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Rachel Lazarus, Katherine Helmick, Saafan Malik, Emma Gregory, Yll Agimi and Donald Marion

Over the past 8 years, advances in the US Military Health System (MHS) have led to extensive changes in the way combat casualty care is provided to deployed service members with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Changes include the application of cutting-edge Clinical Practice Guidelines, use of pioneering technologies, and advances in evacuation procedures. Compared with previous engagements, current operations occur on a much smaller scale, and more frequently in austere environments, such that effective medical support is increasingly challenging. In this paper, the authors describe key aspects of the current continuum of TBI care in the US military, from the point of injury through rehabilitation, with an emphasis on how emerging technologies and evidence-based Clinical Practice Guidelines assist MHS clinicians with providing the best clinical care possible in the changing battlefield.

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Chris J. Neal, Kara Mandell, Ellen Tasikas, John J. Delaney, Charles A. Miller, Cody D. Schlaff and Michael K. Rosner

OBJECTIVE

Adult spinal deformity surgery is an effective way of treating pain and disability, but little research has been done to evaluate the costs associated with changes in health outcome measures. This study determined the change in quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and the cost per QALY in patients undergoing spinal deformity surgery in the unique environment of a military healthcare system (MHS).

METHODS

Patients were enrolled between 2011 and 2017. Patients were eligible to participate if they were undergoing a thoracolumbar spinal fusion spanning more than 6 levels to treat an underlying deformity. Patients completed the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) prior to surgery and 6 and 12 months after surgery. The authors used paired t-tests to compare SF-36 Physical Component Summary (PCS) scores between baseline and postsurgery. To estimate the cost per QALY of complex spine surgery in this population, the authors extended the change in health-related quality of life (HRQOL) between baseline and follow-up over 5 years. Data on the cost of surgery were obtained from the MHS and include all facility and physician costs.

RESULTS

HRQOL and surgical data were available for 49 of 91 eligible patients. Thirty-one patients met additional criteria allowing for cost-effectiveness analysis. Over 12 months, patients demonstrated significant improvement (p < 0.01) in SF-36 PCS scores. A majority of patients met the minimum clinically important difference (MCID; 83.7%) and substantive clinical benefit threshold (SCBT; 83.7%). The average change in QALY was an increase of 0.08. Extended across 5 years, including the 3.5% discounting per year, study participants increased their QALYs by 0.39, resulting in an average cost per QALY of $181,649.20. Nineteen percent of patients met the < $100,000/QALY threshold with half of the patients meeting the < $100,000/QALY mark by 10 years. A sensitivity analysis showed that patients who scored below 60 on their preoperative SF-36 PCS had an average increase in QALYs of 0.10 per year or 0.47 over 5 years.

CONCLUSIONS

With a 5-year extended analysis, patients who receive spinal deformity surgery in the MHS increased their QALYs by 0.39, with 19% of patients meeting the $100,000/QALY threshold. The majority of patients met the threshold for MCID and SCBT at 1 year postoperatively. Consideration of preoperative functional status (SF-36 PCS score < 60) may be an important factor in determining which patients benefit the most from spinal deformity surgery.

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Isabel Charlotte Hostettler, Carl Muroi, Johannes Konstantin Richter, Josef Schmid, Marian Christoph Neidert, Martin Seule, Oliver Boss, Athina Pangalu, Menno Robbert Germans and Emanuela Keller

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to create prediction models for outcome parameters by decision tree analysis based on clinical and laboratory data in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (aSAH).

METHODS

The database consisted of clinical and laboratory parameters of 548 patients with aSAH who were admitted to the Neurocritical Care Unit, University Hospital Zurich. To examine the model performance, the cohort was randomly divided into a derivation cohort (60% [n = 329]; training data set) and a validation cohort (40% [n = 219]; test data set). The classification and regression tree prediction algorithm was applied to predict death, functional outcome, and ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt dependency. Chi-square automatic interaction detection was applied to predict delayed cerebral infarction on days 1, 3, and 7.

RESULTS

The overall mortality was 18.4%. The accuracy of the decision tree models was good for survival on day 1 and favorable functional outcome at all time points, with a difference between the training and test data sets of < 5%. Prediction accuracy for survival on day 1 was 75.2%. The most important differentiating factor was the interleukin-6 (IL-6) level on day 1. Favorable functional outcome, defined as Glasgow Outcome Scale scores of 4 and 5, was observed in 68.6% of patients. Favorable functional outcome at all time points had a prediction accuracy of 71.1% in the training data set, with procalcitonin on day 1 being the most important differentiating factor at all time points. A total of 148 patients (27%) developed VP shunt dependency. The most important differentiating factor was hyperglycemia on admission.

CONCLUSIONS

The multiple variable analysis capability of decision trees enables exploration of dependent variables in the context of multiple changing influences over the course of an illness. The decision tree currently generated increases awareness of the early systemic stress response, which is seemingly pertinent for prognostication.

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Nikita G. Alexiades, Edward S. Ahn, Jeffrey P. Blount, Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Samuel R. Browd, Gerald A. Grant, Gregory G. Heuer, Todd C. Hankinson, Bermans J. Iskandar, Andrew Jea, Mark D. Krieger, Jeffrey R. Leonard, David D. Limbrick Jr., Cormac O. Maher, Mark R. Proctor, David I. Sandberg, John C. Wellons III, Belinda Shao, Neil A. Feldstein and Richard C. E. Anderson

OBJECTIVE

Complications after complex tethered spinal cord (cTSC) surgery include infections and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks. With little empirical evidence to guide management, there is variability in the interventions undertaken to limit complications. Expert-based best practices may improve the care of patients undergoing cTSC surgery. Here, authors conducted a study to identify consensus-driven best practices.

METHODS

The Delphi method was employed to identify consensual best practices. A literature review regarding cTSC surgery together with a survey of current practices was distributed to 17 board-certified pediatric neurosurgeons. Thirty statements were then formulated and distributed to the group. Results of the second survey were discussed during an in-person meeting leading to further consensus, which was defined as ≥ 80% agreement on a 4-point Likert scale (strongly agree, agree, disagree, strongly disagree).

RESULTS

Seventeen consensus-driven best practices were identified, with all participants willing to incorporate them into their practice. There were four preoperative interventions: (1, 2) asymptomatic AND symptomatic patients should be referred to urology preoperatively, (3, 4) routine preoperative urine cultures are not necessary for asymptomatic AND symptomatic patients. There were nine intraoperative interventions: (5) patients should receive perioperative cefazolin or an equivalent alternative in the event of allergy, (6) chlorhexidine-based skin preparation is the preferred regimen, (7) saline irrigation should be used intermittently throughout the case, (8) antibiotic-containing irrigation should be used following dural closure, (9) a nonlocking running suture technique should be used for dural closure, (10) dural graft overlay should be used when unable to obtain primary dural closure, (11) an expansile dural graft should be incorporated in cases of lipomyelomeningocele in which primary dural closure does not permit free flow of CSF, (12) paraxial muscles should be closed as a layer separate from the fascia, (13) routine placement of postoperative drains is not necessary. There were three postoperative interventions: (14) postoperative antibiotics are an option and, if given, should be discontinued within 24 hours; (15) patients should remain flat for at least 24 hours postoperatively; (16) routine use of abdominal binders or other compressive devices postoperatively is not necessary. One intervention was prioritized for additional study: (17) further study of additional gram-negative perioperative coverage is needed.

CONCLUSIONS

A modified Delphi technique was used to develop consensus-driven best practices for decreasing wound complications after cTSC surgery. Further study is required to determine if implementation of these practices will lead to reduced complications. Discussion through the course of this study resulted in the initiation of a multicenter study of gram-negative surgical site infections in cTSC surgery.

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David H. Shin, Kristopher G. Hooten, Brian D. Sindelar, Brian M. Corliss, William R. Y. Carlton Jr., Christopher P. Carroll, Jeffrey M. Tomlin and W. Christopher Fox

Military neurosurgery has played an integral role in the development and innovation of neurosurgery and neurocritical care in treating battlefield injuries. It is of paramount importance to continue to train and prepare the next generation of military neurosurgeons. For the Army, this is currently primarily achieved through the military neurosurgery residency at the National Capital Consortium and through full-time out-service positions at the Veterans Affairs–Department of Defense partnerships with the University of Florida, the University of Texas–San Antonio, and Baylor University. The authors describe the application process for military neurosurgery residency and highlight the training imparted to residents in a busy academic and level I trauma center at the University of Florida, with a focus on how case variety and volume at this particular civilian-partnered institution produces neurosurgeons who are prepared for the complexities of the battlefield. Further emphasis is also placed on collaboration for research as well as continuing education to maintain the skills of nondeployed neurosurgeons. With ongoing uncertainty regarding future conflict, it is critical to preserve and expand these civilian-military partnerships to maintain a standard level of readiness in order to face the unknown with the confidence befitting a military neurosurgeon.

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Caroline Chung, Dheerendra Prasad, Michael Torrens, Ian Paddick, Patrick Hanssens, Douglas Kondziolka and David A. Jaffray

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Jonathan A. Forbes

OBJECTIVE

Active-duty neurosurgical coverage has been provided at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan since 2007. Early operative logs were reflective of a large number of surgical procedures performed to treat battlefield injuries. However, with maturation of the war effort, the number of operations for battlefield injuries has decreased with time. Consequently, procedures performed for elective neurosurgical humanitarian care (NHC) increased in number and complexity prior to closure of the Korean Hospital in 2015, which resulted in effective termination of NHC at Bagram. Monthly neurosurgical caseloads for deployed personnel have dropped precipitously since this time, renewing a debate as to whether the benefits of providing elective NHC in Afghanistan outweigh the costs of such a strategy. To date, there is a paucity of information in the literature discussing the overall context of such a determination.

METHODS

The author retrospectively reviewed his personal database of all patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures at Bagram during his deployment there from April 17 to October 29, 2014. Standardized clinical parameters had been recorded in the ABNS NeuroLog system. All cases of nonelective surgical care for battlefield injuries were identified and excluded. Records of all other procedures, which represented elective NHC delivered during this period, were accessed to extract salient clinical and radiological data.

RESULTS

During the 6-month deployment, 49 patients (29 male and 20 female, age range 18 months to 63 years) were treated by the author in elective NHC. Procedures were performed for spinal degenerative disease (n = 28), cranial tumors (n = 11), pediatric conditions (n = 6), Pott’s disease (n = 2), peripheral nerve impingement (n = 1), and adult hydrocephalus (n = 1). The duration of follow-up ranged from 3 to 23 weeks. Complications referable to surgery included asymptomatic, unilateral lumbar screw fracture detected 3 months postoperatively and treated with revision of hardware (n = 1); wound infection requiring cranial flap explantation and staged cranioplasty (n = 1); and unanticipated return to the operating room for resection of residual tumor in a patient with a solitary metastatic lesion involving the mesial temporal lobe/ambient cistern (n = 1). There were no instances of postoperative neurological decline.

CONCLUSIONS

Elective NHC can be safely and effectively implemented in the deployed setting. Benefits of a military strategy that supports humanitarian care include strengthening of the bond between the US/Afghan military communities and the local civilian population as well as maintenance of skills of the neurosurgical team during the sometimes-lengthy intervals between cases in which emergent neurosurgical care is provided for treatment of battlefield injuries.

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Myung Soo Youn, Jong Ki Shin, Tae Sik Goh, Seung Min Son and Jung Sub Lee

OBJECTIVE

Various minimally invasive techniques have been described for the decompression of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). However, few reports have described the results of endoscopic posterior decompression (EPD) with laminectomy performed under local anesthesia. This study aimed to evaluate the clinical and radiological outcomes of EPD performed under local anesthesia in patients with LSS and to compare the procedural outcomes in patients with and without preoperative spondylolisthesis.

METHODS

Fifty patients (28 female and 22 male) who underwent EPD under local anesthesia were included in this study. Patients were assessed before surgery and were followed up with regular outpatient visits (at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 months postoperatively). Clinical outcomes were evaluated using the visual analog scale (VAS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), and the 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36) outcome questionnaire. Radiological outcomes were assessed by measuring lumbar lordosis, disc-wedging angle, percentage of vertebral slippage, and disc height index on plain standing radiographs.

RESULTS

The VAS, ODI, and SF-36 scores were significantly improved at 1 month after surgery compared to the baseline mean values, and the improved scores were maintained over the 2-year follow-up period. Radiological progression was found in 2 patients during the follow-up period. Patients with and without preoperative spondylolisthesis had no significant differences in their clinical and radiological outcomes.

CONCLUSIONS

EPD performed under local anesthesia is effective for LSS treatment. Similar favorable outcomes can be obtained in patients with and without preoperative spondylolisthesis using this approach.