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Elijah M. Persad-Paisley, Sarah B. Andrea, Owen P. Leary, Orianna D. Carvalho, Victoria G. Zeyl, Amanda R. Laguna, Matthew N. Anderson, Belinda Shao, Steven A. Toms, Adetokunbo A. Oyelese, Ziya L. Gokaslan, and Katherine M. Sharkey

OBJECTIVE

US allopathic medical schools have experienced improvements in racial and ethnic diversity among matriculants in the past decade. It is not clear, however, whether better representation of historically excluded racial and ethnic groups at medical school entry impacts subsequent stages of the medical training pipeline leading into a specific field. The aim of this study was to examine these trends as they relate to the neurosurgical medical education pipeline and consider the drivers that sustain barriers for underrepresented groups.

METHODS

Race and ethnicity reports from the American Association of Medical Colleges were obtained on allopathic medical school applicants, acceptees, and graduates and applicants to US neurosurgical residency programs from 2012 to 2020. The representation of groups categorized by self-reported race and ethnicity was compared with their US population counterparts to determine the representation quotient (RQ) for each group. Annual racial composition differences and changes in representation over time at each stage of medical training were evaluated by estimating incidence rate ratios (IRRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) using non-Hispanic Whites as the reference group.

RESULTS

On average, Asian and White individuals most frequently applied and were accepted to medical school, had the highest graduation rates, and applied to neurosurgery residency programs more often than other racial groups. The medical school application and acceptance rates for Black individuals increased from 2012 to 2020 relative to Whites by 30% (95% CI 1.23–1.36) and 42% (95% CI 1.31–1.53), respectively. During this same period, however, inequities in neurosurgical residency applications grew across all non-Asian racialized groups relative to Whites. While the incidence of active Black neurosurgery residents increased from 2012 to 2020 (0.6 to 0.7/100,000 Black US inhabitants), the prevalence of White neurosurgery residents grew in the active neurosurgery resident population by 16% more.

CONCLUSIONS

The increased racial diversity of medical school students in recent years is not yet reflected in racial representation among neurosurgery applicants. Disproportionately fewer Black relative to White US medical students apply to neurosurgery residency, which contributes to declining racial representation among all active neurosurgery resident physicians. Hispanic individuals are becoming increasingly represented in neurosurgery residency but continue to remain underrepresented relative to the US population. Ongoing efforts to recruit medical students into neurosurgery who more accurately reflect the diversity of the general US population are necessary to ensure equitable patient care.

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Matthew J. Hagan, Albert E. Telfeian, Rahul Sastry, Rohaid Ali, Kai-Uwe Lewandrowski, Sanjay Konakondla, Sean Barber, Kendall Lane, and Ziya L. Gokaslan

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to describe a minimally invasive transforaminal surgical technique for treating awake patients presenting with lumbar radiculopathy and compressive facet cysts.

METHODS

Awake transforaminal endoscopic decompression surgery was performed in 645 patients over a 6-year period from 2014 to 2020. Transforaminal endoscopic decompression surgery utilizing a high-speed endoscopic drill was performed in 25 patients who had lumbar facet cysts. All surgeries were performed as outpatient procedures in awake patients. Nine of the 25 patients had previously undergone laminectomies at the treated level. A retrospective chart review of patient-reported outcome measures is presented.

RESULTS

At the 2-year follow-up, the mean (± standard deviation) preoperative visual analog scale leg score and Oswestry Disability Index improved from 7.6 ± 1.3 to 2.3 ± 1.4 and 39.7% ± 8.1% to 13.0% ± 7.4%, respectively. There were no complications, readmissions, or recurrence of symptoms during the 2-year follow-up period.

CONCLUSIONS

A minimally invasive awake procedure is presented for the treatment of lumbar facet cysts in patients with lumbar radiculopathy. Approximately one-third of the treated patients (9 of 25) had postlaminectomy facet cysts.

Open access

Oliver Y. Tang, Patricia Zadnik Sullivan, Teddi Tubre, Joshua Feler, Belinda Shao, Jesse Hart, and Ziya L. Gokaslan

BACKGROUND

Tumoral calcinosis is an uncommon disease resulting from dystrophic calcium phosphate crystal deposition, with only 7% of cases involving the spine, and it may diagnostically mimic neoplasms.

OBSERVATIONS

In this case, a 54-year-old woman with history of systemic scleroderma presented with 10 months of progressive left lumbosacral pain. Imaging revealed an expansile, 4 × 7-cm, well-circumscribed mass in the lumbosacral spine with L5–S1 neuroforaminal compression. Because intractable pain and computed tomography (CT)-guided needle biopsy did not entirely rule out malignancy, operative management was pursued. The patient underwent L4–S2 laminectomies, left L5–S1 facetectomy, L5 and S1 pediculectomies, and en bloc resection, performed under stereotactic CT-guided intraoperative navigation. Subsequently, instrumented fusion was performed with L4 and L5 pedicle screws and S2 alar-iliac screws. Pathological examination was consistent with tumoral calcinosis, with multiple nodules of amorphous basophilic granular calcified material lined by histiocytes. There was no evidence of recurrence or neurological deficits at 5-month follow-up.

LESSONS

Because spinal tumoral calcinosis may mimic neoplasms on imaging or gross intraoperative appearance, awareness of this clinical entity is essential for any spine surgeon. A review of all case reports of lumbosacral tumoral calcinosis (n = 14 from 1952 to 2016) was additionally performed. The case featured in this report presents the first known case of navigation-assisted resection of lumbosacral tumoral calcinosis.

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Andrew M. Hersh, Jaimin Patel, Zach Pennington, Jose L. Porras, Earl Goldsborough, Albert Antar, Aladine A. Elsamadicy, Daniel Lubelski, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, George Jallo, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Sheng-Fu Larry Lo, and Daniel M. Sciubba

OBJECTIVE

Intramedullary spinal cord tumors (IMSCTs) are rare neoplasms whose treatment is often technically challenging. Given the low volume seen at most centers, perioperative outcomes have been reported infrequently. Here, the authors present the largest single-institution series of IMSCTs, focusing on the clinical presentation, histological makeup, perioperative outcomes, and long-term survival of surgically treated patients.

METHODS

A cohort of patients operated on for primary IMSCTs at a comprehensive cancer center between June 2002 and May 2020 was retrospectively identified. Data on patient demographics, tumor histology, neuraxial location, baseline neurological status, functional deficits, and operative characteristics were collected. Perioperative outcomes of interest included length of stay, postoperative complications, readmission, reoperation, and discharge disposition. Data were compared across tumor histologies using the Kruskal-Wallis H test, chi-square test, and Fisher exact test. Pairwise comparisons were conducted using Tukey’s honest significant difference test, chi-square test, and Fisher exact test. Long-term survival was assessed across tumor categories and histological subtype using the log-rank test.

RESULTS

Three hundred two patients were included in the study (mean age 34.9 ± 19 years, 77% white, 57% male). The most common tumors were ependymomas (47%), astrocytomas (31%), and hemangioblastomas (11%). Ependymomas and hemangioblastomas disproportionately localized to the cervical cord (54% and 59%, respectively), whereas astrocytomas were distributed almost equally between the cervical cord (36%) and thoracic cord (38%). Clinical presentation, extent of functional dependence, and postoperative 30-day outcomes were largely independent of underlying tumor pathology, although tumors of the thoracic cord had worse American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grades than cervical tumors. Rates of gross-total resection were lower for astrocytomas than for ependymomas (54% vs 84%, p < 0.01) and hemangioblastomas (54% vs 100%, p < 0.01). Additionally, 30-day readmission rates were significantly higher for astrocytomas than ependymomas (14% vs 6%, p = 0.02). Overall survival was significantly affected by the underlying pathology, with astrocytomas having poorer associated prognoses (40% at 15 years) than ependymomas (81%) and hemangioblastomas (66%; p < 0.01) and patients with high-grade ependymomas and astrocytomas having poorer long-term survival than those with low-grade lesions (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS

The neuraxial location of IMSCTs, extent of resection, and postoperative survival differed significantly across tumor pathologies. However, perioperative outcomes did not vary significantly across tumor cohorts, suggesting that operative details, rather than pathology, may have a stronger influence on the short-term clinical course, whereas pathology appears to have a stronger impact on long-term survival.

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Yike Jin, Ann Liu, Jessica R. Overbey, Ravi Medikonda, James Feghali, Sonya Krishnan, Wataru Ishida, Sutipat Pairojboriboon, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Jean-Paul Wolinsky, Nicholas Theodore, Ali Bydon, Daniel M. Sciubba, Timothy F. Witham, and Sheng-Fu L. Lo

OBJECTIVE

Treatment of primary spinal infection includes medical management with or without surgical intervention. The objective of this study was to identify risk factors for the eventual need for surgery in patients with primary spinal infection on initial presentation.

METHODS

From January 2010 to July 2019, 275 patients presented with primary spinal infection. Demographic, infectious, imaging, laboratory, treatment, and outcome data were retrospectively reviewed and collected. Thirty-three patients were excluded due to insufficient follow-up (≤ 90 days) or death prior to surgery.

RESULTS

The mean age of the 242 patients was 58.8 ± 13.6 years. The majority of the patients were male (n = 130, 53.7%), White (n = 150, 62.0%), and never smokers (n = 132, 54.5%). Fifty-four patients (22.3%) were intravenous drug users. One hundred fifty-four patients (63.6%) ultimately required surgery while 88 (36.4%) never needed surgery during the duration of follow-up. There was no significant difference in age, gender, race, BMI, or comorbidities between the surgery and no-surgery groups. On univariate analysis, the presence of an epidural abscess (55.7% in the no-surgery group vs 82.5% in the surgery group, p < 0.0001), the median spinal levels involved (2 [interquartile range (IQR) 2–3] in the no-surgery group vs 3 [IQR 2–5] in the surgery group, p < 0.0001), and active bacteremia (20.5% in the no-surgery vs 35.1% in the surgery group, p = 0.02) were significantly different. The cultured organism and initial laboratory values (erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein, white blood cell count, creatinine, and albumin) were not significantly different between the groups. On multivariable analysis, the final model included epidural abscess, cervical or thoracic spine involvement, and number of involved levels. After adjusting for other variables, epidural abscess (odds ratio [OR] 3.04, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.64–5.63), cervical or thoracic spine involvement (OR 2.03, 95% CI 1.15–3.61), and increasing number of involved levels (OR 1.16, 95% CI 1.01–1.35) were associated with greater odds of surgery. Fifty-two surgical patients (33.8%) underwent decompression alone while 102 (66.2%) underwent decompression with fusion. Of those who underwent decompression alone, 2 (3.8%) of 52 required subsequent fusion due to kyphosis. No patient required hardware removal due to persistent infection.

CONCLUSIONS

At time of initial presentation of primary spinal infection, the presence of epidural abscess, cervical or thoracic spine involvement, as well as an increasing number of involved spinal levels were potential risk factors for the eventual need for surgery in this study. Additional studies are needed to assess for risk factors for surgery and antibiotic treatment failure.

Free access

Albert E. Telfeian, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Thomas Santarius, and Hyeun-Sung Kim

Free access

Rohaid Ali, Sohail Syed, Rahul A. Sastry, Hael Abdulrazeq, Belinda Shao, G. Dean Roye, Curtis E. Doberstein, Adetokunbo Oyelese, Tianyi Niu, Ziya L. Gokaslan, and Albert Telfeian

OBJECTIVE

Accurate clinical documentation is foundational to any quality improvement endeavor as it is ultimately the medical record that is measured in assessing change. Literature on high-yield interventions to improve the accuracy and completeness of clinical documentation by neurosurgical providers is limited. Therefore, the authors sought to share a single-institution experience of a two-part intervention to enhance clinical documentation by a neurosurgery inpatient service.

METHODS

At an urban, level I trauma, academic teaching hospital, a two-part intervention was implemented to enhance the accuracy of clinical documentation of neurosurgery inpatients by residents and advanced practice providers (APPs). Residents and APPs were instructed on the most common neurosurgical complications or comorbidities (CCs) and major complications or comorbidities (MCCs), as defined by Medicare. Additionally, a “system-based” progress note template was changed to a “problem-based” progress note template. Prepost analysis was performed to compare the CC/MCC capture rates for the 12 months prior to the intervention with those for the 3 months after the intervention.

RESULTS

The CC/MCC capture rate for the neurosurgery service line rose from 62% in the 12 months preintervention to 74% in the 3 months after intervention, representing a significant change (p = 0.00002).

CONCLUSIONS

Existing clinical documentation habits by neurosurgical residents and APPs may fail to capture the extent of neurosurgical inpatients with CC/MCCs. An intervention that focuses on the most common CC/MCCs and utilizes a problem-based progress note template may lead to more accurate appraisals of neurosurgical patient acuity.

Free access

Wuyang Yang, Jordina Rincon-Torroella, James Feghali, Adham M. Khalafallah, Wataru Ishida, Alexander Perdomo-Pantoja, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, Michael Lim, Gary L. Gallia, Gregory J. Riggins, William S. Anderson, Sheng-Fu Larry Lo, Daniele Rigamonti, Rafael J. Tamargo, Timothy F. Witham, Ali Bydon, Alan R. Cohen, George I. Jallo, Alban Latremoliere, Mark G. Luciano, Debraj Mukherjee, Alessandro Olivi, Lintao Qu, Ziya L. Gokaslan, Daniel M. Sciubba, Betty Tyler, Henry Brem, and Judy Huang

OBJECTIVE

International research fellows have been historically involved in academic neurosurgery in the United States (US). To date, the contribution of international research fellows has been underreported. Herein, the authors aimed to quantify the academic output of international research fellows in the Department of Neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

METHODS

Research fellows with Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), or MD/PhD degrees from a non-US institution who worked in the Hopkins Department of Neurosurgery for at least 6 months over the past decade (2010–2020) were included in this study. Publications produced during fellowship, number of citations, and journal impact factors (IFs) were analyzed using ANOVA. A survey was sent to collect information on personal background, demographics, and academic activities.

RESULTS

Sixty-four international research fellows were included, with 42 (65.6%) having MD degrees, 17 (26.6%) having PhD degrees, and 5 (7.8%) having MD/PhD degrees. During an average 27.9 months of fellowship, 460 publications were produced in 136 unique journals, with 8628 citations and a cumulative journal IF of 1665.73. There was no significant difference in total number of publications, first-author publications, and total citations per person among the different degree holders. Persons holding MD/PhDs had a higher number of citations per publication per person (p = 0.027), whereas those with MDs had higher total IFs per person (p = 0.048). Among the 43 (67.2%) survey responders, 34 (79.1%) had nonimmigrant visas at the start of the fellowship, 16 (37.2%) were self-paid or funded by their country of origin, and 35 (81.4%) had mentored at least one US medical student, nonmedical graduate student, or undergraduate student.

CONCLUSIONS

International research fellows at the authors’ institution have contributed significantly to academic neurosurgery. Although they have faced major challenges like maintaining nonimmigrant visas, negotiating cultural/language differences, and managing self-sustainability, their scientific productivity has been substantial. Additionally, the majority of fellows have provided reciprocal mentorship to US students.

Free access

Spencer C. Darveau, Owen P. Leary, Elijah M. Persad-Paisley, Elias A. Shaaya, Adetokunbo A. Oyelese, Jared S. Fridley, Prakash Sampath, Joaquin Q. Camara-Quintana, Ziya L. Gokaslan, and Tianyi Niu

OBJECTIVE

Spinal fusion surgery is increasingly common; however, pseudarthrosis remains a common complication affecting as much as 15% of some patient populations. Currently, no clear consensus on the best bone graft materials to use exists. Recent advances have led to the development of cell-infused cellular bone matrices (CBMs), which contain living components such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). Relatively few clinical outcome studies on the use of these grafts exist, although the number of such studies has increased in the last 5 years. In this study, the authors aimed to summarize and critically evaluate the existing clinical evidence on commercially available CBMs in spinal fusion and reported clinical outcomes.

METHODS

The authors performed a systematic search of the MEDLINE and PubMed electronic databases for peer-reviewed, English-language original articles (1970–2020) in which the articles’ authors studied the clinical outcomes of CBMs in spinal fusion. The US National Library of Medicine electronic clinical trials database (www.ClinicalTrials.gov) was also searched for relevant ongoing clinical trials.

RESULTS

Twelve published studies of 6 different CBM products met inclusion criteria: 5 studies of Osteocel Plus/Osteocel (n = 354 unique patients), 3 of Trinity Evolution (n = 114), 2 of ViviGen (n = 171), 1 of map3 (n = 41), and 1 of VIA Graft (n = 75). All studies reported high radiographic fusion success rates (range 87%–100%) using these CBMs. However, this literature was overwhelmingly limited to single-center, noncomparative studies. Seven studies disclosed industry funding or conflicts of interest (COIs). There are 4 known trials of ViviGen (3 trials) and Bio4 (1 trial) that are ongoing.

CONCLUSIONS

CBMs are a promising technology with the potential of improving outcome after spinal fusion. However, while the number of studies conducted in humans has tripled since 2014, there is still insufficient evidence in the literature to recommend for or against CBMs relative to cheaper alternative materials. Comparative, multicenter trials and outcome registries free from industry COIs are indicated.