JBJS’s first COVID-19 article was about the experiences of orthopaedic surgeons in Singapore. The latest one also comes from authors in Singapore. Soh et al. focus on the impact the pandemic has had on spine surgery in that country. The authors emphasize the need to constantly review and adapt policies amid the moving target that the COVID-19 pandemic represents.
Here’s what the spine service at Soh et al.’s institution (a tertiary hospital and major trauma center) did during the first 6 weeks of the outbreak, which began in Singapore in January:
- Reduced elective spine surgeries by 50%, cancelling all spinal-deformity or revision cases and prioritizing minimally invasive and endoscopic cases that required a shorter length of stay
- Expedited all discharges with transfers to rehabilitation facilities to free up hospital beds
- Rescheduled all non-urgent spine appointments, such as those for acute back pain without neurologic complications
- Offered day-surgery nerve root injections to patients with intractable radicular symptoms
- Continued to receive and operate on emergency spinal trauma and tumor cases
As of April 7, 2020, Singapore instituted a series of heightened measures, collectively referred to as a “circuit breaker,” to further curb community spread of the virus. When the “circuit breaker” kicked in, the spine service again modified its practices. Regular operating and outpatient caseloads were further cut from 50% to 30%. Spine surgery was limited to instances in which a prolonged delay could lead to an irreversible deterioration of function that would negatively impact both the work status and quality of life of the patient.
Precautions during spine surgery are similar to those described by Liang et al for other orthopaedic procedures. Patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 and those with pneumonia and unknown COVID-19 status are operated on in a designated OR to avoid contamination of the main operating room and of other patients. In addition:
- Only selected equipment is brought into the OR to reduce the number of items that require cleaning after the procedure.
- The presence of health-care personnel is kept to a minimum to minimize exposure.
- The use of electrocautery is also minimized, with liberal use of suction to remove smoke and aerosols.
Soh et al. also address resident-training issues that were raised in an earlier JBJS fast-tracked article, urging that trainees be reassured they will not be penalized if called upon to modify or sacrifice their training for other responsibilities during this time.
The authors conclude with an acknowledgment of the emotional stress that accompanies a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic: “During times of crisis, it is important to manage the fears and anxieties of our colleagues as early as possible,” they say. The orthopaedic community must “not forget to look out for one another and bear burdens for one another during this unprecedented time.”
Few studies have addressed in detail long-term degenerative changes in the cervical spine. https://jbjs.org/reader.php?source=The_Journal_of_Bone_and_Joint_Surgery/100/10/843/fulltext&id=30295&rsuite_id=1666209#info #JBJSInfographics #VisualAbstract
Spinal cord injury in the cervical spine is commonly accompanied by cord compression and urgent surgical decompression may improve neurological recovery. http://bit.ly/2FbYWpA #JBJSInfographics #JBJS
Is there a difference in outcomes of ACL reconstruction between patients with generalized joint laxity and those without it? What are the effect of generalized joint laxity on outcomes of ACL reconstruction from 2 to 8 years postoperatively? http://bit.ly/2F6dlUY #JBJS #JBJSInfographics
In 2015, JBJS launched an“article exchange” collaboration with the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (JOSPT) to support multidisciplinary integration, continuity of care, and excellent patient outcomes in orthopaedics and sports medicine.
During the month of May 2017, JBJS and OrthoBuzz readers will have open access to the JOSPT article titled “Risk of Recurrence of Low Back Pain (LBP): A Systematic Review.”
In that systematic review, the authors found low quality and heterogeneity among studies of this topic. They concluded that “the available research does not provide robust estimates of the risk of LBP recurrence and provides little information about factors that predict recurrence in people recently recovered from an episode of LBP.”
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.
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.
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.
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 occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Brett A. Freedman, MD, in response to a study published in JAMA about a new agent to prevent fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.
The August 16, 2016 issue of JAMA published the results of the ACTIVE (Abaloparatide Comparator Trial In Vertebral Endpoints) trial. This 28-site randomized trial allocated postmenopausal women with low bone mineral density (BMD) and/or a prior fragility fracture into one of three arms: abaloparatide (80 µg subcutaneously, daily ) vs. daily placebo injection vs. teriparatide (20 µg subcutaneously, daily). The primary end point was new vertebral fracture over the 18-month trial.
As expected, both anabolic agents significantly outperformed placebo, with incident vertebral fractures occurring in only 4 subjects in the abaloparatide arm (0.6%) and 6 in the teriparatide arm (0.8%), while there were 30 in the placebo arm (4.2%). Although the study was not powered to evaluate differences between the two anabolic agents, the results suggest that abaloparatide and teriparatide performed essentially the same over the 18-month period.
In an accompanying commentary,1 Cappola and Shoback note that institutional review boards (IRBs) approved a prospective clinical trial protocol in which patients with known osteoporosis and/or a prior fragility fracture were allowed to be randomized to a non-treatment arm for 18 months. Subjects whose BMD dropped more than 7% from baseline and those who experienced an incident fracture during the trial “were offered an option to discontinue and receive alternative treatment,” but in some sense IRB approval of this protocol implicitly acknowledged that osteoporosis is undertreated.
Turning back to the study itself, I noted with interest that subjects who had regularly used bisphosphonates in the last 5 years or denosumab in the last year were excluded. So, none of the 2463 subjects who were randomized had received any active treatment for osteoporosis in the 1 to 5 years prior to enrollment, despite the fact that the average T-score in the lumbar spine (-2.9 for all 3 arms) was in the osteoporotic range and that almost one-third of subjects had had at least one prior fragility fracture.
This is a sad commentary on “our” (meaning all providers involved in bone health) continued inability to diagnose and treat osteoporosis effectively. Despite the “National Bone and Joint Health Decade” (2002-2011) and our continued attempts to “Own the Bone,” we have made little progress in recognizing and treating the osteoporosis underlying the fragility fractures that we so frequently treat. Colleagues of mine and I published that only 38% of patients in 2002 with clinically diagnosed vertebral compression fragility fractures were receiving active treatment for osteoporosis.2 Over the ensuing decade, Solomon et al. showed that that figure actually decreased to 20%.3
This JAMA study provides empiric Level-I support for the efficacy of another anabolic agent to treat osteoporosis. Cost, subcutaneous delivery, and osteosarcoma concerns have limited the only FDA-approved anabolic osteoporosis medication, teriparatide, to second-line status, behind bisphosphonates. If and when approved, abaloparatide will probably bump up against the same limitations. Still, the parathyroid hormone receptor agonists are particularly pertinent to orthopaedic surgeons, because they are the most effective secondary fracture prevention agents—and the only ones that show meaningful improvement in bone mineral density. This bone-building property has also led to progressive acceptance of teriparatide as an important perioperative adjunct for instrumented spinal fusion surgery in patients with known osteoporosis.
However, as has been repeatedly shown, parathyroid receptor agonists only work when they are prescribed, and they are only prescribed when osteoporosis is diagnosed.2,3 Patients with incident clinical fragility fractures need to be effectively educated about osteoporosis, its treatment, and the impact of failing to treat it. Orthopaedic surgeons need to continue to set the signal flares and advocate for our patients to receive effective treatment for all their chronic musculoskeletal illnesses, not the least of which is osteoporosis.
- Cappola AR, Shoback DM. Osteoporosis Therapy in Postmenopausal Women With High Risk of Fracture. JAMA. 2016 Aug 16;316(7):715-6.
- Freedman BA, Potter BK, Nesti LJ, Giuliani JR, Hampton C, Kuklo TR. Osteoporosis and vertebral compression fractures-continued missed opportunities.Spine J. 2008 Sep-Oct;8(5):756-62.
- Solomon DH, Johnston SS, Boytsov NN, McMorrow D, Lane JM, Krohn KD. Osteoporosis medication use after hip fracture in U.S. patients between 2002 and 2011. J Bone Miner Res. 2014 Sep;29(9):1929-37.
The July 6, 2016, edition of The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery features a large case-cohort study that may help older patients and clinicians decide whether to use bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) as an adjunct to lumbar arthrodesis. Among Medicare patients aged 65 years and older, Beachler et al. found that BMP use was not associated with the following:
- Overall cancer risk
- Increased risk of individual cancer types
- Increased risk of cancer in people who had cancer prior to undergoing lumbar arthrodesis
- Increased mortality after a cancer diagnosis
BMP was used in 30.7% of >3,600 lumbar-arthrodesis patients analyzed, and the lack of association between BMP use and cancer held whether patients received the growth factor as part of an FDA-approved anterior lumbar interbody fusion or as an off-label application.
In an accompanying commentary, Singh et al. laud the authors for designing a study that was not only well-powered but also analyzed risk among those with a medical history of cancer. The commentators emphasize, however, that the median follow-up in this study was 2.4 years, leading them to wonder “whether this time frame is sufficient to evaluate the impact of BMPs on carcinogenesis.”
Until a large, prospective, randomized trial on this subject is conducted, Singh et al. say, “the decision to use BMPs should be made on the basis of sound clinical judgment by the treating physician after a full disclosure of the potential risks to the patient.”