Neurosurgery Blog


Daily bibliographic review of the Neurosurgery Department. La Fe University Hospital. Valencia, Spain

Motorcycle helmets and cervical spine injuries

J Neurosurg Spine 28:607–611, 2018

Motorcycle helmets have been shown to decrease the incidence and severity of traumatic brain injury due to motorcycle crashes. Despite this proven efficacy, some previous reports and speculation suggest that helmet use is associated with a higher likelihood of cervical spine injury (CSI). In this study, the authors examine 1061 cases of motorcycle crash victims who were treated during a 5-year period at a Level 1 trauma center to investigate the association of helmet use with the incidence and severity of CSI. The authors hypothesized that wearing a motorcycle helmet during a motorcycle crash is not associated with an increased risk of CSI and may provide some protective advantage to the wearer.

METHODS The authors performed a retrospective review of all cases in which the patient had been involved in a motorcycle crash and was evaluated at a single Level 1 trauma center in Wisconsin between January 1, 2010, and January 1, 2015. Biometric, clinical, and imaging data were obtained from a trauma registry database. The patients were then divided into 2 distinct groups based on whether or not they were wearing helmets at the time of the accident. Baseline and functional characteristics were compared between the 2 groups. The Student t-test was used for continuous variables, and Pearson’s chi-square analysis was used for categorical variables.

RESULTS In total, 1061 patient charts were examined containing data on 738 unhelmeted (69.6%) and 323 helmeted (30.4%) motorcycle riders. On average, helmeted riders had a much lower Injury Severity Score (p < 0.001). Cervical spine injury occurred in 114 unhelmeted riders (15.4%) compared with only 24 helmeted riders (7.4%) (p < 0.001), with an adjusted odds ratio of 2.3 (95% CI 1.44–3.61, p = 0.0005). In the unhelmeted group, 10.8% of patients were found to have a cervical spine fracture compared with only 4.6% of patients in the helmeted group (p = 0.001). Additionally, ligamentous injury occurred more frequently in unhelmeted riders (1.9% vs 0.3%, p = 0.04). No difference was found in the occurrence of cervical strain, cord contusion, or nerve root injury (all p > 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS The results of this study demonstrate a statistically significant lower likelihood of suffering a CSI among helmeted motorcyclists. Unhelmeted riders sustained a statistically significant higher number of vertebral fractures and ligamentous injuries. The study findings reported here confirm the authors’ hypothesis that helmet use does not increase the risk of developing a cervical spine fracture and may provide some protective advantage.

Management of Odontoid Fractures in the Elderly

Neurosurgery 82:419–430, 2018

Odontoid fractures are the most common fracture of the axis and the most common cervical spine fracture in patients over 65. Despite their frequency, there is considerable ambiguity regarding optimal management strategies for these fractures in the elderly. Poor bone health and medical comorbidities contribute to increased surgical risk in this population; however, nonoperative management is associated with a risk of nonunion or fibrous union.

We provide a review of the existing literature and discuss the classi- fication and evaluation of odontoid fractures. The merits of operative vs nonoperative management, fibrous union, and the choice of operative approach in elderly patients are discussed. A treatment algorithm is presented based on the available literature.

We believe that type I and type III odontoid fractures can be managed in a collar in most cases. Type II fractures with any additonal risk factors for nonunion (displacement, comminution, etc) should be considered for surgical management. However, the risks of surgery in an elderly population must be carefully considered on a case-by-case basis. In a frail elderly patient, a fibrous nonunion with close follow-up is an acceptable outcome. If operative management is chosen, a posterior approach is should be chosen when fracture- or patient-related factors make an anterior approach challenging.

The high levels of morbidity and mortality associated with odontoid fractures should encourage all providers to pursue medical co- management and optimization of bone health following diagnosis.

Patterns of C-2 fracture in the elderly: comparison of etiology, treatment, and mortality among speci c fracture types

J Neurosurg Spine 27:494–500, 2017

Previous studies have focused on Type II odontoid fractures and have failed to report on the effect of other C-2 fracture types on treatment and outcome. The purpose of this study was to compare patient characteristics, cause of injury, predisposing factors to fracture, treatments, and mortality rates among C-2 fracture types in a cohort of elderly patients 70 years of age and older.

METHODS A retrospective cohort study design was used. Patients who sustained a C-2 fracture between 2002 and 2011 and who were admitted to the authors’ Level 1 trauma center were identified using the Discharge Abstract Database and the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD-10) code S12.1. Fractures were classified as odontoid Type I, II, or III; hangman’s; C-2 complex (hangman’s appearance on sagittal images, Type III odontoid on coronal cuts); and other (miscellaneous). Age, sex, predisposing factors to falls, cause of injury, treatment, presence of autofusion in the subaxial cervical spine, and mortality rates were compared between fracture patterns.

RESULTS One hundred forty-one patients were included; their mean age was 82 years. Fractures included Type II odontoid (57%), complex (19%), Type III odontoid (11%), hangman’s (8%), and other (5%). Falls from a standing height accounted for 47% of injuries, and 65% of patients had ≥ 3 risk factors for falls. Subaxial autofusion was more common in odontoid fractures (p = 0.002). Treatment was mainly nonoperative (p < 0.0001). The 1-year mortality rate was 27%. Four patients died of spinal cord injury.

CONCLUSIONS Although not as common as Type II odontoid fractures, other C-2 fractures including hangman’s, complex, and Type III odontoid fractures accounted for close to half of the injuries in the study cohort. There were few differences between the fracture types with respect to cause of injury, predisposing factors, or mortality rate. However, surgical treatment was more common for Type II odontoid fractures.

Elective ICP monitoring: how long is long enough?

Acta Neurochir (2017) 159:485–490

Intracranial pressure monitoring is commonly undertaken to assess and manage acute patients following head injury. However, ICP monitoring can also be a useful diagnostic tool in the management of CSF dynamics in elective patients. To date, there is little published research to suggest how long these elective patients require ICP monitoring in order to gain an accurate picture of a patient’s ICP dynamics. At the author’s institution, a minimum of 48-h data collection is currently undertaken in patients with a suspected ICP abnormality.

Methods A retrospective audit was undertaken comparing overall median ICP and overall median pulse amplitude data at three time points, 24 h, 48 h and total time analysed (if longer than 48 h). Paired T-test was used to assess if there were statistically significant differences between 24-h versus 48-h monitoring and total duration of monitoring. All patients admitted over a 6-month period for ICPM who met the inclusion/exclusion criteria were included.

Results Eighteen patients met the criteria. Median age was 45.8 years, range 22–83 years, 12 female and 6 male. No complications were experienced as a result of ICPM. Diagnosis included NPH, IIH, suspected shunt malfunction and Chiari malformation. The results demonstrated that there is no statistical difference between 24 h and 48 h or longer for both overall median ICP and pulse amplitude.

Conclusion The results of this study demonstrate that ICP monitoring of elective adult patients using a Spiegelberg intraparenchymal bolt for 24 h gives an accurate picture of a patient’s ICP dynamics compared with longer periods of monitoring.

Guidelines for the Management of Severe Traumatic Brain Injury, Fourth Edition

Neurosurgery 80:6–15, 2017

The scope and purpose of this work is 2-fold: to synthesize the available evidence and to translate it into recommendations. This document provides recommendations only when there is evidence to support them. As such, they do not constitute a complete protocol for clinical use.

Our intention is that these recommendations be used by others to develop treatment protocols, which necessarily need to incorporate consensus and clinical judgment in areas where current evidence is lacking or insu cient.

We think it is important to have evidence-based recommendations to clarify what aspects of practice currently can and cannot be supported by evidence, to encourage use of evidence-based treatments that exist, and to encourage creativity in treatment and research in areas where evidence does not exist.

The communities of neurosurgery and neuro-intensive care have been early pioneers and supporters of evidence-based medicine and plan to continue in this endeavor. The complete guideline document, which summarizes and evaluates the literature for each topic, and supplemental appendices (A-I) are available online at

Prognostic value of corpus callosum injuries in severe head trauma

Acta Neurochir (2017) 159:25–32

This study was performed to investigate the relationship between corpus callosum (CC) injury and prognosis in traumatic axonal injury (TAI).

Method: We retrospectively reviewed 264 patients with severe head trauma who underwent a conventional MR imaging in the first 60 days after injury. They were selected from a prospectively collected database of 1048 patients with severe head trauma admitted in our hospital. TAI lesions were defined as areas of increased signal intensity on T2 and FLAIR or areas of decreased signal on gradient-echo T2. We attempted to determine whether any MR imaging findings of TAI lesions at CC could be related to prognosis. Neurological impairment was assessed at 1 year after injury by means of GOS-E (good outcome being GOS-E 4/5 and bad outcome being GOS-E <4). We adjusted the multivariable analysis for the prognostic factors according to the IMPACT studies: the Core model (age, motor score at admission, and pupillary reactivity) and the Extended model (including CT information and second insults).

Results: We found 97 patients (37 %) with TAI at CC and 167 patients (63 %) without CC lesions at MR. A total of 62 % of the patients with CC lesions had poor outcome, whereas 38 % showed good prognosis. The presence of TAI lesions at the corpus callosum was associated with poor outcome 1 year after brain trauma (p < 0.001, OR 3.8, 95 % CI: 2.04–7.06). The volume of CC lesions measured on T2 and FLAIR se- quences was negatively correlated with the GOS-E after ad- justment for independent prognostic factors (p = 0.01, OR 2.23, 95 % CI:1.17–4.26). Also the presence of lesions at splenium was statistically related to worse prognosis (p = 0.002, OR 8.1, 95 % CI: 2.2–29.82). We did not find statistical significance in outcome between hemorrhagic and non-hemorrhagic CC lesions.

Conclusions: The presence of CC is associated with a poor outcome. The total volume of the CC lesion is an independent prognostic factor for poor outcome in severe head trauma.

Surgical Management of the Elderly With Traumatic Cervical Spinal Cord Injury


Neurosurgery 79:418–425, 2016

Aging of the population has modified the epidemiology of traumatic spinal cord injury (SCI) as evidenced by the establishment of a bimodal distribution of injuries with increased frequency of fall-related injuries among the elderly.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the economic impact of older age (65 years of age and older), using a cost-utility analysis, in the context of acute surgical management and rehabilitation of traumatic cervical SCI, given the paucity of economic studies involving elderly individuals with SCI.

METHODS: The cost-utility analysis was performed from the perspective of a public health care insurer. A time horizon of 6 months from SCI onset was used. Costs were estimated in 2014 US dollars. Utilities were generated from the Surgical Timing in Acute Spinal Cord Injury study.

RESULTS: The baseline analysis indicated that surgical and rehabilitative management of acute cervical SCI in the elderly (n = 17) is costlier, but similarly effective, than that in younger adults (n = 47). When considering acute spinal surgical management and rehabilitation of younger adults with SCI as the baseline, the incremental costeffectiveness ratio analysis revealed an additional cost of $5 655 557 per quality-adjusted life-year gained when managing elderly patients with traumatic cervical SCI. The probabilistic analysis confirmed that spinal surgery in the elderly is costlier, but similarly effective, in younger adults after SCI, even though there is no definitive dominance.

CONCLUSION: This economic analysis indicates that surgical management and rehabilitation of acute traumatic cervical SCI in the elderly are costlier but similarly effective compared with younger adults with similar impairment.

Rotterdam ct scores before decompressive craniectomy

CT score TBI

J Neurosurg 124:1640–1645, 2016

Rotterdam CT scoring is a CT classification system for grouping patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) based on multiple CT characteristics. This retrospective study aimed to determine the relationship between initial or preoperative Rotterdam CT scores and TBI prognosis after decompressive craniectomy (DC).

Methods: The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all consecutive patients who underwent DC for nonpenetrating TBI in 2 hospitals from January 2006 through December 2013. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression and receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analyses were used to determine the relationship between initial or preoperative Rotterdam CT scores and mortality at 30 days or Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) scores at least 3 months after the time of injury. Unfavorable outcomes were GOS Scores 1–3 and favorable outcomes were GOS Scores 4 and 5.

Results: A total of 48 cases involving patients who underwent DC for TBI were included in this study. Univariate analyses showed that initial Rotterdam CT scores were significantly associated with mortality and both initial and preoperative Rotterdam CT scores were significantly associated with unfavorable outcomes. Multivariable logistic regression analysis adjusted for established predictors of TBI outcomes showed that initial Rotterdam CT scores were significantly associated with mortality (OR 4.98, 95% CI 1.40–17.78, p = 0.01) and unfavorable outcomes (OR 3.66, 95% CI 1.29–10.39, p = 0.02) and preoperative Rotterdam CT scores were significantly associated with unfavorable outcomes (OR 15.29, 95% CI 2.50–93.53, p = 0.003). ROC curve analyses showed cutoff values for the initial Rotterdam CT score of 5.5 (area under the curve [AUC] 0.74, 95% CI 0.59–0.90, p = 0.009, sensitivity 50.0%, and specificity 88.2%) for mortality and 4.5 (AUC 0.71, 95% CI 0.56–0.86, p = 0.02, sensitivity 62.5%, and specificity 75.0%) for an unfavorable outcome and a cutoff value for the preoperative Rotterdam CT score of 4.5 (AUC 0.81, 95% CI 0.69–0.94, p < 0.001, sensitivity 90.6%, and specificity 56.2%) for an unfavorable outcome.

Conclusions: Assessment of changes in Rotterdam CT scores over time may serve as a prognostic indicator in TBI and can help determine which patients require DC.

Combined vascularized tissue flaps for skull base fracture repair

Extensive traumatic anterior skull base fractures with cerebrospinal fluid leak

J Neurosurg 124:647–656, 2016

This article introduces a classification scheme for extensive traumatic anterior skull base fracture to help stratify surgical treatment options. The authors describe their multilayer repair technique for cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak resulting from extensive anterior skull base fracture using a combination of laterally pediculated temporalis fascial– pericranial, nasoseptal-pericranial, and anterior pericranial flaps.

Methods: Retrospective chart review identified patients treated surgically between January 2004 and May 2014 for anterior skull base fractures with CSF fistulas. All patients were treated with bifrontal craniotomy and received pedicled tissue flaps. Cases were classified according to the extent of fracture: Class I (frontal bone/sinus involvement only); Class II (extent of involvement to ethmoid cribriform plate); and Class III (extent of involvement to sphenoid bone/sinus). Surgical repair techniques were tailored to the types of fractures. Patients were assessed for CSF leak at follow-up. The Fisher exact test was applied to investigate whether the repair techniques were associated with persistent postoperative CSF leak.

Results: Forty-three patients were identified in this series. Thirty-seven (86%) were male. The patients’ mean age was 33 years (range 11–79 years). The mean overall length of follow-up was 14 months (range 5–45 months). Six fractures were classified as Class I, 8 as Class II, and 29 as Class III. The anterior pericranial flap alone was used in 33 patients (77%). Multiple flaps were used in 10 patients (3 salvage) (28%)—1 with Class II and 9 with Class III fractures. Five (17%) of the 30 patients with Class II or III fractures who received only a single anterior pericranial flap had persistent CSF leak (p < 0.31). No CSF leak was found in patients who received multiple flaps. Although postoperative CSF leak occurred only in high-grade fractures with single anterior flap repair, this finding was not significant.

Conclusions: Extensive anterior skull base fractures often require aggressive treatment to provide the greatest longterm functional and cosmetic benefits. Several vascularized tissue flaps can be used, either alone or in combination. Vascularized flaps are an ideal substrate for cranial base repair. Dual and triple flap techniques that combine the use of various anterior, lateral, and nasoseptal flaps allow for a comprehensive arsenal in multilayered skull base repair and salvage therapy for extensive and severe fractures.

Is Intracranial Pressure Monitoring of Patients With Diffuse Traumatic Brain Injury Valuable?


Neurosurgery 78:361–369, 2016

Although intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring of patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) is recommended by the Brain Trauma Foundation, any benefits remain controversial.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effects of ICP monitoring on the mortality of and functional outcomes in patients with severe diffuse TBI.

METHODS: Data were collected on patients with severe diffuse TBI (Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] score on admission ,9 and Marshall Class II-IV) treated from January 2012 to December 2013 in 24 hospitals (17 level I trauma centers and 7 level II trauma centers) in 9 Chinese provinces. We evaluated the impact of ICP monitoring on 6-month mortality and favorable outcome using propensity score–matched analysis after controlling for independent predictors of these outcomes.

RESULTS: ICP monitors were inserted into 287 patients (59.5%). After propensity score matching, ICP monitoring significantly decreased 6-month mortality. ICP monitoring also had a greater impact on the most severely injured patients on the basis of head computed tomography data (Marshall computed tomography classification IV) and on patients with the lowest level of consciousness (GCS scores 3-5). After propensity score matching, monitoring remained nonassociated with a 6-month favorable outcome for the overall sample. However, monitoring had a significant impact on the 6-month favorable outcomes of patients with the lowest level of consciousness (GCS scores 3-5).

CONCLUSION: ICP monitor placement was associated with a significant decrease in 6-month mortality after adjustment for the baseline risk profile and the monitoring propensity of patients with diffuse severe TBI, especially those with GCS scores of 3 to 5 or of Marshall computed tomography classification IV.

Cranioplasty after decompressive craniectomy: is there a rationale for an initial artificial bone-substitute implant?

Cranioplasty after decompressive craniectomy

J Neurosurg 124:710–715, 2016

The complication rate for cranioplasty after decompressive craniectomy is higher than that after other neurosurgical procedures; aseptic bone resorption is the major long-term problem. Patients frequently need additional operations to remove necrotic bone and replace it with an artificial bone substitute. Initial implantation of a bone substitute may be an option for selected patients who are at risk for bone resorption, but this cohort has not yet been clearly defined. The authors’ goals were to identify risk factors for aseptic bone flap necrosis and define which patients may benefit more from an initial bone-substitute implant than from autograft after craniectomy.

Methods The authors retrospectively analyzed 631 cranioplasty procedures (503 with autograft, 128 with bone substitute) by using a stepwise multivariable logistic regression model and discrimination analysis.

Results There was a significantly higher risk for reoperation after placement of autograft than after placement of bone substitute; aseptic bone necrosis (n = 108) was the major problem (OR 2.48 [95% CI 1.11–5.51]). Fragmentation of the flap into 2 or more fragments, younger age (OR 0.97 [95% CI 0.95–0.98]; p < 0.001), and shunt-dependent hydrocephalus (OR 1.73 [95% CI 1.02–2.92]; p = 0.04) were independent risk factors for bone necrosis. According to discrimination analysis, patients younger than 30 years old and older patients with a fragmented flap had the highest risk of developing bone necrosis.

Conclusions Development of bone flap necrosis is the main concern in long-term follow-up after cranioplasty with autograft. Patients younger than 30 years old and older patients with a fragmented flap may be candidates for an initial artificial bone substitute rather than autograft.

Atlantoaxial instability in acute odontoid fractures is associated with nonunion and mortality


The Spine Journal 15 (2015) 910–917

Odontoid fractures are the most common geriatric cervical spine fractures. Nonunion rates have been reported to be up to 40% and mortality up to 35%, and poor functional outcomes are common. Atlantoaxial instability (AAI) is a plausible prognostic factor, but its role has not been previously examined.

PURPOSE: To determine the effect of severe AAI on the outcomes of nonunion and mortality in patients with acute odontoid fractures.

STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective cohort/single institution.

PATIENT SAMPLE: One hundred twenty-four consecutive patients with acute odontoid fractures.

OUTCOME MEASURES: Rates of nonunion and mortality.

METHODS: Two independent blinded reviewers measured AAI using postinjury computed tomography scans. Patients were classified as having ‘‘severe’’ or ‘‘minimal’’ AAI on the basis of greater versus less than or equal to 50% mean subluxation across each C1–C2 facet joint. Rates of nonunion and mortality were compared using independent samples t tests and adjusted for age, displacement, and subtype using binary logistic regression.

RESULTS: One hundred seven patients had minimal AAI and 17 had severe AAI. Mean follow-up was 4.4 months (standard deviation54.6). Patients with severe AAI were more likely to experience nonunion (29% vs. 10%, respectively; p5.03) and mortality (35% vs. 14%, respectively; p5.03) regardless of treatment modality. Fracture displacement correlated with AAI (r250.65). When adjusted for patient age, the odds ratio of nonunion with severe AAI approached significance at 3.3 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.9–11.7). Mortality prediction with AAI approached a twofold increased risk (odds ratio52.1; 95% CI: 0.6–6.8). In patients with Type-II fractures, the odds of mortality with severe AAI approached a threefold higher risk (odds ratio53.3; 95% CI: 0.9–12.3).

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with acute odontoid fractures and severe AAI may be more likely to experience nonunion and mortality, suggesting the possibility that aggressive management could be warranted. Further investigation with a large prospective study including patient-important functional outcomes is justified. 

Management of C1–2 traumatic fractures using an intraoperative 3D imaging–based navigation system

Management of C1–2 traumatic fractures using an intraoperative 3D imaging–based navigation system

J Neurosurg Spine 22:128–133, 2015

Fractures of C-1 and C-2 are complex and surgical management may be difficult and challenging due to the anatomical relationship between the vertebrae and neurovascular structures. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role, reliability, and accuracy of cervical fixation using the O-arm intraoperative 3D image–based navigation system.

Methods The authors evaluated patients who underwent a navigation system–based surgery for stabilization of a fracture of C-1 and/or C-2 from August 2011 to August 2013. All of the fixation screws were intraoperatively checked and their position was graded.

Results The patient population comprised 17 patients whose median age was 47.6 years. The surgical procedures were as follows: anterior dens screw fixation in 2 cases, transarticular fixation of C-1 and C-2 in 1 case, fixation using the Harms technique in 12 cases, and occipitocervical fixation in 2 cases. A total of 67 screws were placed. The control intraoperative CT scan revealed 62 screws (92.6%) correctly placed, 4 (5.9%) with a minor cortical violation (< 2 mm), and only 1 screw (1.5%) that was judged to be incorrectly placed and that was immediately corrected. No vascular injury of the vertebral artery was observed either during exposition or during screw placement. No implant failure was observed.

Conclusions The use of a navigation system based on an intraoperative CT allows a real-time visualization of the vertebrae, reducing the risks of screw misplacement and consequent complications.

Traumatic Brain Injuries: The Influence of the Direction of Impact

Traumatic Brain Injuries- The Influence of the Direction of Impact

Neurosurgery 76:81–91, 2015

Head impact direction has been identified as an influential risk factor in the risk of traumatic brain injury (TBI) from animal and anatomic research; however, to date, there has been little investigation into this relationship in human subjects. If a susceptibility to certain types of TBI based on impact direction was found to exist in humans, it would aid in clinical diagnoses as well as prevention methods for these types of injuries.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the influence of impact direction on the presence of TBI lesions, specifically, subdural hematomas, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and parenchymal contusions.

METHODS: Twenty reconstructions of falls that resulted in a TBI were conducted in a laboratory based on eyewitness, interview, and medical reports. The reconstructions involved impacts to a Hybrid III anthropometric dummy and finite element modeling of the human head to evaluate the brain stresses and strains for each TBI event.

RESULTS: The results showed that it is likely that increased risk of incurring a subdural hematoma exists from impacts to the frontal or occipital regions, and parenchymal contusions from impacts to the side of the head. There was no definitive link between impact direction and subarachnoid hemorrhage. In addition, the results indicate that there is a continuum of stresses and strain magnitudes between lesion types when impact location is isolated, with subdural hematoma occurring at lower magnitudes for frontal and occipital region impacts, and contusions lower for impacts to the side.

CONCLUSION: This hospital data set suggests that there is an effect that impact direction has on TBI depending on the anatomy involved for each particular lesion.

Validation of a prognostic score for early mortality in severe head injury cases


J Neurosurg 121:1314–1322, 2014

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) represents a large health and economic burden. Because of the inability of previous randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on TBI to demonstrate the expected benefit of reducing unfavorable outcomes, the IMPACT (International Mission on Prognosis and Analysis of Clinical Trials in TBI) and CRASH (Corticosteroid Randomisation After Significant Head Injury) studies provided new methods for performing prognostic studies of TBI. This study aimed to develop and externally validate a prognostic model for early death (within 48 hours). The secondary aim was to identify patients who were more likely to succumb to an early death to limit their inclusion in RCTs and to improve the efficiency of RCTs.

Methods. The derivation cohort was recruited at 1 center, Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid (1990–2003, 925 patients). The validation cohort was recruited in 2004–2006 from 7 study centers (374 patients). The eligible patients had suffered closed severe TBIs. The study outcome was early death (within 48 hours post-TBI). The predictors were selected using logistic regression modeling with bootstrapping techniques, and a penalized reduction was used. A risk score was developed based on the regression coefficients of the variables included in the final model.

Results. In the validation set, the final model showed a predictive ability of 50% (Nagelkerke R2), with an area under the receiver operating characteristic curve of 89% and an acceptable calibration (goodness-of-fit test, p = 0.32). The final model included 7 variables, and it was used to develop a risk score with a range from 0 to 20 points. Age provided 0, 1, 2, or 3 points depending on the age group; motor score provided 0 points, 2 (untestable), or 3 (no response); pupillary reactivity, 0, 2 (1 pupil reacted), or 6 (no pupil reacted); shock, 0 (no) or 2 (yes); subarachnoid hemorrhage, 0 or 1 (severe deposit); cisternal status, 0 or 3 (compressed/absent); and epidural hematoma, 0 (yes) or 2 (no). Based on the risk of early death estimated with the model, 4 risk of early death groups were established: low risk, sum score 0–3 (< 1% predicted mortality); moderate risk, sum score 4–8 (predicted mortality between 1% and 10%); high risk, sum score 9–12 (probability of early death between 10% and 50%); and very high risk, sum score 13–20 (early mortality probability > 50%). This score could be used for selecting patients for clinical studies. For example, if patients with very high risk scores were excluded from our study sample, the patients included (eligibility score < 13) would represent 80% of the original sample and only 23% of the patients who died early.

Conclusions. The combination of Glasgow Coma Scale score, CT scanning results, and secondary insult data into a prognostic score improved the prediction of early death and the classification of TBI patients.

Vascular complications of penetrating brain injury

Vascular complications penetrating BI

J Neurosurg 121:1275–1283, 2014

The authors conducted a study to compare the sensitivity and specificity of helical CT angiography (CTA) and digital subtraction angiography (DSA) in detecting intracranial arterial injuries after penetrating traumatic brain injury (PTBI).

Methods. In a retrospective evaluation of 48 sets of angiograms from 45 consecutive patients with PTBI, 3 readers unaware of the DSA findings reviewed the CTA images to determine the presence or absence of arterial injuries. A fourth reader reviewed all the disagreements and decided among the 3 interpretations. Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) of CTA were calculated on a per-injury basis and in a subpopulation of patients with traumatic intracranial aneurysms (TICAs).

Results. Sensitivity of CTA for detecting arterial injuries was 72.7% (95% CI 49.8%–89.3%); specificity, 93.5% (95% CI 78.6%–99.2%); PPV, 88.9% (95% CI 65.3%–98.6%); and NPV, 82.9% (95% CI 66.4%–93.4%). All 7 TICAs were correctly identified by CTA. Sensitivity, specificity, PPV, and NPV of CTA in detecting TICAs were 100%. To compare agreement with DSA, the standard of reference, confidence scores categorized as low, intermediate, and high probability yielded an overall effectiveness of 77.8% (95% CI 71.8%–82.9%).

Conclusions. Computed tomography angiography had limited overall sensitivity in detecting arterial injuries in patients with PTBI. However, it was accurate in identifying TICAs, a subgroup of injuries usually managed by either surgical or endovascular approaches, and non-TICA injuries involving the first-order branches of intracranial arteries.

The New Neurometabolic Cascade of Concussion

The New Neurometabolic Cascade of Concussion

Neurosurgery 75:S24–S33, 2014

Since the original descriptions of postconcussive pathophysiology, there has been a significant increase in interest and ongoing research to study the biological underpinnings of concussion.

The initial ionic flux and glutamate release result in significant energy demands and a period of metabolic crisis for the injured brain.

These physiological perturbations can now be linked to clinical characteristics of concussion, including migrainous symptoms, vulnerability to repeat injury, and cognitive impairment.

Furthermore, advanced neuroimaging now allows a research window to monitor postconcussion pathophysiology in humans noninvasively. There is also increasing concern about the risk for chronic or even progressive neurobehavioral impairment after concussion/mild traumatic brain injury. Critical studies are underway to better link the acute pathobiology of concussion with potential mechanisms of chronic cell death, dysfunction, and neurodegeneration.

This “new and improved” article summarizes in a translational fashion and updates what is known about the acute neurometabolic changes after concussive brain injury. Furthermore, new connections are proposed between this neurobiology and early clinical symptoms as well as to cellular processes that may underlie long-term impairment.

Relevance of early head CT scans following neurosurgical procedures

early CT postcranio

J Neurosurg 121:307–312, 2014

Early postoperative head CT scanning is routinely performed following intracranial procedures for detection of complications, but its real value remains uncertain: so-called abnormal results are frequently found, but active, emergency intervention based on these findings may be rare. The authors’ objective was to analyze whether early postoperative CT scans led to emergency surgical interventions and if the results of neurological examination predicted this occurrence.

Methods. The authors retrospectively analyzed 892 intracranial procedures followed by an early postoperative CT scan performed over a 1-year period at Rush University Medical Center and classified these cases according to postoperative neurological status: baseline, predicted neurological change, unexpected neurological change, and sedated or comatose. The interpretation of CT results was reviewed and unexpected CT findings were classified based on immediate action taken: Type I, additional observation and CT; Type II, active nonsurgical intervention; and Type III, surgical intervention. Results were compared between neurological examination groups with the Fisher exact test.

Results. Patients with unexpected neurological changes or in the sedated or comatose group had significantly more unexpected findings on the postoperative CT (p < 0.001; OR 19.2 and 2.3, respectively) and Type II/III interventions (p < 0.001) than patients at baseline. Patients at baseline or with expected neurological changes still had a rate of Type II/III changes in the 2.2%–2.4% range; however, no patient required an immediate return to the operating room.

Conclusions. Over a 1-year period in an academic neurosurgery service, no patient who was neurologically intact or who had a predicted neurological change required an immediate return to the operating room based on early postoperative CT findings. Obtaining early CT scans should not be a priority in these patients and may even be cancelled in favor of MRI studies, if the latter have already been planned and can be performed safely and in a timely manner. Early postoperative CT scanning does not assure an uneventful course, nor should it replace accurate and frequent neurological checks, because operative interventions were always decided in conjunction with the neurological examination.

Evidence-based management of traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures

Thoracolumbar burst fracture

Neurosurg Focus 37 (1):E1, 2014

The overall evidence for nonoperative management of patients with traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures is unknown. There is no agreement on the optimal method of conservative treatment. Recent randomized controlled trials that have compared nonoperative to operative treatment of thoracolumbar burst fractures without neurological deficits yielded conflicting results. By assessing the level of evidence on conservative management through validated methodologies, clinicians can assess the availability of critically appraised literature. The purpose of this study was to examine the level of evidence for the use of conservative management in traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures.

Methods. A comprehensive search of the English literature over the past 20 years was conducted using PubMed (MEDLINE). The inclusion criteria consisted of burst fractures resulting from a traumatic mechanism, and fractures of the thoracic or lumbar spine. The exclusion criteria consisted of osteoporotic burst fractures, pathological burst fractures, and fractures located in the cervical spine. Of the studies meeting the inclusion/exclusion criteria, any study in which nonoperative treatment was used was included in this review.

Results. One thousand ninety-eight abstracts were reviewed and 447 papers met inclusion/exclusion criteria, of which 45 were included in this review. In total, there were 2 Level-I, 7 Level-II, 9 Level-III, 25 Level-IV, and 2 Level- V studies. Of the 45 studies, 16 investigated conservative management techniques, 20 studies compared operative to nonoperative treatments, and 9 papers investigated the prognosis of conservative management.

Conclusions. There are 9 high-level studies (Levels I–II) that have investigated the conservative management of traumatic thoracolumbar burst fractures. In neurologically intact patients, there is no superior conservative management technique over another as supported by a high level of evidence. The conservative technique can be based on patient and surgeon preference, comfort, and access to resources. A high level of evidence demonstrated similar functional outcomes with conservative management when compared with open surgical operative management in patients who were neurologically intact. The presence of a neurological deficit is not an absolute contraindication for conservative treatment as supported by a high level of evidence. However, the majority of the literature excluded patients with neurological deficits. More evidence is needed to further classify the appropriate burst fractures for conservative management to decrease variables that may impact the prognosis.

Minimally invasive spine surgery in the treatment of thoracolumbar and lumbar spine trauma

Minimally invasive spine surgery in the treatment of thoracolumbar and lumbar spine trauma

Neurosurg Focus 37 (1):E11, 2014

Thoracolumbar and lumbar trauma account for the majority of traumatic spinal injuries. The mainstay of current treatments is still nonoperative therapy with bracing. Classic treatment algorithms reserved absolute surgical intervention for spinal trauma patients with neurological compromise or instability. Relative indications included incapacitating pain and obesity/body habitus making brace therapy ineffective.

In the past decade, minimally invasive surgical (MIS) techniques for spine surgery have been increasingly used for degenerative conditions. These same minimally invasive techniques have seen increased use in trauma patients. The goal of minimally invasive surgery is to decrease surgical morbidity through decreased soft-tissue dissection while providing the same structural stability afforded by classic open techniques.

These minimally invasive techniques involve percutaneous posterior pedicle fixation, vertebral body augmentation, and utilization of endoscopic and thoracoscopic techniques.

While MIS techniques are somewhat in their infancy, an increasing number of studies are reporting good clinical and radiographic outcomes with these MIS techniques. However, the literature is still lacking high-quality evidence comparing these newer techniques to classic open treatments. This article reviews the relevant literature regarding minimally invasive spine surgery in the treatment of thoracolumbar and lumbar trauma.

Neurosurgery Department. “La Fe” University Hospital. Valencia, Spain


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