Clinical Focus

  • Orthopaedic Surgery

Academic Appointments

Professional Education

  • Residency:Hospital for Special Surgery Orthopaedic Surgery Residency (1989) NY
  • Internship:Beth Israel Medical Center (1985) NY
  • Medical Education:McGill University Faculty of Medicine (1984) Canada
  • Board Certification: Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (1992)
  • Fellowship:Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center (1990) CA


2018-19 Courses


All Publications

  • Selective Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion for Low Back Pain Associated With Degenerative Disc Disease Versus Nonsurgical Management SPINE Kleimeyer, J. P., Cheng, I., Alamin, T. F., Hu, S. S., Cha, T., Yanamadala, V., Wood, K. B. 2018; 43 (19): 1372–80


    This is a retrospective cohort study.To evaluate the long-term outcomes of selective one- to two-level anterior lumbar interbody fusions (ALIFs) in the lower lumbar spine versus continued nonsurgical management.Low back pain associated with lumbar intervertebral disc degeneration is common with substantial economic impact, yet treatment remains controversial. Surgical fusion has previously provided mixed results with limited durable improvement of pain and function.Seventy-five patients with one or two levels of symptomatic Pfirrmann grades 3 to 5 disc degeneration from L3-S1 were identified. All patients had failed at least 6 months of nonsurgical treatment. Forty-two patients underwent one- or two-level ALIFs; 33 continued multimodal nonsurgical care. Patients were evaluated radiographically and the visual analog pain scale (VAS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), EuroQol five dimensions (EQ-5D), and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System scores for pain interference, pain intensity, and anxiety. As-treated analysis was performed to evaluate outcomes at a mean follow-up of 7.4 years (range: 2.5-12).There were no differences in pretreatment demographics or nonsurgical therapy utilization between study arms. At final follow-up, the surgical arm demonstrated lower VAS, ODI, EQ-5D, and Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System pain intensity scores versus the nonsurgical arm. VAS and ODI scores improved 52.3% and 51.1% in the surgical arm, respectively, versus 15.8% and -0.8% in the nonsurgical arm. Single-level fusions demonstrated improved outcomes versus two-level fusions. The pseudarthrosis rate was 6.5%, with one patient undergoing reoperation. Asymptomatic adjacent segment degeneration was identified in 11.9% of patients.Selective ALIF limited to one or two levels in the lower lumbar spine provided improved pain and function when compared with continued nonsurgical care. ALIF may be a safe and effective treatment for low back pain associated with disc degeneration in select patients who fail nonsurgical management.3.

    View details for PubMedID 29529003

  • Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections for Herniation and Stenosis: Incidence and Risk Factors of Subsequent Surgery. The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society Koltsov, J. C., Smuck, M. W., Zagel, A., Alamin, T. F., Wood, K. B., Cheng, I., Hu, S. S. 2018


    BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Lumbosacral ESIs have increased dramatically despite a narrowing of the clinical indications for use. One potential indication is to avoid or delay surgery, yet little information exists regarding surgery rates after ESI.PURPOSE: The purpose of this research was to determine the proportion of patients having surgery after lumbar epidural steroid injection (ESI) for disc herniation or stenosis and to identify the timing and factors associated with this progression STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: This study was a retrospective review of nationally-representative administrative claims data from the Truven Health MarketScan databases from 2007 - 2014.PATIENT SAMPLE: The study cohort was comprised of 179,025 patients (54±15 years, 48% female) having lumbar epidural steroid injections (ESIs) for diagnoses of stenosis and/or herniation.OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was the time from ESI to surgery.METHODS: Inclusion criteria were ESI for stenosis and/or herniation, age ≥18 years, and health plan enrollment for 1 year prior to ESI to screen for exclusions. Patients were followed longitudinally until they progressed to surgery or had a lapse in enrollment, at which time they were censored. Rates of surgery were assessed with the Kaplan-Meier survival curves. Demographic and treatment factors associated with surgery were assessed with multivariable Cox proportional hazard models. No external funding was procured for this research and the authors' conflicts of interest are not pertinent to the present work.RESULTS: Within 6 months, 12.5% of ESI patients underwent lumbar surgery. By 1 year, 16.9% had surgery, and by 5 years, 26.1% had surgery. Patients with herniation had surgery at rates of up to 5 to 7 fold higher, with the highest rates of surgery in younger patients and those with both herniation and stenosis. Other concomitant spine diagnoses, male sex, previous tobacco use, and residence a rural areas or regions other than the Northeastern United States were associated with higher surgery rates. Medical comorbidities (previous treatment for drug use, CHF, obesity, COPD, hypercholesterolemia, and other cardiac complications) were associated with lower surgery rates.CONCLUSIONS: In the long-term, more than 1 out of every 4 patients undergoing ESI for lumbar herniation or stenosis subsequently had surgery, and nearly 1 of 6 had surgery within the first year. After adjusting for other patient demographics and comorbidities, patients with herniation were more likely have surgery than those with stenosis. The improved understanding of the progression from lumbar ESI to surgery will help to better inform discussions regarding the value of ESI and aid in the shared decision making process.

    View details for PubMedID 29959098

  • What Is the State of Quality Measurement in Spine Surgery? CLINICAL ORTHOPAEDICS AND RELATED RESEARCH Bennett, C., Xiong, G., Hu, S., Wood, K., Kamal, R. N. 2018; 476 (4): 725–31


    Value-based healthcare models rely on quality measures to evaluate the efficacy of healthcare delivery and to identify areas for improvement. Quality measure research in other areas of health care has generally shown that there is a limited number of available quality measures and that those that exist disproportionately focus on processes as opposed to outcomes. The purpose of this study was to assess the current state of quality measures and candidate quality measures in spine surgery.(1) How many quality measures and candidate quality measures are currently available? (2) According to Donabedian domains and National Quality Strategy (NQS) priorities, what aspects or domains of care do the present quality measures and candidate quality measures represent?We systematically reviewed the National Quality Forum, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Physician Quality Reporting System for quality measures relevant to spine surgery. A systematic search for candidate quality measures was also performed using MEDLINE/PubMed and Embase as well as publications from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the North American Spine Society. Clinical practice guidelines were included as candidate quality measures if their development was in accordance with Institute of Medicine criteria for the development of clinical practice guidelines, they were based on consistent clinical evidence including at least one Level I study, and they carried the strongest possible recommendation by the developing body. Quality measures and candidate quality measures were then pooled for analysis and categorized by clinical focus, NQS priority, and Donabedian domain. Our initial search yielded a total of 3940 articles, clinical practice guidelines, and quality measures, 74 of which met criteria for inclusion in this study.Of the 74 measures studied, 29 (39%) were quality measures and 45 (61%) were candidate quality measures. Fifty of 74 (68%) were specific to the care of the spine, and 24 of 74 (32%) were related to the general care of spine patients. The majority of the spine-specific measures were process measures (45 [90%]) and focused on the NQS priority of "Effective Clinical Care" (44 [88%]). The majority of the general care measures were also process measures (14 [58%]), the highest portion of which focused on the NQS priority of "Patient Safety" (10 [42%]).Given the large number of pathologies treated by spine surgeons, the limited number of available quality measures and candidate quality measures in spine surgery is inadequate to support the transition to a value-based care model. Additionally, current measures disproportionately focus on certain aspects or domains of care, which may hinder the ability to appropriately judge an episode of care, extract usable data, and improve quality. Physicians can steward the creation of meaningful quality measures by participating in clinical practice guideline development, assisting with the creation and submission of formal quality measures, and conducting the high-quality research on which effective guidelines and quality measures depend.

    View details for PubMedID 29480884

  • Does timing of transplantation of neural stem cells following spinal cord injury affect outcomes in an animal model? Journal of spine surgery (Hong Kong) Cheng, I., Park, D. Y., Mayle, R. E., Githens, M., Smith, R. L., Park, H. Y., Hu, S. S., Alamin, T. F., Wood, K. B., Kharazi, A. I. 2017; 3 (4): 567–71


    Background: We previously reported that functional recovery of rats with spinal cord contusions can occur after acute transplantation of neural stem cells distal to the site of injury. To investigate the effects of timing of administration of human neural stem cell (hNSC) distal to the site of spinal cord injury on functional outcomes in an animal model.Methods: Thirty-six adult female Long-Evans hooded rats were randomized into three experimental and three control groups with six animals in each group. The T10 level was exposed via posterior laminectomy, and a moderate spinal cord contusion was induced by the Multicenter Animal Spinal Cord Injury Study Impactor (MASCIS, W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience, Piscataway, NJ, USA). The animals received either an intrathecal injection of hNSCs or control media through a separate distal laminotomy immediately, one week or four weeks after the induced spinal cord injury. Observers were blinded to the interventions. Functional assessment was measured immediately after injury and weekly using the Basso, Beattie, Bresnahan (BBB) locomotor rating score.Results: A statistically significant functional improvement was seen in all three time groups when compared to their controls (acute, mean 9.2 vs. 4.5, P=0.016; subacute, mean 11.1 vs. 6.8, P=0.042; chronic, mean 11.3 vs. 5.8, P=0.035). Although there was no significant difference in the final BBB scores comparing the groups that received hNSCs, the group which achieved the greatest improvement from the time of cell injection was the subacute group (+10.3) and was significantly greater than the chronic group (+5.1, P=0.02).Conclusions: The distal intrathecal transplantation of hNSCs into the contused spinal cord of a rat led to significant functional recovery of the spinal cord when injected in the acute, subacute and chronic phases of spinal cord injury (SCI), although the greatest gains appeared to be in the subacute timing group.

    View details for PubMedID 29354733

  • Predicting complication risk in spine surgery: a prospective analysis of a novel risk assessment tool. Journal of neurosurgery. Spine Veeravagu, A., Li, A., Swinney, C., Tian, L., Moraff, A., Azad, T. D., Cheng, I., Alamin, T., Hu, S. S., Anderson, R. L., Shuer, L., Desai, A., Park, J., Olshen, R. A., Ratliff, J. K. 2017: 1-11


    OBJECTIVE The ability to assess the risk of adverse events based on known patient factors and comorbidities would provide more effective preoperative risk stratification. Present risk assessment in spine surgery is limited. An adverse event prediction tool was developed to predict the risk of complications after spine surgery and tested on a prospective patient cohort. METHODS The spinal Risk Assessment Tool (RAT), a novel instrument for the assessment of risk for patients undergoing spine surgery that was developed based on an administrative claims database, was prospectively applied to 246 patients undergoing 257 spinal procedures over a 3-month period. Prospectively collected data were used to compare the RAT to the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI) and the American College of Surgeons National Surgery Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) Surgical Risk Calculator. Study end point was occurrence and type of complication after spine surgery. RESULTS The authors identified 69 patients (73 procedures) who experienced a complication over the prospective study period. Cardiac complications were most common (10.2%). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were calculated to compare complication outcomes using the different assessment tools. Area under the curve (AUC) analysis showed comparable predictive accuracy between the RAT and the ACS NSQIP calculator (0.670 [95% CI 0.60-0.74] in RAT, 0.669 [95% CI 0.60-0.74] in NSQIP). The CCI was not accurate in predicting complication occurrence (0.55 [95% CI 0.48-0.62]). The RAT produced mean probabilities of 34.6% for patients who had a complication and 24% for patients who did not (p = 0.0003). The generated predicted values were stratified into low, medium, and high rates. For the RAT, the predicted complication rate was 10.1% in the low-risk group (observed rate 12.8%), 21.9% in the medium-risk group (observed 31.8%), and 49.7% in the high-risk group (observed 41.2%). The ACS NSQIP calculator consistently produced complication predictions that underestimated complication occurrence: 3.4% in the low-risk group (observed 12.6%), 5.9% in the medium-risk group (observed 34.5%), and 12.5% in the high-risk group (observed 38.8%). The RAT was more accurate than the ACS NSQIP calculator (p = 0.0018). CONCLUSIONS While the RAT and ACS NSQIP calculator were both able to identify patients more likely to experience complications following spine surgery, both have substantial room for improvement. Risk stratification is feasible in spine surgery procedures; currently used measures have low accuracy.

    View details for DOI 10.3171/2016.12.SPINE16969

    View details for PubMedID 28430052

  • Intervertebral disc/bone marrow cross-talk with Modic changes. European spine journal Dudli, S., Sing, D. C., Hu, S. S., Berven, S. H., Burch, S., Deviren, V., Cheng, I., Tay, B. K., Alamin, T. F., Ith, M. A., Pietras, E. M., Lotz, J. C. 2017


    Cross-sectional cohort analysis of patients with Modic Changes (MC).Our goal was to characterize the molecular and cellular features of MC bone marrow and adjacent discs. We hypothesized that MC associate with biologic cross-talk between discs and bone marrow, the presence of which may have both diagnostic and therapeutic implications.MC are vertebral bone marrow lesions that can be a diagnostic indicator for discogenic low back pain. Yet, the pathobiology of MC is largely unknown.Patients with Modic type 1 or 2 changes (MC1, MC2) undergoing at least 2-level lumbar interbody fusion with one surgical level having MC and one without MC (control level). Two discs (MC, control) and two bone marrow aspirates (MC, control) were collected per patient. Marrow cellularity was analyzed using flow cytometry. Myelopoietic differentiation potential of bone marrow cells was quantified to gauge marrow function, as was the relative gene expression profiles of the marrow and disc cells. Disc/bone marrow cross-talk was assessed by comparing MC disc/bone marrow features relative to unaffected levels.Thirteen MC1 and eleven MC2 patients were included. We observed pro-osteoclastic changes in MC2 discs, an inflammatory dysmyelopoiesis with fibrogenic changes in MC1 and MC2 marrow, and up-regulation of neurotrophic receptors in MC1 and MC2 bone marrow and discs.Our data reveal a fibrogenic and pro-inflammatory cross-talk between MC bone marrow and adjacent discs. This provides insight into the pain generator at MC levels and informs novel therapeutic targets for treatment of MC-associated LBP.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00586-017-4955-4

    View details for PubMedID 28138783

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5409869

  • In Patients with Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, Adding Fusion Surgery to Decompression Surgery Did Not Improve Outcomes at 2 Years. journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume Hu, S. S. 2016; 98 (22): 1936-?

    View details for PubMedID 27852913

  • The Relationship Between Cervical Degeneration and Global Spinal Alignment in Patients With Adult Spinal Deformity. Clinical spine surgery Fujimori, T., Le, H., Schairer, W., Inoue, S., Iwasaki, M., Oda, T., Hu, S. S. 2016: -?


    To examine the relationship between cervical degeneration and spinal alignment by comparing patients with adult spinal deformity versus the control cohort.The effect of degeneration on cervical alignment has been controversial.Cervical and full-length spine radiographs of 57 patients with adult spinal deformity and 78 patients in the control group were reviewed. Adult spinal deformity was classified into 3 types based on the primary characteristics of the deformity: "Degenerative flatback" group, "Positive sagittal imbalance" group, and "Hyperthoracic kyphosis" group. Cervical degeneration was assessed using the cervical degeneration index scoring system.The "Degenerative flatback" group had significantly higher total cervical degeneration index score (25±7) than the control group (16±8), the "Positive sagittal imbalance" group (18±8), and the "Hyperthoracic kyphosis" group (12±7) (P<0.01). The "Degenerative flatback" group had significantly less cervical lordosis than the other groups. This reduced amount of cervical lordosis was thought to be induced by a compensatory decrease in thoracic kyphosis. In this group, increased cervical degeneration was significantly associated with a decrease in cervical lordosis. Significantly greater compensatory increase in cervical lordosis was noted in the "Positive sagittal imbalance" group (20±15 degrees) and the "Hyperthoracic kyphosis" group (26±9 degrees) compared with the control group (11±12 degrees) (P<0.02).Flat cervical spine coexisted with cervical degeneration when compensatory hypothoracic kyphosis was induced by degenerative flatback. In other situations, cervical lordosis could increase as a compensatory reaction against sagittal imbalance or hyperthoracic kyphosis.

    View details for PubMedID 26469769

  • The fellowship match process: the history and a report of the current experience. journal of bone and joint surgery. American volume Cannada, L. K., Luhmann, S. J., Hu, S. S., Quinn, R. H. 2015; 97 (1)

    View details for DOI 10.2106/JBJS.M.01251

    View details for PubMedID 25568401

  • The Increased Prevalence of Cervical Spondylosis in Patients With Adult Thoracolumbar Spinal Deformity JOURNAL OF SPINAL DISORDERS & TECHNIQUES Schairer, W. W., Carrer, A., Lu, M., Hu, S. S. 2014; 27 (8): E305-E308


    Retrospective cohort study.To assess the concomitance of cervical spondylosis and thoracolumbar spinal deformity.Patients with degenerative cervical spine disease have higher rates of degeneration in the lumbar spine. In addition, degenerative cervical spine changes have been observed in adult patients with thoracolumbar spinal deformities. However, to the best of our knowledge, there have been no studies quantifying the association between cervical spondylosis and thoracolumbar spinal deformity in adult patients.Patients seen by a spine surgeon or spine specialist at a single institution were assessed for cervical spondylosis and/or thoracolumbar spinal deformity using an administrative claims database. Spinal radiographic utilization and surgical intervention were used to infer severity of spinal disease. The relative prevalence of each spinal diagnosis was assessed in patients with and without the other diagnosis.A total of 47,560 patients were included in this study. Cervical spondylosis occurred in 13.1% overall, but was found in 31.0% of patients with thoracolumbar spinal deformity (OR=3.27, P<0.0001). Similarly, thoracolumbar spinal deformity was found in 10.7% of patients overall, but was increased at 23.5% in patients with cervical spondylosis (OR=3.26, P<0.0001). In addition, increasing severity of disease was associated with an increased likelihood of the other spinal diagnosis. Patients with both diagnoses were more likely to undergo both cervical (OR=3.23, P<0.0001) and thoracolumbar (OR=4.14, P<0.0001) spine fusion.Patients with cervical spondylosis or thoracolumbar spinal deformity had significantly higher rates of the other spinal diagnosis. This correlation was increased with increased severity of disease. Patients with both diagnoses were significantly more likely to have received a spine fusion. Further research is warranted to establish the cause of this correlation. Clinicians should use this information to both screen and counsel patients who present for cervical spondylosis or thoracolumbar spinal deformity.

    View details for DOI 10.1097/BSD.0000000000000119

    View details for Web of Science ID 000359974800009

    View details for PubMedID 24901877