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Spinal surgeons need to read patients' studies to avoid missing pathology

Epstein, Nancy E; Hollingsworth, Renee D; Silvergleid, Richard
BACKGROUND: Many spine surgeons rely on reports of radiological studies for patients seen routinely in consultation. However, "best practice" should include the spine surgeon's individual assessment of the images themselves to better determine whether the diagnoses rendered were/are correct. METHODS: A now 54-year-old male had an original enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MR) scan of the cervical spine performed in 2012 that was read as showing mild spondylotic changes at multiple levels. RESULTS: In 2015, the patient presented with a severe spastic quadriparesis, right greater than left, which had markedly worsened over the prior 3 months. Review of the original enhanced MR from 2012 revealed a right-sided C5-C6 tumor (e.g., likely meningioma) filling the right neural foramen with extension into the spinal canal (7 mm x 8 mm x 11 mm): The tumor was originally "missed". The new 2015 enhanced MR scan documented the tumor had enlarged 6.7 fold (measuring 17 mm x 11 mm x 2.2 cm), and now filled 2/3 of the spinal canal, markedly compressing the cord and right C6 nerve root. Following a C4-C6 laminectomy, and a challenging tumor removal, and the patient was neurologically intact. CONCLUSION: This case underscores the need for spine surgeons to carefully review both images and reports of prior diagnostic studies that accompany patients. In this case, the original failure to recognize the tumor led to a 2.5-year delay in surgery that resulted in the patient's severe preoperative quadriparesis, and a much more challenging surgery.
PMID: 26167368
ISSN: 2229-5097
CID: 1668692

Increased postoperative cervical myelopathy and cord compression resulting from the use of Gelfoam [Case Report]

Epstein, Nancy E; Silvergleid, Richard S; Hollingsworth, Renee
BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The immunogenicity of Gelfoam (Pharmacia and Upjohn, Kalamazoo, MI) or microfibrillar collagen, applied during laminectomy, may promote postoperative swelling and significant neural compression. PURPOSE: To document how Gelfoam contributes to marked cord/root compression on unenhanced/enhanced postoperative magnetic resonance (MR) scans. STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: This is a case report from the United States. PATIENT SAMPLE: A case report. OUTCOME MEASURE: The patient's neurological status was assessed using Nurick Grades. METHODS: A 73-year-old female with moderate myeloradiculopathy (Nurick Grade III) and MR/computed tomography (CT)-documented cord compression underwent a C6/C7 laminectomy (undercutting of C5-T1) with Gelfoam applied to the laminectomy site, followed by a C2-T2 fusion for instability (iliac autograft, Beta TriCalcium Phosphate). RESULTS: The patient improved for the first postoperative week (Nurick Grade 0-I), but deteriorated over the successive second and third postoperative weeks (Nurick Grade III). When the 3-week postoperative MR study documented marked dorsolateral cord compression at the laminectomy site, likely attributed to a postoperative seroma/hematoma, a second operation was performed. At surgery, no significant seroma/hematoma was found. Rather, markedly engorged Gelfoam densely adherent to and compressing the underlying dura was encountered; this was meticulously removed under the operating microscope using a small nerve hook. Postoperatively, the patient immediately improved. As the intraoperative culture revealed Acinetobacter baumannii, she required 6 weeks of intravenous Ertapenem (1-betamethyl-carbapenem). The MR scan performed on the third postoperative week revealed no residual cord compromise. CONCLUSIONS: Delayed postoperative deterioration in a 73-year-old female was attributed to reactive swelling/engorgement of Gelfoam at the C6-C7 laminectomy site.
PMID: 18495543
ISSN: 1529-9430
CID: 614832

Magnetic resonance angiographic diagnosis of ectatic vertebral artery [Case Report]

Epstein, N E; Silvergleid, R
In the cervical spine, routine and contrast magnetic resonance (MR)- and computed tomography (CT)-based studies may fail to differentiate between an ectatic vertebral artery and a solid foraminal mass. A complete cervical and lumbar Myelo-CT scan in a 67-year-old female with lumbar stenosis revealed an incidental, left-sided C3-C4 foraminal mass. A vascular lesion was suspected when the MR study revealed the lesion to be a signal void. MR angiography confirmed an ectatic C3-C4 vertebral artery loop. The possibility of a vertebral artery anomaly should be considered in patients with asymptomatic lateral and foraminal cervical lesions on CT studies. In these patients, routine MR and MR angiography are necessary to demonstrate the status of the vertebral artery in the foramen.
PMID: 8547772
ISSN: 0895-0385
CID: 614842

A new onset of fatigue in an active elderly man [Case Report]

Wolf-Klein, G P; Jason, M K; Desner, M; Fish, B; Silvergleid, R
Fatigue is often perceived as part of normal aging. Yet for many active elderly, a complaint of generalized, non-specific weakness should alert the physician to the existence of possible underlying pathology, as this case demonstrates.
PMID: 2548931
ISSN: 0016-867x
CID: 614852