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1.  Rationale and design of the INNOVATE Trial: an international cooperative study on surgical versus conservative treatment for odontoid fractures in the elderly 
Background
Fractures of the odontoid process of the axis are the most common fractures of the geriatric cervical spine. As the population ages, their incidence is expected to increase progressively, as is the number of very old patients (>80 years) with an odontoid fracture. No consensus exists on the optimal treatment (surgical or conservative) and the most relevant outcome parameter (osseous union, fracture stability or clinical outcome). The aim of the INNOVATE (INterNational study on Odontoid frActure Treatment in the Elderly) Trial is to prospectively assess fracture healing and clinical outcome after surgical and conservative treatment for odontoid fractures in the elderly patient, with a specific focus on the very old patient.
Methods/Design
The trial is an observational study in which eleven centres in five European countries are involved. All patients admitted to one of these centres who meet the selection criteria (≥55 years, acute (
Discussion
Evidence for the optimal treatment for odontoid fractures is lacking. Focusing on both fracture healing and clinical outcome, the results of this study will yield valuable information enabling more rational decision making in the treatment for odontoid fractures in the elderly.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register NTR3630
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-7
PMCID: PMC3893376  PMID: 24400976
Odontoid fractures; Elderly; Surgical treatment; Conservative treatment; Prospective cohort study; Comparative; Observational; Cervical spine; Octogenarians; Nonagenarians
Background
Incomplete cervical cord syndrome without spinal instability is a very devastating event for the patient and the family. It is estimated that up to 25% of all traumatic spinal cord lesions belong to this category. The treatment for this type of spinal cord lesion is still subject of discussion. From a biological point of view early surgery could prevent secondary damage due to ongoing compression of the already damaged spinal cord. Historically, however, conservative treatment was propagated with good clinical results. Proponents for early surgery as well those favoring conservative treatment are still in debate. The proposed trial will contribute to the discussion and hopefully also to a decrease in the variability of clinical practice.
Methods/Design
A randomized controlled trial is designed to compare the clinical outcome of early surgical strategy versus a conservative approach. The primary outcome is clinical outcome according to mJOA. This also measured by ASIA score, DASH score and SCIM III score. Other endpoints are duration of the stay at a high care department (medium care, intensive care), duration of the stay at the hospital, complication rate, mortality rate, sort of rehabilitation, and quality of life. A sample size of 36 patients per group was calculated to reach a power of 95%. The data will be analyzed as intention-to-treat at regular intervals, but the end evaluation will take place at two years post-injury.
Discussion
At the end of the study, clinical outcomes between treatments attitudes can be compared. Efficacy, but also efficiency can be determined. A goal of the study is to determine which treatment will result in the best quality of life for the patients. This study will certainly contribute to more uniformity of treatment offered to patients with a special sort of spinal cord injury.
Trial Registration
Gov: NCT01367405
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-52
PMCID: PMC3582592  PMID: 23369169
Background
Although back complaints are common among older people, limited information is available in the literature about the clinical course of back pain in older people and the identification of older persons at risk for the transition from acute back complaints to chronic back pain.
The aim of this study is to assess the course of back complaints and identify prognostic factors for the transition from acute back complaints to chronic back complaints in older people who visit a primary health care physician.
Methods/design
The design is a prospective cohort study with one-year follow-up. There will be no interference with usual care. Patients older than 55 years who consult a primary health care physician with a new episode of back complaints will be included in this study.
Data will be collected using a questionnaire, physical examination and X-ray at baseline, and follow-up questionnaires after 6 weeks and 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.
The study 'Back Complaints in the Elders' (BACE) will take place in different countries: starting in the Netherlands, Brazil and Australia. The research groups collaborate in the BACE consortium. The design and basic objectives of the study will be the same across the studies.
Discussion
This consortium is a collaboration between different research groups, aiming to provide insight into the course of back complaints in older people and to identify prognostic factors for the transition from acute back complaints to chronic back complaints in older persons. The BACE consortium allows to investigate differences between older people with back complaints and the health care systems in the different countries and to increase the statistical power by enabling meta-analyses using the individual patient data. Additional research groups worldwide are invited to join the BACE consortium.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-193
PMCID: PMC3182961  PMID: 21854620
Background
Degenerative changes of lumbar spine anatomy resulting in the encroachment of neural structures are often regarded progressive, ultimately necessitating decompressive surgery. However the natural course is not necessarily progressive and the efficacy of a variety of nonsurgical interventions has also been described. At present there is insufficient data to compare surgical and nonsurgical interventions in terms of their relative benefit and safety. Previous attempts failed to provide clear clinical recommendations or to distinguish subgroups that substantially benefit from a certain treatment strategy. We present the design of a randomized controlled trial on (cost-) effectiveness of surgical decompression versus prolonged conservative treatment in patients with neurogenic intermittent claudication caused by lumbar stenosis.
Methods/Design
The aim of the Verbiest trial is to evaluate the effectiveness of prolonged conservative treatment compared to decompressive surgery. The study is a multi-center randomized controlled trial with two parallel groups design. Patients (age over 50) presenting to the neurologist or neurosurgeon with at least 3 months complaints of neurogenic intermittent claudication and considering surgical treatment are eligible for inclusion. Participants are randomly allocated to either prolonged conservative treatment, receiving further treatment from their general practitioner and physical therapist, or allocated to surgery and operated within 4 weeks. Primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient as measured by the Zurich Claudication Questionnaire at 24 months of follow-up. Data is analyzed according to the intention to treat principle.
Discussion
With a cost-effectiveness analysis the trade off between the costs of prolonged conservative treatment and delayed surgery in a smaller number of patients are compared with the current policy of surgical management. As surgery is expected to be inevitable in certain subgroups of patients, the distinction of and classification by predictive patient characteristics is most relevant to clinical practice.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register (NTR): NTR2216
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-57
PMCID: PMC3058072  PMID: 21371314
Background
Patients with cervical radicular syndrome due to disc herniation refractory to conservative treatment are offered surgical treatment. Anterior cervical discectomy is the standard procedure, often in combination with interbody fusion. Accelerated adjacent disc degeneration is a known entity on the long term. Recently, cervical disc prostheses are developed to maintain motion and possibly reduce the incidence of adjacent disc degeneration. A comparative cost-effectiveness study focused on adjacent segment degeneration and functional outcome has not been performed yet. We present the design of the NECK trial, a randomised study on cost-effectiveness of anterior cervical discectomy with or without interbody fusion and arthroplasty in patients with cervical disc herniation.
Methods/Design
Patients (age 18-65 years) presenting with radicular signs due to single level cervical disc herniation lasting more than 8 weeks are included. Patients will be randomised into 3 groups: anterior discectomy only, anterior discectomy with interbody fusion, and anterior discectomy with disc prosthesis. The primary outcome measure is symptomatic adjacent disc degeneration at 2 and 5 years after surgery. Other outcome parameters will be the Neck Disability Index, perceived recovery, arm and neck pain, complications, re-operations, quality of life, job satisfaction, anxiety and depression assessment, medical consumption, absenteeism, and costs. The study is a randomised prospective multicenter trial, in which 3 surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses will be kept blinded of the allocated treatment for 2 years. The follow-up period is 5 years.
Discussion
Currently, anterior cervical discectomy with fusion is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of cervical disc herniation. Whether additional interbody fusion or disc prothesis is necessary and cost-effective will be determined by this trial.
Trial Registration
Netherlands Trial Register NTR1289
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-122
PMCID: PMC2893084  PMID: 20553591
Background
Decompressive laminotomy is the standard surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with canal stenosis related intermittent neurogenic claudication. New techniques, such as interspinous process implants, claim a shorter hospital stay, less post-operative pain and equal long-term functional outcome. A comparative (cost-) effectiveness study has not been performed yet. This protocol describes the design of a randomized controlled trial (RCT) on (cost-) effectiveness of the use of interspinous process implants versus conventional decompression surgery in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis.
Methods/Design
Patients (age 40-85) presenting with intermittent neurogenic claudication due to lumbar spinal stenosis lasting more than 3 months refractory to conservative treatment, are included. Randomization into interspinous implant surgery versus bony decompression surgery will take place in the operating room after induction of anesthesia. The primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient measured by the Zurich Claudication Questionnaire (ZCQ), at 8 weeks and 1 year after surgery. Other outcome parameters include perceived recovery, leg and back pain, incidence of re-operations, complications, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism and costs. The study is a randomized multi-institutional trial, in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses are kept blinded of the allocated treatment during the follow-up period of 1 year.
Discussion
Currently decompressive laminotomy is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar spinal stenosis. Whether surgery with interspinous implants is a reasonable alternative can be determined by this trial.
Trial register
Dutch Trial register number: NTR1307
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-100
PMCID: PMC2885320  PMID: 20507568
Background
The usual surgical treatment of refractory sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation, is open discectomy. Minimally invasive procedures, including percutaneous therapies under local anesthesia, are increasingly gaining attention. One of these treatments is Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression (PLDD). This treatment can be carried out in an outpatient setting and swift recovery and return to daily routine are suggested. Thus far, no randomized trial into cost-effectiveness of PLDD versus standard surgical procedure has been performed. We present the design of a randomized controlled trial, studying the cost-effectiveness of PLDD versus conventional open discectomy in patients with sciatica from lumbar disc herniation.
Methods/design
The study is a randomized prospective multi-center trial, in which two treatment strategies are compared in a parallel group design. Patients (age 18–70 years) visiting the neurosurgery department of the participating hospitals, are considered for inclusion in the trial when sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation has lasted more than 8 weeks. Patients with disc herniation smaller than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter, without concomitant lateral recess stenosis or sequestration, are eligible for participation, and are randomized into one of two treatment arms; either Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression or conventional discectomy. The functional outcome of the patient, as assessed by the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica at 8 weeks and 1 year after treatment, is the primary outcome measure. The secondary outcome parameters are recovery as perceived by the patient, leg and back pain, incidence of re-intervention, complications, quality of life, medical consumption, absence of work and secondary costs.
Discussion
Open discectomy is still considered to be the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Whether Percutaneous Laser Disc Decompression has at least as much efficacy as the standard surgical procedure, and is more cost-effective, will be determined by this trial.
Trial registration
Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN25884790.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-10-49
PMCID: PMC2697136  PMID: 19439098
Background
Nerve root decompression with instrumented spondylodesis is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with symptomatic low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis. Nerve root decompression without instrumented fusion, i.e. Gill's procedure, is an alternative and less invasive approach. A comparative cost-effectiveness study has not been performed yet. We present the design of a randomised controlled trial on cost-effectiveness of decompression according to Gill versus instrumented spondylodesis.
Methods/design
All patients (age between 18 and 70 years) with sciatica or neurogenic claudication lasting more than 3 months due to spondylolytic spondylolisthesis grade I or II, are eligible for inclusion. Patients will be randomly allocated to nerve root decompression according to Gill, either unilateral or bilateral, or pedicle screw fixation with interbody fusion. The main primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient measured with the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica at 12 weeks and 2 years. Other primary outcome measures are perceived recovery and intensity of leg pain and low back pain. The secondary outcome measures include, incidence of re-operations, complications, serum creatine phosphokinase, quality of life, medical consumption, costs, absenteeism, work perception, depression and anxiety, and treatment preference. The study is a randomised prospective multicenter trial in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurse will not be blinded during the follow-up period of 2 years.
Discussion
Currently, nerve root decompression with instrumented fusion is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis, although scientific proof justifying instrumented spondylodesis over simple decompression is lacking. This trial is designed to elucidate the controversy in best surgical treatment of symptomatic patients with low-grade spondylolytic spondylolisthesis.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-9-128
PMCID: PMC2570682  PMID: 18822175
Background
Open discectomy is the standard surgical procedure in the treatment of patients with long-lasting sciatica caused by lumbar disc herniation. Minimally invasive approaches such as microendoscopic discectomy have gained attention in recent years. Reduced tissue trauma allows early ambulation, short hospital stay and quick resumption of daily activities. A comparative cost-effectiveness study has not been performed yet. We present the design of a randomised controlled trial on cost-effectiveness of microendoscopic discectomy versus conventional open discectomy in patients with lumbar disc herniation.
Methods/Design
Patients (age 18–70 years) presenting with sciatica due to lumbar disc herniation lasting more than 6–8 weeks are included. Patients with disc herniation larger than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter, or disc herniation less than 1/3 of the spinal canal diameter with concomitant lateral recess stenosis or sequestration, are eliglible for participation. Randomisation into microendoscopic discectomy or conventional unilateral transflaval discectomy will take place in the operating room after induction of anesthesia. The length of skin incision is equal in both groups. The primary outcome measure is the functional assessment of the patient, measured by the Roland Disability Questionnaire for Sciatica, at 8 weeks and 1 year after surgery. We will also evaluate several other outcome parameters, including perceived recovery, leg and back pain, incidence of re-operations, complications, serum creatine kinase, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism and costs. The study is a randomised prospective multi-institutional trial, in which two surgical techniques are compared in a parallel group design. Patients and research nurses are kept blinded of the allocated treatment during the follow-up period of 2 years.
Discussion
Currently, open discectomy is the golden standard in the surgical treatment of lumbar disc herniation. Whether microendoscopic discectomy is more cost-effective than unilateral transflaval discectomy has to be determined by this trial.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-42
PMCID: PMC1475863  PMID: 16696861
Background
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease, which affects 1% of the population. Hands and feet are most commonly involved followed by the cervical spine. The spinal column consists of vertebrae stabilized by an intricate network of ligaments. Especially in the upper cervical spine, rheumatoid arthritis can cause degeneration of these ligaments, causing laxity, instability and subluxation of the vertebral bodies. Subsequent compression of the spinal cord and medulla oblongata can cause severe neurological deficits and even sudden death. Once neurological deficits occur, progression is inevitable although the rapidity of progression is highly variable. The first signs and symptoms are pain at the back of the head caused by compression of the major occipital nerve, followed by loss of strength of arms and legs. The severity of the subluxation can be observed with radiological investigations (MRI, CT) with a high sensitivity.
The authors have sent a Delphi Questionnaire about the current treatment strategies of craniocervical involvement by rheumatoid arthritis to an international forum of expert rheumatologists and surgeons. The timing of surgery in patients with radiographic instability without evidence of neurological deficit is an area of considerable controversy. If signs and symptoms of myelopathy are present there is little chance of recovery to normal levels after surgery.
Design
In this international multicenter randomized clinical trial, early surgical atlantoaxial fixation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and radiological abnormalities without neurological deficits will be compared with prolonged conservative treatment. The main research question is whether early surgery can prevent radiological and neurological progression. A cost-effectivity analysis will be performed. 250 patients are needed to answer the research question.
Discussion
Early surgery could prevent serious neurological deficits, but may have peri-operative morbidity and loss of rotation of the head and neck. The objective of this study is to identify the best timing of surgery for patients at risk for the development of neurological signs and symptoms.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-7-14
PMCID: PMC1420300  PMID: 16483360
Background
The design of a randomized multicenter trial is presented on the effectiveness of a prolonged conservative treatment strategy compared with surgery in patients with persisting intense sciatica (lumbosacral radicular syndrome).
Methods/design
Patients presenting themselves to their general practitioner with disabling sciatica lasting less than twelve weeks are referred to the neurology outpatient department of one of the participating hospitals. After confirmation of the diagnosis and surgical indication MRI scanning is performed. If a distinct disc herniation is discerned which in addition covers the clinically expected site the patient is eligible for randomization. Depending on the outcome of the randomization scheme the patient will either be submitted to prolonged conservative care or surgery. Surgery will be carried out according to the guidelines and between six and twelve weeks after onset of complaints. The experimental therapy consists of a prolonged conservative treatment under supervision of the general practitioner, which may be followed by surgical intervention in case of persisting or progressive disability. The main primary outcome measure is the disease specific disability of daily functioning. Other primary outcome measures are perceived recovery and intensity of legpain. Secondary outcome measures encompass severity of complaints, quality of life, medical consumption, absenteeism, costs and preference. The main research question will be answered at 12 months after randomization. The total follow-up period covers two years.
Discussion
Evidence is lacking concerning the optimal treatment of lumbar disc induced sciatica. This pragmatic randomized trial, focusses on the 'timing' of intervention, and will contribute to the decision of the general practictioner and neurologist, regarding referral of patients for surgery.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-8
PMCID: PMC551598  PMID: 15707491
Background
The objective is to present the design of randomised clinical trial (RCT) on the effectiveness of physical therapy added to general practitioners management compared to general practitioners management only in patients with an acute lumbosacral radicular syndrome (also called sciatica).
Methods/Design
Patients in general practice diagnosed with an acute (less than 6 weeks) lumbosacral radicular syndrome and an age above 18 years are eligible for participation. The general practitioners treatment follows their clinical guideline. The physical therapy treatment will consist of patient education and exercise therapy. The primary outcome measure is patients reported global perceived effect. Secondary outcome measures are severity of complaints, functional status, health status, fear of movement, medical consumption, sickness absence, costs and treatment preference. The follow-up is 52 weeks.
Discussion
Treatment by general practitioners and physical therapists in this study will be transparent and not a complete "black box". The results of this trial will contribute to the decision of the general practitioner regarding referral to physical therapy in patients with an acute lumbosacral radicular syndrome.
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-5-39
PMCID: PMC534096  PMID: 15535882

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