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The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 103-B, Issue 9 | Pages 1442 - 1448
1 Sep 2021
McDonnell JM Evans SR McCarthy L Temperley H Waters C Ahern D Cunniffe G Morris S Synnott K Birch N Butler JS

In recent years, machine learning (ML) and artificial neural networks (ANNs), a particular subset of ML, have been adopted by various areas of healthcare. A number of diagnostic and prognostic algorithms have been designed and implemented across a range of orthopaedic sub-specialties to date, with many positive results. However, the methodology of many of these studies is flawed, and few compare the use of ML with the current approach in clinical practice. Spinal surgery has advanced rapidly over the past three decades, particularly in the areas of implant technology, advanced surgical techniques, biologics, and enhanced recovery protocols. It is therefore regarded an innovative field. Inevitably, spinal surgeons will wish to incorporate ML into their practice should models prove effective in diagnostic or prognostic terms. The purpose of this article is to review published studies that describe the application of neural networks to spinal surgery and which actively compare ANN models to contemporary clinical standards allowing evaluation of their efficacy, accuracy, and relatability. It also explores some of the limitations of the technology, which act to constrain the widespread adoption of neural networks for diagnostic and prognostic use in spinal care. Finally, it describes the necessary considerations should institutions wish to incorporate ANNs into their practices. In doing so, the aim of this review is to provide a practical approach for spinal surgeons to understand the relevant aspects of neural networks.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(9):1442–1448.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 102-B, Issue 10 | Pages 1368 - 1374
3 Oct 2020
McDonnell JM Ahern DP Lui DF Yu H Lehovsky J Noordeen H Molloy S Butler JS Gibson A


Whether a combined anteroposterior fusion or a posterior-only fusion is more effective in the management of patients with Scheuermann’s kyphosis remains controversial. The aim of this study was to compare the radiological and clinical outcomes of these surgical approaches, and to evaluate the postoperative complications with the hypothesis that proximal junctional kyphosis would be more common in one-stage posterior-only fusion.


A retrospective review of patients treated surgically for Scheuermann’s kyphosis between 2006 and 2014 was performed. A total of 62 patients were identified, with 31 in each group. Parameters were compared to evaluate postoperative outcomes using chi-squared tests, independent-samples t-tests, and z-tests of proportions analyses where applicable.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 102-B, Issue 5 | Pages 627 - 631
1 May 2020
Mahon J Ahern DP Evans SR McDonnell J Butler JS


The timing of surgical fixation in spinal fractures is a contentious topic. Existing literature suggests that early stabilization leads to reduced morbidity, improved neurological outcomes, and shorter hospital stay. However, the quality of evidence is low and equivocal with regard to the safety of early fixation in the severely injured patient. This paper compares complication profiles between spinal fractures treated with early fixation and those treated with late fixation.


All patients transferred to a national tertiary spinal referral centre for primary surgical fixation of unstable spinal injuries without preoperative neurological deficit between 1 July 2016 and 20 October 2017 were eligible for inclusion. Data were collected retrospectively. Patients were divided into early and late cohorts based on timing from initial trauma to first spinal operation. Early fixation was defined as within 72 hours, and late fixation beyond 72 hours.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 102-B, Issue 5 | Pages 568 - 572
1 May 2020
McDonnell JM Ahern DP Ó Doinn T Gibbons D Rodrigues KN Birch N Butler JS

Continuous technical improvement in spinal surgical procedures, with the aim of enhancing patient outcomes, can be assisted by the deployment of advanced technologies including navigation, intraoperative CT imaging, and surgical robots. The latest generation of robotic surgical systems allows the simultaneous application of a range of digital features that provide the surgeon with an improved view of the surgical field, often through a narrow portal.

There is emerging evidence that procedure-related complications and intraoperative blood loss can be reduced if the new technologies are used by appropriately trained surgeons. Acceptance of the role of surgical robots has increased in recent years among a number of surgical specialities including general surgery, neurosurgery, and orthopaedic surgeons performing major joint arthroplasty. However, ethical challenges have emerged with the rollout of these innovations, such as ensuring surgeon competence in the use of surgical robotics and avoiding financial conflicts of interest. Therefore, it is essential that trainees aspiring to become spinal surgeons as well as established spinal specialists should develop the necessary skills to use robotic technology safely and effectively and understand the ethical framework within which the technology is introduced.

Traditional and more recently developed platforms exist to aid skill acquisition and surgical training which are described.

The aim of this narrative review is to describe the role of surgical robotics in spinal surgery, describe measures of proficiency, and present the range of training platforms that institutions can use to ensure they employ confident spine surgeons adequately prepared for the era of robotic spinal surgery.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(5):568–572.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 98-B, Issue 9 | Pages 1234 - 1239
1 Sep 2016
Yu HM Malhotra K Butler JS Patel A Sewell MD Li YZ Molloy S


Patients with multiple myeloma (MM) develop deposits in the spine which may lead to vertebral compression fractures (VCFs). Our aim was to establish which spinopelvic parameters are associated with the greatest disability in patients with spinal myeloma and VCFs.

Patients and Methods

We performed a retrospective cross-sectional review of 148 consecutive patients (87 male, 61 female) with spinal myeloma and analysed correlations between spinopelvic parameters and patient-reported outcome scores. The mean age of the patients was 65.5 years (37 to 91) and the mean number of vertebrae involved was 3.7 (1 to 15).

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 88-B, Issue 6 | Pages 771 - 775
1 Jun 2006
Shelly MJ Butler JS Timlin M Walsh MG Poynton AR O’Byrne JM

This study assessed the frequency of acute injury to the spinal cord in Irish Rugby over a period of ten years, between 1995 and 2004. There were 12 such injuries; 11 were cervical and one was thoracic. Ten occurred in adults and two in schoolboys. All were males playing Rugby Union and the mean age at injury was 21.6 years (16 to 36). The most common mechanism of injury was hyperflexion of the cervical spine and the players injured most frequently were playing at full back, hooker or on the wing. Most injuries were sustained during the tackle phase of play. Six players felt their injury was preventable. Eight are permanently disabled as a result of their injury.