Spinal epidural hematoma is a rare condition. Because the etiology is often unclear and the medical history is frequently innocuous, a high index of suspicion is required in order to maximize the chances of a successful outcome.
This month’s “Case Connections” spotlights 4 cases of spinal epidural hematoma involving 2 elderly women, a male Olympic-caliber swimmer, and a preadolescent boy.
In the springboard case, from the March 22, 2017, edition of JBJS Case Connector, Yamaguchi et al. report on a 90-year-old woman with a history of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) and combined aspirin-dipyridamole therapy in whom a large spontaneous spinal epidural hematoma (SSEH) developed rapidly after she shifted her position in bed. The authors concluded that their case emphasized that “early diagnosis of an SSEH and prompt surgical intervention can avoid catastrophic and permanent neurological deterioration and compromise.”
Three additional JBJS Case Connector case reports summarized in the article focus on:
- An 82-year-old woman who developed an epidural hemorrhage and acute paraplegia following vertebroplasty
- A 22-year-old male collegiate swimmer who underwent an emergent operative spinal decompression procedure within 4 hours after presentation to the ED with searing back pain and decreased leg strength
- A 12-year-old boy who presented to the hospital with intense back pain along with numbness, tingling, and loss of motor function in the lower extremities 3 weeks after he had been pushed into a wall at school
Among the take-home points from this “Case Connections” article: MRI is the gold standard for the diagnosis of spinal epidural hematomas, and treatment typically involves operative decompression consisting of laminectomies and evacuation of the hematoma.
Every month, JBJS publishes a Specialty Update—a review of the most pertinent and impactful studies published in the orthopaedic literature during the previous year in 13 subspecialties. Click here for a collection of all OrthoBuzz Specialty Update summaries.
This month, Derek Kelly, MD, co-author of the February 15, 2017 Specialty Update on Pediatric Orthopaedics, selected the five most clinically compelling findings from among the 60 studies summarized in the Specialty Update.
—A systematic review of eight randomized studies comparing splinting with casting for distal radial buckle fractures confirmed that splinting was superior in function, cost, and convenience, without an increased complication rate.1
—A review of the treatment of 361 pediatric diaphyseal femoral fractures before and after the 2009 publication of AAOS clinical guidelines for treating such fractures revealed that the guidance had little impact on the treatment algorithm in one pediatric hospital.
—Bracing remains an integral part of managing adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, but patient compliance with brace wear is variable. A prospective study of 220 patients demonstrated that physician counseling based on compliance-monitoring data from sensors embedded in the brace improved patients’ average daily orthotic use.
—AAOS-published evidence-based guidelines on the detection and nonoperative management of developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) in infants from birth to 6 months of age determined that only two of nine recommendations gleaned from evidence in existing literature could be rated as “moderate” in strength:
- Universal DDH screening of all newborn infants is not supported.
- Imaging before 6 months is supported if the infant has one or more of three listed risk factors.
Seven additional recommendations received only “limited” strength of support.
—A study of the utility of inserting an intraoperative intracranial pressure (ICP) monitor during closed reduction and pinning for slipped capital femoral epiphysis (SCFE) found that 6 of 15 unstable hips had no perfusion according to ICP monitoring. However, all 6 hips were subsequently reperfused with percutaneous capsular decompression, and no osteonecrosis developed over the next 2 years.
- Hill CE, Masters JP, Perry DC. A systematic review of alternative splinting versus complete plaster casts for the management of childhood buckle fractures of the wrist. J Pediatr Orthop B. 2016 ;25(2):183–90.
OrthoBuzz regularly brings you a current commentary on a “classic” article from The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. These articles have been selected by the Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editors of The Journal because of their long-standing significance to the orthopaedic community and the many citations they receive in the literature. Our OrthoBuzz commentators highlight the impact that these JBJS articles have had on the practice of orthopaedics. Please feel free to join the conversation by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button in the box to the left.
Almost 50 years ago, in a classic 1968 JBJS paper, Leon Wiltse and co-authors described a novel and innovative access route to the lumbar spine. At that time, the vast majority of approaches to the lumbar spine were performed through midline incisions. Wiltse´s approach, however, utilized a more lateral access route to the spine. In this beautifully illustrated paper, the authors described a curved incision of the fascia and the skin with direct access to the transverse processes, pedicles, and the lateral masses.
The advantages of this novel access were multifold. Although wide midline laminectomies represented the gold-standard decompression technique at that time, the lateral approach served to avoid a more challenging and risky midline revision access, adding an elegant access for salvage procedures. Two goals of Wiltse’s approach were to achieve solid, posterolateral fusions and to decompress the neural structures. Graft harvest from the posterior iliac crest was easily facilitated with this approach.
Additional advantages included reduced blood loss and less muscle ischemia, and the preservation of spinous processes and intra-/supraspinous ligaments, which served to maintain the stability of the lumbar spine. The main downside was the necessity of performing two skin incisions as opposed to just one midline incision.
Since its introduction, Wiltse´s approach and the anatomic planes have been studied in great detail.1,2 Considering the vast developments in spine surgery over the last years and decades, the Wiltse approach has stood the test of time, as it still represents one of the main access routes to the lumbar spine that any skilled spine surgeon needs to master.
With the arrival of instrumentation, Wiltse´s approach was later employed in interbody fusion and minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) techniques, as it allowed direct access to the pedicles and the disc space. It has also been used for various techniques of direct pars repair.3
With the addition of some minor modifications, Wiltse´s approach still reflects the main access for minimally invasive, microsurgical treatment of foraminal and extraforaminal disc herniations, including bony decompression of the neuroforamen.4 The far lateral access permits sufficient decompression of the exiting nerve roots while preserving the facet joints, which serves to avoid more invasive fusion techniques for a considerable number of patients.
Overall, Wiltse´s innovative approach advanced spinal care by reducing access–related morbidity. Dr. Wiltse passed away at age 92 in 2005. His major achievements in spine surgery and his great accomplishments will remain in our memories and will continue to impact spine surgery over the coming decades.
Christoph J. Siepe, MD
JBJS Deputy Editor
- Vialle R, Court C, Khouri N, et al. Anatomical study of the paraspinal approach to the lumbar spine. Eur Spine J. 2005;14(4):366-71.
- Palmer DK, Allen JL, Williams PA, et al. Multilevel magnetic resonance imaging analysis of multifidus-longissimus cleavage planes in the lumbar spine and potential clinical applications to Wiltse’s paraspinal approach. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2011;36(16):1263-7.
- Xing R, Dou Q, Li X, et al. Posterior Dynamic Stabilization With Direct Pars Repair via Wiltse Approach for the Treatment of Lumbar Spondylolysis: The Application of a Novel Surgery. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2016;41(8):E494-502.
- Mehren C, Siepe CJ. Neuroforaminal decompression and intra-/extraforaminal discectomy via a paraspinal muscle-splitting approach. Eur Spine J. 2016.
This month’s Image Quiz from the JBJS Journal of Orthopaedics for Physician Assistants (JOPA) presents the case of a 55-year-old woman with neck pain and upper-extremity weakness after a motor vehicle accident that occurred 1 week prior, during which she sustained a whiplash injury. She notes severe bilateral arm weakness, “clumsy hands,” and mild lower-extremity weakness with walking. The bilateral upper-extremity muscle groups have a strength of 3 of 5, and the lower-extremity muscle groups have a strength of 5 of 5. Sensation remains intact throughout the upper and lower extremities.
Select from among four choices as the most likely diagnosis:
- Central cord syndrome
- Brown-Séquard syndrome
- Anterior cord syndrome
- Posterior cord syndrome
OrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Brett A. Freedman, MD.
In the December 21, 2016 edition of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, Bunta, et al. published an analysis of data from the Own the Bone quality improvement program collected between January 1, 2010 and March 31, 2015. Over this period of time, 125 sites prospectively collected detailed osteoporosis and bone health-related data points on men and women over the age of 50 who presented with a fragility fracture.
The Own the Bone initiative is more than a data registry; it’s a quality improvement program intended to provide a paradigm for increasing the diagnostic and therapeutic recognition (i.e. “response rate”) of the osteoporosis underlying fragility fractures among orthopaedic practices that treat these injuries. With more than 23,000 individual patients enrolled, and almost 10,000 follow-up records, this is the most robust dataset in existence on the topic.
This initiative has more than doubled the response rate among orthopaedic practices treating fragility fractures. The number of institutions implementing Own the Bone grew from 14 sites in 2005-6 to 177 in 2015. According to Bunta et al., 53% of patients enrolled in the Own the Bone quality Improvement program received bone mineral density testing and/or osteoporosis therapy following their fracture.
Own the Bone was a natural progression of rudimentary efforts that came about during the Bone and Joint Decade, and it marks a strategic effort on the part of the American Orthopedic Association to identify and treat the osteoporosis underlying fragility fractures. Multiple studies have demonstrated that only 1 out of every 4 to 5 patients who present with a fragility fracture will receive a clinical diagnosis of osteoporosis and/or active treatment to prevent secondary fractures related to osteoporosis. Ample Level-1 evidence demonstrates that the initiation of first-line agents like bisphosphonates, or second-line agents when indicated, can reduce the chance of a subsequent fragility fracture by at least 50%. We know these medicines work.
We also know that osteoporosis is a progressive phenomenon. Therefore, failing to respond to the osteoporosis underlying fragility fractures means we as a medical system fail to treat the root cause in these patients. The fracture is a symptom of an underlying disease that needs to be addressed or it will continue to produce recurrent fractures and progressive decline in overall health.
The members of the Own the Bone initiative must be commended for their admirable work. We as an orthopedic community need to attempt to incorporate lessons learned through the Own the Bone experience into our practice to ensure that we provide complete care to those with a fragility fracture. The report from Bunta et al. represents a large—but single—step forward on the journey toward universal recognition and treatment of the diminished bone quality underlying fragility fractures. I look forward to additional reports from this group detailing their continued success in raising the bar of understanding and intervention.
Brett A. Freedman, MD is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in spine trauma and degenerative spinal diseases at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
In the past several years, the orthopaedic community has become highly engaged in improving the follow-up management of patients presenting with fragility fractures. We have realized that orthopaedic surgeons are central to the ongoing health and welfare of these patients and that the episode of care surrounding a fragility fracture represents a unique opportunity to get patients’ attention. Using programs such as the AOA’s “Own the Bone” registry, increasing numbers of orthopaedic practices and care centers are leading efforts to deliver evidenced-based care to fragility-fracture patients.
In the November 16, 2016 edition of The Journal, Aspenberg et al. carefully examine the impact of the anabolic agent teriparatide versus the bisphosphonate risedronate on the 26-week outcomes of more than 170 randomized patients (mean age 77 ±8 years) who were treated surgically for a low-trauma hip fracture. This investigation is timely and appropriate because our systems of care are evolving so that increasing numbers of patients are receiving pharmacologic intervention for low bone density both before and after a fragility fracture.
The secondary outcomes of the timed up and go (TUG) test and post-TUG test pain were better in the teriparatide group, but there were no differences in radiographic fracture healing or patient-reported health status.
Although this study was designed primarily to measure the effects of the two drugs on spinal bone mineral density at 78 weeks, these secondary-outcome findings confirm the value of initiating pharmacologic intervention early on after a fragility fracture, whether it’s a bisphosphonate or anabolic agent. The orthopaedic community needs to continue leading multipronged efforts to deal with the public health issues of osteoporosis and fragility fractures.
Click here for additional OrthoBuzz posts related to osteoporosis and fragility fractures.
Marc Swiontkowski, MD
The 3-dimensional spinal deformities associated with scoliosis may affect other organ systems. In the October 5, 2016 issue of The Journal, Shen et al. correlated radiographic severity of thoracic curvature/kyphosis with pulmonary function at rest and exercise capacity measured with a bicycle ergometer. Forty subjects with idiopathic scoliosis were enrolled in the prospective study (mean age 15.5 years), 33 of them female.
The study found no correlation between coronal thoracic curvature and static pulmonary function tests in the female patients. Female patients with a thoracic curve of ≥ 60° had lower blood oxygen saturation at maximal exertion during the exercise test, but overall exercise tolerance did not appear to be correlated with the magnitude of the thoracic curve and kyphosis. According to the authors, taken together, the many specific cardiopulmonary findings in this study suggest that “the cardiovascular system may be less affected than the respiratory system in patients with idiopathic scoliosis.”
Not surprisingly, exercise capacity was better in patients who performed regular aerobic exercise. Although physical training may not be able to change pulmonary pathology in this population, the authors emphasized that physical activity is still recommended for patients with idiopathic scoliosis for maintaining cardiovascular and peripheral muscle conditioning.
Surgeons often prescribe more postoperative pain medication than their patients actually use. That’s partly because there is limited procedure-specific evidence-based data regarding optimal amounts and duration of postoperative narcotic use—and because every patient’s “relationship” with postoperative pain is unique. Nevertheless, physician prescribing plays a role in the current opioid-abuse epidemic, so any credible scientific information about postoperative narcotic usage will be helpful.
The Level I prognostic study by Grant et al. in the September 21, 2016 issue of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery identified factors associated with high opioid use among a prospective cohort of 72 patients (mean age 14.9 years) undergoing posterior spinal fusion for idiopathic scoliosis.
Higher weight and BMI, male sex, older age, and higher preoperative pain scores were associated with increased narcotic use after surgery. Somewhat surprisingly, the number of levels fused, number of osteotomies, in-hospital pain level, self-reported pain tolerance, and surgeon assessment of anticipated postoperative narcotic requirements were unreliable predictors of which patients would have higher postoperative narcotic use.
Because the authors found that pain scores returned to preoperative levels by postoperative week 4, they say, “further refills after this point should be considered with caution.” Additionally, after reviewing the cohort’s behavior around disposing of unused narcotic medication, the authors conclude, “We consider discussion of narcotic use and disposal to be an important component of the 1-month postoperative visit…This important educational opportunity could help decrease abuse of narcotics.”
Most studies looking into revision rates after cervical spine fusion follow patients for 2 to 5 years. But in the September 21, 2016 issue of JBJS, Derman et al. investigate revision rates—and risk factors for revision—with a follow-up of 16 years.
Analyzing New York State’s SPARCS all-payer database, the authors identified more than 87,000 patients who underwent a primary subaxial cervical arthrodesis from 1997 through 2012. During the study period, 7.7% of the patients underwent revision, with a median time to revision of 24.5 months.
Cervical arthrodeses performed with anterior-only approaches had a significantly higher probability of revision than those performed via posterior or circumferential approaches. The authors also found that the following characteristics were associated with an elevated revision risk:
- Patient age of 18 to 34 years
- White race
- Workers’ Compensation or Medicare (but not Medicaid) coverage
- Arthrodeses to address spinal stenosis, spondylosis, deformity, or neoplasm
Shorter arthrodeses (i.e., fewer fusion levels) and arthrodesis to address fractures were associated with relatively lower revision risks.
The authors conclude that “knowledge of these factors should help to promote exploration of strategies to reduce the prevalence of revision(s)…and to facilitate more accurate preoperative counseling of patients.”
OrthoBuzz regularly brings you a current commentary on a “classic” article from The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. These articles have been selected by the Editor-in-Chief and Deputy Editors of The Journal because of their long-standing significance to the orthopaedic community and the many citations they receive in the literature. Our OrthoBuzz commentators highlight the impact that these JBJS articles have had on the practice of orthopaedics. Please feel free to join the conversation about these classics by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button in the box to the left.
Michael McMaster, a widely respected and well-published orthopaedic surgeon from Edinburgh who treated a great number of pediatric spinal deformity patients over a 36-year career, published this classic JBJS article more than 30 years ago. His report continues to serve as the basis for what we as pediatric spinal deformity surgeons recommend for treatment in children with congenital scoliosis. The classification that he proposed allows us to know early in childhood which congenital scoliosis patients require early, aggressive treatment and who can be followed with little need for treatment.
By assessing 251 growing patients with congenital scoliosis in a longitudinal manner, Mr. McMaster determined the rate of progression with growth for 5 different primary curve types. The most progressive deformity is a unilateral vertebral bar (failure of segmentation) with a contralateral hemivertebra (failure of formation). Common congenital single hemivertebrae worsen most in the thoracolumbar and lower thoracic areas, and all hemivertebrae progress at a faster rate after 10 years of age than prior to age 10.
Knowing the natural history of any deformity in pediatric orthopaedics is the major factor in determining the need for treatment. Mr. McMaster here provided the pediatric spinal deformity surgeon with essential information that still guides our treatment of congenital scoliosis on a daily basis today.
Vernon T. Tolo, MD
JBJS Editor Emeritus