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Nicolas W. Villelli, Hong Yan, Jian Zou, and Nicholas M. Barbaro


Several similarities exist between the Massachusetts health care reform law of 2006 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The authors’ prior neurosurgical research showed a decrease in uninsured surgeries without a significant change in surgical volume after the Massachusetts reform. An analysis of the payer-mix status and the age of spine surgery patients, before and after the policy, should provide insight into the future impact of the ACA on spine surgery in the US.


Using the Massachusetts State Inpatient Database and spine ICD-9-CM procedure codes, the authors obtained demographic information on patients undergoing spine surgery between 2001 and 2012. Payer-mix status was assigned as Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, uninsured, or other, which included government-funded programs and workers’ compensation. A comparison of the payer-mix status and patient age, both before and after the policy, was performed. The New York State data were used as a control.


The authors analyzed 81,821 spine surgeries performed in Massachusetts and 248,757 in New York. After 2008, there was a decrease in uninsured and private insurance spine surgeries, with a subsequent increase in the Medicare and “other” categories for Massachusetts. Medicaid case numbers did not change. This correlated to an increase in surgeries performed in the age group of patients 65–84 years old, with a decrease in surgeries for those 18–44 years old. New York showed an increase in all insurance categories and all adult age groups.


After the Massachusetts reform, spine surgery decreased in private insurance and uninsured categories, with the majority of these surgeries transitioning to Medicare. Moreover, individuals who were younger than 65 years did not show an increase in spine surgeries, despite having greater access to health insurance. In a health care system that requires insurance, the decrease in private insurance is primarily due to an increasing elderly population. The Massachusetts model continues to show that this type of policy is not causing extreme shifts in the payer mix, and suggests that spine surgery will continue to thrive in the current US health care system.

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Nicolas W. Villelli, Rohit Das, Hong Yan, Wei Huff, Jian Zou, and Nicholas M. Barbaro


The Massachusetts health care insurance reform law passed in 2006 has many similarities to the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). To address concerns that the ACA might negatively impact case volume and reimbursement for physicians, the authors analyzed trends in the number of neurosurgical procedures by type and patient insurance status in Massachusetts before and after the implementation of the state's health care insurance reform. The results can provide insight into the future of neurosurgery in the American health care system.


The authors analyzed data from the Massachusetts State Inpatient Database on patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures in Massachusetts from 2001 through 2012. These data included patients' insurance status (insured or uninsured) and the numbers of procedures performed classified by neurosurgical procedural codes of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). Each neurosurgical procedure was grouped into 1 of 4 categories based on ICD-9-CM codes: 1) tumor, 2) other cranial/vascular, 3) shunts, and 4) spine. Comparisons were performed of the numbers of procedures performed and uninsured patients, before and after the implementation of the reform law. Data from the state of New York were used as a control. All data were controlled for population differences.


After 2008, there were declines in the numbers of uninsured patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures in Massachusetts in all 4 categories. The number of procedures performed for tumor and spine were unchanged, whereas other cranial/vascular procedures increased. Shunt procedures decreased after implementation of the reform law but exhibited a similar trend to the control group. In New York, the number of spine surgeries increased, as did the percentage of procedures performed on uninsured patients. Other cranial/vascular procedures decreased.


After the Massachusetts health care insurance reform, the number of uninsured individuals undergoing neurosurgical procedures significantly decreased for all categories, but more importantly, the total number of surgeries performed did not change dramatically. To the extent that trends in Massachusetts can predict the overall US experience, we can expect that some aspects of reimbursement may be positively impacted by the ACA. Neurosurgeons, who often treat patients with urgent conditions, may be affected differently than other specialists.

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Fengming Lan, Xiao Yue, Lei Han, Xubo Yuan, Zhendong Shi, Kai Huang, Yang Yang, Jian Zou, Junxia Zhang, Tao Jiang, Peiyu Pu, and Chunsheng Kang


The goal in this study was to investigate the antitumor effect of aspirin in glioblastoma cells and the molecular mechanism involved in its antineoplastic activities.


The authors used the 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide method, flow cytometry, the annexin V method, and Transwell cell invasion test to detect the proliferation and invasive activity of U87 and A172 glioma cells before and after being treated with aspirin. To determine the effects of aspirin on β-catenin/T-cell factor (TCF) transcription activity, reporter constructs containing 3 repeats of the wild-type (TOPflash) or mutant (FOPflash) TCF-binding sites were used. Reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction and Western blot analyses were used to detect the expression of multiple β-catenin/TCF target genes following aspirin treatment.


The transcriptional activity of the β-catenin/TCF complex was strongly inhibited by aspirin. Increasing the concentration of aspirin resulted in decreased expression of c-myc, cyclin D1, and fra-1 mRNA and protein in U87 and A172 cells in a dose-dependent manner. Aspirin inhibited glioma cell proliferation and invasive ability, and induced apoptotic cell death.


The results suggest that aspirin is a potent antitumor agent, and that it exerts its antineoplastic action by inhibition of the β-catenin/TCF signaling pathway in glioma cells.