feasible to place freehand thoracic pedicle screws using a uniform entry point and sagittal trajectory for all levels. The entry point does not have to be adjusted for each level as reported in existing studies, although this technique was not tested in severe scoliotic spines. While other techniques are effective and widely used, this particular method provides more specific parameters and may be easier to learn, teach, and adopt.

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Vernard S. Fennell, Nikolay L. Martirosyan, Sheri K. Palejwala, G. Michael Lemole Jr. and Travis M. Dumont


Endovascular treatment of cerebrovascular pathology, particularly aneurysms, is becoming more prevalent. There is a wide variety in clinical background and training of physicians who treat cerebrovascular pathology through endovascular means. The impact of clinical training background on patient outcomes is not well documented.


The authors conducted a retrospective analysis of a large national database, the University HealthSystem Consortium, that was queried in the years 2009–2013. Cases of both unruptured cerebral aneurysms and subarachnoid hemorrhage treated by endovascular obliteration were studied. Outcome measures of morbidity and mortality were evaluated according to the specialty of the treating physician.


Elective embolization of an unruptured aneurysm was the procedure code and primary diagnosis, respectively, for 12,400 cases. Patients with at least 1 complication were reported in 799 cases (6.4%). Deaths were reported in 193 cases (1.6%). Complications and deaths were varied by specialty; the highest incidence of complications (11.1%) and deaths (3.0%) were reported by neurologists. The fewest complications were reported by neurosurgeons (5.4%; 1.4% deaths), with a higher incidence of complications reported in cases performed by neurologists (p < 0.0001 for both complications and deaths) and to a lesser degree interventional radiologists (p = 0.0093 for complications). Subarachnoid hemorrhage was the primary diagnosis and procedure for 8197 cases. At least 1 complication was reported in 2385 cases (29%) and deaths in 983 cases (12%). The number of complications and deaths varied among specialties. The highest incidence of complications (34%) and deaths (13.5%) in subarachnoid hemorrhage was in cases performed by neurologists. The fewest complications were in cases by neurosurgeons (27%), with a higher incidence of complications in cases performed by neurologists (34%, p < 0.0001), and a trend of increased complications with interventional radiologists (30%, p < 0.0676). The lowest incidence of mortality was in cases performed by neurosurgeons (11.5%), with a significantly higher incidence of mortality in cases performed by neurologists (13.5%, p = 0.0372). Mortality rates did not reach statistical significance with respect to interventional radiologists (12.1%, p = 0.4884).


Physicians of varied training types and backgrounds use endovascular treatment of ruptured and unruptured intracerebral aneurysms. In this study there was a statistically significant finding that neurosurgically trained physicians may demonstrate improved outcomes with respect to endovascular treatment of unruptured aneurysms in this cohort. This finding warrants further investigation.

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Mauricio J. Avila, Jesse Skoch, Vernard S. Fennell, Sheri K. Palejwala, Christina M. Walter, Samuel Kim and Ali A. Baaj

Primary bone tumors of the spine are rare entities with a poor prognosis if left untreated. En bloc excision is the preferred surgical approach to minimize the rate of recurrence. Paraspinal primary bone tumors are even less common. In this technical note the authors present an approach to the en bloc resection of primary bone tumors of the paraspinal thoracic region with posterior vertebral body hemiosteotomies and lateral thoracotomy. They also describe 2 illustrative cases.

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Philip M. Meyers, Randall T. Higashida, Cameron G. McDougall, M. Shazam Hussein, Joshua A. Hirsch and Peter A. Rasmussen