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## Factors associated with career satisfaction and burnout among US neurosurgeons: results of a nationwide survey

### OBJECT

The object of this study was to identify and quantify predictors of burnout and career satisfaction among US neurosurgeons.

### METHODS

All US members (3247) of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) were invited to participate in a survey between September and December 2012. Responses were evaluated through univariate analysis. Factors independently associated with burnout and career satisfaction were determined using multivariable logistic regression. Subgroup analysis of academic and nonacademic neurosurgeons was performed as well.

### RESULTS

The survey response rate was 24% (783 members). The majority of respondents were male, 40–60 years old, in a stable relationship, with children, working in a group or university practice, and trained in a subspecialty. More than 80% of respondents reported being at least somewhat satisfied with their career, and 70% would choose a career in neurosurgery again; however, only 26% of neurosurgeons believed their professional lives would improve in the future, and 52% believed it would worsen. The overall burnout rate was 56.7%. Factors independently associated with both burnout and career satisfaction included achieving a balance between work and life outside the hospital (burnout OR 0.45, satisfaction OR 10.0) and anxiety over future earnings and/or health care reform (burnout OR 1.96, satisfaction OR 0.32). While the burnout rate for nonacademic neurosurgeons (62.9%) was higher than that for academic neurosurgeons (47.7%), academicians who had practiced for over 20 years were less likely to be satisfied with their careers.

### CONCLUSIONS

The rates of burnout and career satisfaction were both high in this survey study of US neurosurgeons. The negative effects of burnout on the lives of surgeons, patients, and their families require further study and probably necessitate the development of interventional programs at local, regional, and even national levels.

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## Editorial: Methodology and reporting of meta-analyses in the neurosurgical literature

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## Methodology and reporting of meta-analyses in the neurosurgical literature

### Object

Neurosurgeons are inundated with vast amounts of new clinical research on a daily basis, making it difficult and time-consuming to keep up with the latest literature. Meta-analysis is an extension of a systematic review that employs statistical techniques to pool the data from the literature in order to calculate a cumulative effect size. This is done to answer a clearly defined a priori question. Despite their increasing popularity in the neurosurgery literature, meta-analyses have not been scrutinized in terms of reporting and methodology.

### Methods

The authors performed a literature search using PubMed/MEDLINE to locate all meta-analyses that have been published in the JNS Publishing Group journals (Journal of Neurosurgery, Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine, and Neurosurgical Focus) or Neurosurgery. Accepted checklists for reporting (PRISMA) and methodology (AMSTAR) were applied to each meta-analysis, and the number of items within each checklist that were satisfactorily fulfilled was recorded. The authors sought to answer 4 specific questions: Are meta-analyses improving 1) with time; 2) when the study met their definition of a meta-analysis; 3) when clinicians collaborated with a potential expert in meta-analysis; and 4) when the meta-analysis was the only focus of the paper?

### Results

Seventy-two meta-analyses were published in the JNS Publishing Group journals and Neurosurgery between 1990 and 2012. The number of published meta-analyses has increased dramatically in the last several years. The most common topics were vascular, and most were based on observational studies. Only 11 papers were prepared using an established checklist. The average AMSTAR and PRISMA scores (proportion of items satisfactorily fulfilled divided by the total number of eligible items in the respective instrument) were 31% and 55%, respectively. Major deficiencies were identified, including the lack of a comprehensive search strategy, study selection and data extraction, assessment of heterogeneity, publication bias, and study quality. Almost one-third of the papers did not meet our basic definition of a meta-analysis. The quality of reporting and methodology was better 1) when the study met our definition of a meta-analysis; 2) when one or more of the authors had experience or expertise in conducting a meta-analysis; 3) when the meta-analysis was not conducted alongside an evaluation of the authors' own data; and 4) in more recent studies.

### Conclusions

Reporting and methodology of meta-analyses in the neurosurgery literature is excessively variable and overall poor. As these papers are being published with increasing frequency, neurosurgical journals need to adopt a clear definition of a meta-analysis and insist that they be created using checklists for both reporting and methodology. Standardization will ensure high-quality publications.

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## Antibiotic-impregnated shunt systems versus standard shunt systems: a meta- and cost-savings analysis

### Object

Infection is a serious and costly complication of CSF shunt implantation. Antibiotic-impregnated shunts (AISs) were introduced almost 10 years ago, but reports on their ability to decrease the infection rate have been mixed. The authors conducted a meta-analysis assessing the extent to which AISs reduce the rate of shunt infection compared with standard shunts (SSs). They also examined cost savings to determine the degree to which AISs could decrease infection-related hospital expenses.

### Methods

After conducting a comprehensive search of multiple electronic databases to identify studies that evaluated shunt type and used shunt-related infection as the primary outcome, 2 reviewers independently evaluated study quality based on preestablished criteria and extracted data. A random effects meta-analysis of eligible studies was then performed. For studies that demonstrated a positive effect with the AIS, a cost-savings analysis was conducted by calculating the number of implanted shunts needed to prevent a shunt infection, assuming an additional cost of $400 per AIS system and$50,000 to treat a shunt infection.

### Results

Thirteen prospective or retrospective controlled cohort studies provided Level III evidence, and 1 prospective randomized study provided Level II evidence. “Shunt infection” was generally uniformly defined among the studies, but the availability and detail of baseline demographic data for the control (SS) and treatment (AIS) groups within each study were variable. There were 390 infections (7.0%) in 5582 procedures in the control group and 120 infections (3.5%) in 3467 operations in the treatment group, yielding a pooled absolute risk reduction (ARR) and relative risk reduction (RRR) of 3.5% and 50%, respectively. The meta-analysis revealed the AIS to be statistically protective in all studies (risk ratio = 0.46, 95% CI 0.33–0.63) and in single-institution studies (risk ratio = 0.38, 95% CI 0.25–0.58). There was some evidence of heterogeneity when studies were analyzed together (p = 0.093), but this heterogeneity was reduced when the studies were analyzed separately as single institution versus multiinstitutional (p > 0.10 for both groups). Seven studies showed the AIS to be statistically protective against infection with an ARR and RRR ranging from 1.7% to 14.2% and 34% to 84%, respectively. The number of shunt operations requiring an AIS to prevent 1 shunt infection ranged from 7 to 59. Assuming 200 shunt cases per year, the annual savings for converting from SSs to AISs ranged from $90,000 to over$1.3 million.

### Conclusions

While the authors recognized the inherent limitations in the quality and quantity of data available in the literature, this meta-analysis revealed a significant protective benefit with AIS systems, which translated into substantial hospital savings despite the added cost of an AIS. Using previously developed guidelines on treatment, the authors strongly encourage the use of AISs in all patients with hydrocephalus who require a shunt, particularly those at greatest risk for infection.

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## Pediatric neurosurgery during Operation Enduring Freedom

### Object

Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) is the current US military conflict against terrorist elements in Afghanistan. Deepening US involvement in this conflict and increasing coalition casualties prompted the establishment of continuous neurosurgical assets at Craig Joint Theater Hospital (CJTH) at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, in September 2007. As part of the military's medical mission, children with battlefield-related injuries and, on a selective case-by-case basis, non–war-related pathological conditions are treated at CJTH.

### Methods

A prospectively maintained record was created in which all rotating neurosurgeons at CJTH recorded their personal procedures. From this record, the authors were able to extract all cases involving patients 18 years of age or younger. Variables recorded included: age, sex, and category of patient (for example, local national, enemy combatant), date, indication and description of the neurosurgical procedure, mechanism of injury, and in-hospital morbidity and mortality data.

### Results

From September 2007 to October 2009, 296 neurosurgical procedures were performed at CJTH. Fifty-seven (19%) were performed in 43 pediatric patients (16 girls and 27 boys) with an average age of 7.5 years (range 11 days–18 years). Thirty-one of the 57 procedures (54%) were for battlefield-related trauma and 26 for humanitarian reasons (46%). The vast majority of cases were cranial (49/57, 86%) compared with spinal (7/54, 13%), with one peripheral nerve case. Craniotomies or craniectomies for penetrating brain injuries were the most common procedures. There were 5 complications (11.6%) and 4 in-hospital deaths (9.3%).

### Conclusions

As in previous military conflicts, children are the unfortunate victims of the current Afghanistan campaign. Extremely limited pediatric neurosurgical service and care is rendered under challenging conditions and Air Force neurosurgeons provide valuable, life-saving pediatric treatment for both war-related injuries and humanitarian needs. As the conflict in Afghanistan continues, military neurosurgeons will continue to care for injured children to the best of their abilities.

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## Can surgery improve neurological function in penetrating spinal injury? A review of the military and civilian literature and treatment recommendations for military neurosurgeons

### Object

Penetrating spinal injury (PSI), although an infrequent injury in the civilian population, is not an infrequent injury in military conflicts. Throughout military history, the role of surgery in the treatment of PSI has been controversial. The US is currently involved in 2 military campaigns, the hallmark of both being the widespread use of various explosive devices. The authors reviewed the evidence for or against the use of decompressive laminectomy to treat PSI to provide a triservice (US Army, Navy, and Air Force) consensus and treatment recommendations for military neurosurgeons and spine surgeons.

### Methods

A US National Library of Medicine PubMed database search that identified all literature dealing with acute management of PSI from military conflicts and civilian urban trauma centers in the post–Vietnam War period was undertaken.

### Results

Nineteen retrospective case series (11 military and 8 civilian) met the study criteria. Eleven military articles covered a 20-year time span that included 782 patients who suffered either gunshot or blast-related projectile wounds. Four papers included sufficient data that analyzed the effectiveness of surgery compared with nonoperative management, 6 papers concluded that surgery was of no benefit, 2 papers indicated that surgery did have a role, and 3 papers made no comment. Eight civilian articles covered a 9-year time span that included 653 patients with spinal gunshot wounds. Two articles lacked any comparative data because of treatment bias. Two papers concluded that decompressive laminectomy had a beneficial role, 1 paper favored the removal of intracanal bullets between T-12 and L-4, and 5 papers indicated that surgery was of no benefit.

### Conclusions

Based on the authors' military and civilian PubMed literature search, most of the evidence suggests that decompressive laminectomy does not improve neurological function in patients with PSI. However, there are serious methodological shortcomings in both literature groups. For this and other reasons, neurosurgeons from the US Air Force, Army, and Navy collectively believe that decompression should still be considered for any patient with an incomplete neurological injury and continued spinal canal compromise, ideally within 24–48 hours of injury; the patient should be stabilized concurrently if it is believed that the spinal injury is unstable. The authors recognize the highly controversial nature of this topic and hope that this literature review and the proposed treatment recommendations will be a valuable resource for deployed neurosurgeons. Ultimately, the deployed neurosurgeon must make the final treatment decision based on his or her opinion of the literature, individual abilities, and facility resources available.

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## Introduction: Military neurosurgery, past and present

ιˆητρός γάρ αˆνήρ πολλω∼ν αˆντάξιος αˆ´λλων ιˆούς τ´ εˆκτάμνειν εˆπί τ´ ηˆ´πια φάρμακα πάσσειν.

For a physician has the worth of many other warriors, both for the excision of arrows and for the administration of soothing drugs. Homer, Iliad XI.514–515

Ever since armed conflict has been used as a means to settle disputes among men, there have been those who have been tasked to mend the wounds that ravage a soldier's body from the weapons of war. The Iliad portrays the pivotal 10th year of the legendary Trojan War, during which a schism in the Greek leadership prolongs the extended siege of the city of Troy. In the midst of this martial epic come the lines quoted above, quietly attesting to the value of the military physician, even under the crude conditions of the Greek Dark Age. They are uttered by Idomeneus, one of the foremost Greeks, when he is enjoining one of his comrades, Nestor, to rescue the injured Greek physician Machaon and take him back from the line to treat his wounds. He is afraid that Machaon will be captured by the Trojans, a loss far greater than that of any other single warrior.

Duty to country has helped shape the careers of many neurosurgeons, including iconic US figures such as Harvey Cushing and Donald Matson. This issue of Neurosurgical Focus celebrates the rich history of military neurosurgery from the wars of yesterday to the conflicts of today. We have been humbled by the tremendous response to this topic. The 25 articles within this issue will provide the reader with both a broad and an in-depth look at the many facets of military neurosurgery. We have attempted to group articles based on their predominant topic. We also encourage our audience to read other recently published articles. –4

The first 8 articles relate to the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The lead article, written by Randy Bell and colleagues from the National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center, discusses what is arguably one of the most important contributions by military neurosurgeons from these 2 conflicts: the rapid and aggressive use of decompressive craniectomies. This is followed by articles on decompressive craniectomy techniques by Ragel and colleagues and cranioplasty outcomes by Stephens and colleagues. After reading these articles, the reader will come away with an appreciation of the often complex nature of wartime penetrating and closed-head injuries and the remarkable recovery that many injured soldiers make with time.

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## Neurosurgery in Afghanistan during “Operation Enduring Freedom”: a 24-month experience

### Object

“Operation Enduring Freedom” is the US war effort in Afghanistan in its global war on terror. One US military neurosurgeon is deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to provide care for both battlefield injuries and humanitarian work. Here, the authors analyze a 24-month neurosurgical caseload experience in Afghanistan.

### Methods

Operative logs were analyzed between October 2007 and September 2009. Operative cases were divided into minor procedures (for example, placement of an intracranial pressure monitor) and major procedures (for example, craniotomy) for both battle injuries and humanitarian work. Battle injuries were defined as injuries sustained by soldiers while in the line of duty or injuries to Afghan civilians from weapons of war. Humanitarian work consisted of providing medical care to Afghans.

### Results

Six neurosurgeons covering a 24-month period performed 115 minor procedures and 210 major surgical procedures cases. Operations for battlefield injuries included 106 craniotomies, 25 spine surgeries, and 18 miscellaneous surgeries. Humanitarian work included 32 craniotomies (23 for trauma, 3 for tumor, 6 for other reasons, such as cyst fenestration), 27 spine surgeries (12 for degenerative conditions, 9 for trauma, 4 for myelomeningocele closure, and 2 for the treatment of infection), and 2 miscellaneous surgeries.

### Conclusions

Military neurosurgeons have provided surgical care at rates of 71% (149/210) for battlefield injuries and 29% (61/210) for humanitarian work. Of the operations for battle trauma, 50% (106/210) were cranial and 11% (25/210) spinal surgeries. Fifteen percent (32/210) and 13% (27/210) of operations were for humanitarian cranial and spine procedures, respectively. Overall, military neurosurgeons in Afghanistan are performing life-saving cranial and spine stabilization procedures for battlefield trauma and acting as general neurosurgeons for the Afghan community.

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## Wartime decompressive craniectomy: technique and lessons learned

### Object

Decompressive craniectomy (DC) with dural expansion is a life-saving neurosurgical procedure performed for recalcitrant intracranial hypertension due to trauma, stroke, and a multitude of other etiologies. Illustratively, we describe technique and lessons learned using DC for battlefield trauma.

### Methods

Neurosurgical operative logs from service (October 2007 to September 2009) in Afghanistan that detail DC cases for trauma were analyzed. Illustrative examples of frontotemporoparietal and bifrontal DC that depict battlefield experience performing these procedures are presented with attention drawn to the L.G. Kempe hemispherectomy incision, brainstem decompression techniques, and dural onlay substitutes.

### Results

Ninety craniotomies were performed for trauma over the time period analyzed. Of these, 28 (31%) were DCs. Of the 28 DCs, 24 (86%) were frontotemporoparietal DCs, 7 (25%) were bifrontal DCs, and 2 (7%) were suboccipital DCs. Decompressive craniectomies were performed for 19 penetrating head injuries (13 gunshot wounds and 6 explosions) and 9 severe closed head injuries (6 war-related explosions and 3 others).

### Conclusions

Thirty-one percent of craniotomies performed for trauma were DCs. Battlefield neurosurgeons use DC to allow for safe transfer of neurologically ill patients to tertiary military hospitals, which can be located 8–18 hours from a war zone. The authors recommend the L.G. Kempe incision for blood supply preservation, large craniectomies to prevent brain strangulation over bone edges, minimal brain debridement, adequate brainstem decompression, and dural onlay substitutes for dural closure.