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Cover Neurosurgical Focus: Video

Microsurgical resection of an anterior medullary arteriovenous malformation

Joshua S. Catapano, Rohin Singh, Visish M. Srinivasan, and Michael T. Lawton

Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in the brainstem, specifically medullary AVMs, are exceedingly rare and difficult to treat. These lesions are commonly more aggressive than supratentorial AVMs and pose their own unique treatment challenges. Current treatment options for these AVMs consist of endovascular embolization or open surgery. Radiosurgery is not favored because it is associated with potential risk to the brainstem and lower obliteration rates. Here the authors report the case of a 27-year-old man with a ruptured anterior medullary AVM. The patient underwent a successful far-lateral craniotomy for resection of the AVM.

The video can be found here: https://youtu.be/lyOfOQ3sBdU

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Cover Journal of Neurosurgery

The middle communicating artery: a novel fourth-generation bypass for revascularizing trapped middle cerebral artery bifurcation aneurysms in 2 cases

Fabio A. Frisoli, Joshua S. Catapano, Jacob F. Baranoski, and Michael T. Lawton

The anterior and posterior communicating arteries are natural connections between arteries that enable different adjacent circulations to redistribute blood flow instantly in response to changing supply and demand. An analogous communication does not exist in the middle cerebral circulation. A middle communicating artery (MCoA) can be created microsurgically between separate middle cerebral artery (MCA) trunks, enabling flow to redistribute in response to changing supply and demand. The MCoA would draw blood flow from an adjacent circulation such as the external carotid circulation. The MCoA requires the application of fourth-generation techniques to reconstruct bi- and trifurcations after occluding complex MCA trunk aneurysms. In this report, the authors describe two recent cases of complex MCA bi- and trifurcation aneurysms in which the occluded efferent trunks were revascularized by creating an MCoA.

The first MCoA was created with a “double-barrel” superficial temporal artery–M2 segment bypass and end-to-end reimplantation of the middle and inferior MCA trunks. The second MCoA was created with an external carotid artery–radial artery graft–M2 segment interpositional bypass and end-to-side reimplantation of the inferior trunk onto the superior trunk. Both aneurysms were occluded, and both patients experienced good outcomes.

This report introduces the concept of the MCoA and demonstrates two variations. Angioarchitectural and technical elements include the donation of flow from an adjacent circulation, a communicating bypass, the application of fourth-generation bypass techniques, and a minimized ischemia time. The MCoA construct is ideally suited for rebuilding bi- and trifurcated anatomy after trapping or distally occluding complex MCA aneurysms.

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Cover Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine

Outpatient outcomes of patients with femoral nerve neurapraxia after prone lateral lumbar interbody fusion at L4–5

Clinton D. Morgan, Gennadiy A. Katsevman, Jakub Godzik, Joshua S. Catapano, Courtney Hemphill, Jay D. Turner, and Juan S. Uribe

OBJECTIVE

Single-position prone lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) improves the efficiency of staged minimally invasive lumbar spine surgery. However, laterally approaching the lumbar spine, especially L4–5 with the patient in the prone position, could increase the risk of complications and presents unique challenges, including difficult ergonomics, psoas migration, and management of the nearby lumbar plexus. The authors sought to identify postoperative femoral neurapraxia after single-position prone LLIF at L4–5 to better understand how symptoms evolve over time.

METHODS

This retrospective analysis examined a prospectively maintained database of LLIF patients who were treated by two surgeons (J.S.U. and J.D.T.). Patients who underwent single-position prone LLIF at L4–5 and percutaneous pedicle screw fixation for lumbar stenosis or spondylolisthesis were included if they had at least 6 weeks of follow-up. Outpatient postoperative neurological symptoms were analyzed at 6-week, 3-month, and 6-month follow-up evaluations.

RESULTS

Twenty-nine patients (16 women [55%]; overall mean ± SD age 62 ± 11 years) met the inclusion criteria. Five patients (17%) experienced complications, including 1 (3%) who had a femoral nerve injury with resultant motor weakness. The mean ± SD transpsoas retractor time was 14.6 ± 6.1 minutes, the directional anterior electromyography (EMG) threshold before retractor placement was 20.1 ± 10.2 mA, and the directional posterior EMG threshold was 10.4 ± 9.1 mA. All patients had 6-week clinical follow-up evaluations. Ten patients (34%) reported thigh pain or weakness at their 6-week follow-up appointment, compared with 3/27 (11%) at 3 months and 1/20 (5%) at 6 months. No association was found between directional EMG threshold and neurapraxia, but longer transpsoas retractor time at L4–5 was significantly associated with femoral neurapraxia at 6-week follow-up (p = 0.02). The only case of femoral nerve injury with motor weakness developed in a patient with a retractor time that was nearly twice as long as the mean time (27.0 vs 14.6 minutes); however, this patient fully recovered by the 3-month follow-up evaluation.

CONCLUSIONS

To our knowledge, this is the largest study with the longest follow-up duration to date after single-position prone LLIF at L4–5 with percutaneous pedicle screw fixation. Although 34% of patients reported ipsilateral sensory symptoms in the thigh at the 6-week follow-up evaluation, only 1 patient sustained a nerve injury; this resulted in temporary weakness that resolved by the 3-month follow-up evaluation. Thus, longer transpsoas retractor time at L4–5 during prone LLIF is associated with increased ipsilateral thigh symptoms at 6-week follow-up that may resolve over time.

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Cover Journal of Neurosurgery

Expanding the reach of the trans–middle cerebellar peduncle approach: pontine cavernous malformations, tissue transgression beyond the safe entry zone, and the invisible triangle

Christopher S. Graffeo, Visish M. Srinivasan, Lea Scherschinski, Dimitri Benner, Katherine Karahalios, Diego A. Devia, Joshua S. Catapano, and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

In the authors’ microsurgical experience, the trans–middle cerebellar peduncle (MCP) approach to the lateral and central pons has been the most common approach to brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs). This approach through a well-tolerated safe entry zone (SEZ) allows a wide vertical or posterior trajectory, reaching pontine lesions extending into the midbrain, medulla, and pontine tegmentum. Better understanding of the relationships among lesion location, surgical trajectory, and long-term clinical outcomes could determine areas of safe passage.

METHODS

A single-surgeon cohort study of all primary trans-MCP BSCM resections was conducted from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2021. Preoperative and postoperative MR images were independently reviewed by 3 investigators blinded to the intervention, using a standardized rubric to define BSCM regions of interest (ROIs) involved with a lesion or microsurgical tract. Statistical testing, including the chi-square test with the Bonferroni correction, logistic regression, and structural equation modeling, was performed to analyze relationships between ROIs and clinical outcomes.

RESULTS

Thirty-one patients underwent primary trans-MCP BSCM resection during the study period. The median age was 50 years (IQR 24–49 years); 19 (61%) patients were female, and 12 (39%) were male. Seven (23%) patients had familial cavernous malformation syndromes. The median follow-up was 9 months (range 6–37 months). At the last follow-up, composite neurological outcomes were favorable: 22 (71%) patients had 0 (n = 12, 39%) or 1 (n = 10, 32%) major persistent deficit, 5 patients (16%) had 2 deficits, 2 (7%) had 3 deficits, and 1 patient each (3%) had 4 or 6 deficits. Unfavorable composite outcomes were significantly associated with lesions (OR 7.14, p = 0.04) or surgical tracts (OR 12.18, p < 0.001) extending from the superior cerebellar peduncle (SCP) into the contralateral medial midbrain. The ipsilateral dorsal pons was the most frequently implicated ROI involving a surgical tract and the development of new postoperative deficits. This region involved the rhomboid pontine territory and transgression of the pontine tegmentum (OR 7.53, p < 0.001). Structural equation modeling supported medial midbrain and pontine tegmentum transgression as the primary drivers of morbidity.

CONCLUSIONS

Trans-MCP resection is a safe and effective treatment for BSCMs, including lesions with marked superior or inferior ipsilateral extension. Two trajectories are associated with increased neurological risk: first, a superomedial trajectory to lesions extending into the midbrain that transgresses the SCP, its decussation, or both; and second, a posteromedial trajectory to lesions extending into the pontine tegmentum. The corticospinal tract, SCP, and pontine tegmentum form an invisible triangle within the pontine white matter tolerant of transgression. When the surgeon works within this triangle, most deep pontine BSCMs, including large lesions, those with contralateral or posterior extension, and others extending into the midbrain and medulla, can be resected safely with the trans-MCP approach.

Open access

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Cover Journal of Neurosurgery: Case Lessons

Coccidioidal meningitis with multiple aneurysms presenting with pseudo–subarachnoid hemorrhage: illustrative case

Rohin Singh, Visish M. Srinivasan, Joshua S. Catapano, Joseph D. DiDomenico, Jacob F. Baranoski, and Michael T. Lawton

BACKGROUND

Coccidioidomycosis is a primarily self-limiting fungal disease endemic to the western United States and South America. However, severe disseminated infection can occur. The authors report a severe case of coccidioidal meningitis that appeared to be a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) on initial inspection.

OBSERVATIONS

A man in his early 40s was diagnosed with coccidioidal pneumonia after presenting with pulmonary symptoms. After meningeal spread characterized by declining mental status and hydrocephalus, coccidioidal meningitis was diagnosed. The uniquely difficult aspect of this case was the deceptive appearance of SAH due to the presence of multiple aneurysms and blood draining from the patient’s external ventricular drain.

LESSONS

Coccidioidal infection likely led to the formation of multiple intracranial aneurysms in this patient. Although few reports exist of coccidioidal meningitis progressing to aneurysm formation, patients should be closely monitored for this complication because outcomes are poor. The presence of basal cistern hyperdensities from a coccidioidal infection mimicking SAH makes interpreting imaging difficult. Surgical management of SAH can be considered safe and viable, especially when the index of suspicion is high, such as in the presence of multiple aneurysms. Even if it is unclear whether aneurysmal rupture has occurred, prompt treatment is advisable.

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Cover Neurosurgical Focus

Surgical selection and outcomes among elderly patients with brain arteriovenous malformations

Jan-Karl Burkhardt, Ethan A. Winkler, Joshua S. Catapano, Robert F. Spetzler, and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

Studies of resection of brain arteriovenous malformations (AVMs) in the elderly population are scarce. This study examined factors influencing patient selection and surgical outcome among elderly patients.

METHODS

Patients 65 years of age and older who underwent resection of an unruptured or ruptured brain AVM treated by two surgeons at two centers were identified. Patient demographic characteristics, AVM characteristics, clinical presentation, and outcomes measured using the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) were analyzed. For subgroup analyses, patients were dichotomized into two age groups (group 1, 65–69 years old; group 2, ≥ 70 years old).

RESULTS

Overall, 112 patients were included in this study (group 1, n = 61; group 2, n = 51). Most of the patients presented with hemorrhage (71%), a small nidus (< 3 cm, 79%), and a low Spetzler-Martin (SM) grade (grade I or II, 63%) and were favorable surgical candidates according to the supplemented SM grade (supplemented SM grade < 7, 79%). A smaller AVM nidus was statistically significantly more likely to be present in patients with infratentorial AVMs (p = 0.006) and with a compact AVM nidus structure (p = 0.02). A larger AVM nidus was more likely to be treated with preoperative embolization (p < 0.001). Overall outcome was favorable (mRS scores 0–3) in 71% of the patients and was statistically independent from age group or AVM grading. Patients with ruptured AVMs at presentation had significantly better preoperative mRS scores (p < 0.001) and more favorable mRS scores at the last follow-up (p = 0.04) than patients with unruptured AVMs.

CONCLUSIONS

Outcomes were favorable after AVM resection in both groups of patients. Elderly patients with brain AVMs treated microsurgically were notable for small nidus size, AVM rupture, and low SM grades. Microsurgical resection is an important treatment modality for elderly patients with AVMs, and supplemented SM grading is a useful tool for the selection of patients who are most likely to achieve good neurological outcomes after resection.

Open access

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Cover Neurosurgical Focus: Video

Posterior interhemispheric occipital transtentorial approach for resection of a falcotentorial meningioma

Visish M. Srinivasan, Joshua S. Catapano, John P. Sheehy, Mohamed A. Labib, and Michael T. Lawton

Falcotentorial meningiomas arise along the junction of the falx cerebri and the tentorium cerebelli. The authors present a woman in her 60s with an incidentally discovered falcotentorial meningioma, approximately 3 cm in diameter, resected with a torcular craniotomy and posterior interhemispheric approach. The galenic complex was dissected away from the tumor. In the final view, the bilateral internal cerebral veins and basal veins of Rosenthal were seen. A Simpson grade I resection was achieved. The patient experienced transient contralateral hemianopsia and was discharged home. At 1-year follow-up, her neurological examination findings were unremarkable, and there was no radiographic evidence of tumor.

The video can be found here: https://stream.cadmore.media/r10.3171/2021.4.FOCVID2125.

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Cover Neurosurgical Focus: Video

Thoracic laminectomy and midline myelotomy for resection of a spinal ependymoma

Lea Scherschinski, Ethan A. Winkler, Charuta G. Furey, Timothy C. Gooldy, Joshua S. Catapano, and Michael T. Lawton

Spinal cord ependymomas comprise 25% of all intramedullary tumors and are typically treated with resection. A man in his mid-60s presented with imbalance and sensory deficits in both lower extremities, and a spinal thoracic intramedullary ependymoma spanning the levels T2 and T3 was diagnosed. After a laminectomy was performed, the tumor was microsurgically resected, and the patient demonstrated no neurological deficits on postoperative examination. Subsequent MRI showed complete resection of the tumor. This video showcases a thoracic intramedullary ependymoma resected using careful microdissection into the median raphe as a safe entry zone to preserve neurological function.

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Cover Journal of Neurosurgery

A taxonomy for brainstem cavernous malformations: subtypes of midbrain lesions

Joshua S. Catapano, Kavelin Rumalla, Visish M. Srinivasan, Peter M. Lawrence, Kristen Larson Keil, and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECTIVE

Anatomical taxonomy is a practical tool that has successfully guided clinical decision-making for patients with brain arteriovenous malformations. Brainstem cavernous malformations (BSCMs) are similarly complex lesions that are difficult to access and highly variable in size, shape, and position. The authors propose a novel taxonomy for midbrain cavernous malformations based on clinical presentation (syndromes) and anatomical location (identified with MRI).

METHODS

The taxonomy system was developed and applied to an extensive 2-surgeon experience over a 30-year period (1990–2019). Of 551 patients with appropriate data who underwent microsurgical resection of BSCMs, 151 (27.4%) had midbrain lesions. These lesions were further subtyped on the basis of predominant surface presentation identified on preoperative MRI. Five distinct subtypes of midbrain BSCMs were defined: interpeduncular (7 lesions [4.6%]), peduncular (37 [24.5%]), tegmental (73 [48.3%]), quadrigeminal (27 [17.9%]), and periaqueductal (7 [4.6%]). Neurological outcomes were assessed using modified Rankin Scale (mRS) scores. A postoperative score ≤ 2 was defined as a favorable outcome; a score > 2 was defined as a poor outcome. Clinical and surgical characteristics and neurological outcomes were compared among subtypes.

RESULTS

Each midbrain BSCM subtype was associated with a recognizable constellation of neurological symptoms. Patients with interpeduncular lesions commonly presented with ipsilateral oculomotor nerve palsy and contralateral cerebellar ataxia or dyscoordination. Peduncular lesions were associated with contralateral hemiparesis and ipsilateral oculomotor nerve palsy. Patients with tegmental lesions were the most likely to present with contralateral sensory deficits, whereas those with quadrigeminal lesions commonly presented with the features of Parinaud syndrome. Periaqueductal lesions were the most likely to cause obstructive hydrocephalus. A single surgical approach was preferred (> 90% of cases) for each midbrain subtype: interpeduncular (transsylvian-interpeduncular approach [7/7 lesions]), peduncular (transsylvian-transpeduncular [24/37]), tegmental (lateral supracerebellar-infratentorial [73/73]), quadrigeminal (midline or paramedian supracerebellar-infratentorial [27/27]), and periaqueductal (transcallosal-transchoroidal fissure [6/7]). Favorable outcomes (mRS score ≤ 2) were observed in most patients (110/136 [80.9%]) with follow-up data. No significant differences in outcomes were observed between subtypes (p = 0.92).

CONCLUSIONS

The study confirmed the authors’ hypothesis that taxonomy for midbrain BSCMs can meaningfully guide the selection of surgical approach and resection strategy. The proposed taxonomy can increase diagnostic acumen at the patient bedside, help identify optimal surgical approaches, enhance the consistency of clinical communications and publications, and improve patient outcomes.

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Cover Journal of Neurosurgery

Letter to the Editor. Treatment of unruptured ophthalmic artery aneurysms

Lesheng Wang, Shengrong Long, and Bangkun Yang