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Sushanta K. Sahoo, Sivashanmugam Dhandapani, Apinderpreet Singh, Chandrashekhar Gendle, Madhivanan Karthigeyan, Pravin Salunke, Ashish Aggarwal, Navneet Singla, Raghav Singla, Manjul Tripathi, Rajesh Chhabra, Sandeep Mohindra, Manoj Kumar Tewari, Manju Mohanty, Hemant Bhagat, Arunaloke Chakrabarti, and Sunil Kumar Gupta

OBJECTIVE

COVID-19 has affected surgical practice globally. Treating neurosurgical patients with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic is challenging in institutions with shared patient areas. The present study was performed to assess the changing patterns of neurosurgical cases, the efficacy of repeated testing before surgery, and the prevalence of COVID-19 in asymptomatic neurosurgical inpatients.

METHODS

Cases of non–trauma-related neurosurgical patients treated at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) before and during the COVID-19 pandemic were reviewed. During the pandemic, all patients underwent a nasopharyngeal swab reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction test to detect COVID-19 at admission. Patients who needed immediate intervention were surgically treated following a single COVID-19 test, while stable patients who initially tested negative for COVID-19 were subjected to repeated testing at least 5 days after the first test and within 48 hours prior to the planned surgery. The COVID-19 positivity rate was compared with the local period prevalence. The number of patients who tested positive at the second test, following a negative first test, was used to determine the probable number of people who could have become infected during the surgical procedure without second testing.

RESULTS

Of the total 1769 non–trauma-related neurosurgical patients included in this study, a mean of 337.2 patients underwent surgery per month before COVID-19, while a mean of 184.2 patients (54.6% of pre–COVID-19 capacity) underwent surgery per month during the pandemic period, when COVID-19 cases were on the rise in India. There was a significant increase in the proportion of patients undergoing surgery for a ruptured aneurysm, stroke, hydrocephalus, and cerebellar tumors, while the number of patients seeking surgery for chronic benign diseases declined. At the first COVID-19 test, 4 patients (0.48%) tested were found to have the disease, a proportion 3.7 times greater than that found in the local community. An additional 5 patients tested positive at the time of the second COVID-19 test, resulting in an overall inpatient period prevalence of 1%, in contrast to a 0.2% national cumulative caseload. It is possible that COVID-19 was prevented in approximately 67.4 people every month by using double testing.

CONCLUSIONS

COVID-19 has changed the pattern of neurosurgical procedures, with acute cases dominating the practice. Despite the fact that the pandemic has not yet reached its peak in India, COVID-19 has been detected 3.7 times more often in asymptomatic neurosurgical inpatients than in the local community, even with single testing. Double testing displays an incremental value by disclosing COVID-19 overall in 1 in 100 inpatients and thus averting its spread through neurosurgical services.

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Zhengyu Lin, Chencheng Zhang, Yingying Zhang, Lulin Dai, Valerie Voon, Dianyou Li, and Bomin Sun

OBJECTIVE

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has considerably affected the delivery of postoperative care to patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. DBS teleprogramming technology was developed and deployed in China before the COVID-19 outbreak. In this report, the authors share their experiences with telemedical DBS treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders during the COVID-19 outbreak.

METHODS

Four patients (2 with obsessive-compulsive disorder, 1 with major depressive disorder, and 1 with anorexia nervosa) underwent DBS surgery at Ruijin Hospital and received continuous postoperative DBS telemedicine case management from January 2020 to July 2020. DBS teleprogramming, individualized psychological support, and medical consultations were provided via the authors’ DBS telemedicine platform, which also incorporated a synchronous real-time video communication system.

RESULTS

Forty-five DBS telemedicine sessions were conducted; there was no unexpected loss of network connection during the sessions. Of these, 28 sessions involved DBS teleprogramming. Adjustments were made to the stimulation voltage, frequency, pulse width, and contact site in 21, 12, 9, and 9 sessions, respectively. Psychological support and troubleshooting were provided during the remaining telemedicine sessions. Modest to substantial clinical improvements after DBS surgery were observed in some but not all patients, whereas stimulation-related side effects were reported by 2 patients and included reversible sleep and mood problems, headache, and a sensation of heat.

CONCLUSIONS

DBS telemedicine seems to offer a feasible, safe, and efficient strategy for maintaining the delivery of medical care to psychiatric patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. The authors propose that implementation of a comprehensive DBS telemedicine system, which combines DBS teleprogramming with psychological counseling, medical consultations, and medication prescriptions and delivery, could be an efficient and effective approach to manage the mental health and quality of life of patients with psychiatric disorders during future local or global public health crises.

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Pierre-Olivier Champagne, Michael M. McDowell, Eric W. Wang, Carl H. Snyderman, Georgios A. Zenonos, and Paul A. Gardner

OBJECTIVE

During the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, endoscopic endonasal surgery (EES) is feared to be a high-risk procedure for the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Nonetheless, data are lacking regarding the management of EES during the pandemic. The object of this study was to understand current worldwide practices pertaining to EES for skull base/pituitary tumors during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and provide a basis for the formulation of guidelines.

METHODS

The authors conducted a web-based survey of skull base surgeons worldwide. Different practices by geographic region and COVID-19 prevalence were analyzed.

RESULTS

One hundred thirty-five unique responses were collected. Regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), North America reported using more powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), and Asia and Europe reported using more standard precautions. North America and Europe resorted more to reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for screening asymptomatic patients. High-prevalence countries showed a higher use of PAPRs. The medium-prevalence group reported lower RT-PCR testing for symptomatic cases, and the high-prevalence group used it significantly more in asymptomatic cases.

Nineteen respondents reported transmission of COVID-19 to healthcare personnel during EES, with a higher rate of transmission among countries classified as having a medium prevalence of COVID-19. These specific respondents (medium prevalence) also reported a lower use of airborne PPE. In the cases of healthcare transmission, the patient was reportedly asymptomatic 32% of the time.

CONCLUSIONS

This survey gives an overview of EES practices during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Intensified preoperative screening, even in asymptomatic patients, RT-PCR for all symptomatic cases, and an increased use of airborne PPE is associated with decreased reports of COVID-19 transmission during EES.

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Franco Servadei, Miguel A. Arráez, Jincao Chen, John G. Golfinos, and Mahmood M. Qureshi

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Claudio Bernucci, Andrea Fanti, Pierlorenzo Veiceschi, Emanuele Costi, Angelo Mirco Sicignano, and Carlo Brembilla

In this tumultuous time, the entire world has been shaken up by the COVID-19 outbreak. Italy has had one of the highest infection-related mortality rates. Bergamo, a city in eastern Lombardy, was among the most affected. Here, the authors describe the main healthcare actions taken at their institution to stem the crisis, with particular concern regarding the fate of their neurosurgery department. Among the different topics, the authors particularly focus on the retraining of neurosurgeons, organization of activities, and what should be the role of neurosurgeons during a pandemic.

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Wihasto Suryaningtyas, Joni Wahyuhadi, Agus Turchan, Eko Agus Subagio, Muhammad Arifin Parenrengi, Tedy Apriawan, Asra Al Fauzi, and Abdul Hafid Bajamal

OBJECTIVE

Global outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has forced healthcare systems worldwide to reshape their facilities and protocols. Although not considered the frontline specialty in managing COVID-19 patients, neurosurgical service and training were also significantly affected. This article focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak at a low- and/or middle-income country (LMIC) academic tertiary referral hospital, the university and hospital policies and actions for the neurosurgical service and training program during the outbreak, and the contingency plan for future reference on preparedness for service and education.

METHODS

The authors collected data from several official databases, including the Indonesian Ministry of Health database, East Java provincial government database, hospital database, and neurosurgery operative case log. Policies and regulations information was obtained from stakeholders, including the Indonesian Society of Neurological Surgeons, the hospital board of directors, and the dean’s office.

RESULTS

The curve of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia had not flattened by the 2nd week of June 2020. Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia. The neurosurgical service experienced a significant drop in cases (50% of cases from normal days) along all lines (outpatient clinic, emergency room, and surgical ward). Despite a strict preadmission screening, postoperative COVID-19 infection cases were detected during the treatment course of neurosurgical patients, and those with a positive COVID-19 infection had a high mortality rate. The reduction in the overall number of cases treated in the neurosurgical service had an impact on the educational and training program. The digital environment found popularity in the educational term; however, digital resources could not replace direct exposure to real patients. The education stakeholders adjusted the undergraduate students’ clinical postings and residents’ working schemes for safety reasons.

CONCLUSIONS

The neurosurgery service at an academic tertiary referral hospital in an LMIC experienced a significant reduction in cases. The university and program directors had to adapt to an off-campus and off-hospital policy for neurosurgical residents and undergraduate students. The hospital instituted a reorganization of residents for service. The digital environment found popularity during the outbreak to support the educational process.

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Fabio Raneri, Oriela Rustemi, Giampaolo Zambon, Giulia Del Moro, Salima Magrini, Yuri Ceccaroni, Elisabetta Basso, Francesco Volpin, Martina Cappelletti, Jacopo Lardani, Stefano Ferraresi, Franco Guida, Franco Chioffi, Giampietro Pinna, Giuseppe Canova, Domenico d’Avella, Francesco Sala, and Lorenzo Volpin

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to analyze the effect of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and of the subsequent lockdown on the neurosurgical services of the Veneto region in Italy compared to the previous 4 years.

METHODS

A survey was conducted in all 6 neurosurgical departments in the Veneto region to collect data about surgical, inpatient care and endovascular procedures during the month of March for each year from 2016 to 2020. Safety measures to avoid infection from SARS-CoV-2 and any COVID-19 cases reported among neurosurgical patients or staff members were considered.

RESULTS

The mean number of neurosurgical admissions for the month of March over the 2016–2019 period was 663, whereas in March 2020 admissions decreased by 42%. Emergency admissions decreased by 23%. The average number of neurosurgical procedures was 697, and declined by 30% (range −10% to −51% in individual centers). Emergency procedures decreased in the same period by 23%. Subarachnoid hemorrhage and spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage both decreased in Veneto—by 25% and 22%, respectively. Coiling for unruptured aneurysm, coiling for ruptured aneurysm, and surgery for ruptured aneurysm or arteriovenous malformation diminished by 49%, 27%, and 78%, respectively. Endovascular procedures for acute ischemic stroke (AIS) increased by 33% in 2020 (28 procedures in total). There was a slight decrease (8%) in brain tumor surgeries. Neurosurgical admissions decreased by 25% and 35% for head trauma and spinal trauma, respectively, while surgical procedures for head trauma diminished by 19% and procedures for spinal trauma declined by 26%. Admissions and surgical treatments for degenerative spine were halved. Eleven healthcare workers and 8 patients were infected in the acute phase of the pandemic.

CONCLUSIONS

This multicenter study describes the effects of a COVID-19 outbreak on neurosurgical activities in a vast region in Italy. Remodulation of neurosurgical activities has resulted in a significant reduction of elective and emergency surgeries compared to previous years. Most likely this is a combined result of cancellation of elective and postponable surgeries, increase of conservative management, increase in social restrictions, and in patients’ fear of accessing hospitals. Curiously, only endovascular procedures for AIS have increased, possibly due to reduced physical activity or increased thrombosis in SARS-CoV-2. The confounding effect of thrombectomy increase over time cannot be excluded. No conclusion can be drawn on AIS incidence. Active monitoring with nasopharyngeal swabs, wearing face masks, and using separate pathways for infected patients reduce the risk of infection.

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Chinmaya Dash, Tejas Venkataram, Nishant Goyal, Jitender Chaturvedi, Amol Raheja, Raghav Singla, Jayesh Sardhara, and Ravi Gupta

OBJECTIVE

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced medical professionals throughout the world to adapt to the changing medical scenario. The objective of this survey was to assess the change in neurosurgical training in India following the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS

Between May 7, 2020, and May 16, 2020, a validated questionnaire was circulated among neurosurgical residents across India by social media, regarding changes in the department’s functioning, patient interaction, surgical exposure, changes in academics, and fears and apprehensions associated with the pandemic. The responses were kept anonymous and were analyzed for changes during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to before the pandemic.

RESULTS

A total of 118 residents from 29 neurosurgical training programs across 17 states/union territories of the country gave their responses to the survey questionnaire. The survey revealed that the surgical exposure of neurosurgical residents has drastically reduced since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, from an average of 39.86 surgeries performed/assisted per month (median 30) to 12.31 per month (median 10), representing a decrease of 67.50%. The number of academic sessions has fallen from a median of 5 per week to 2 per week. The survey uncovered the lack of universal guidelines and homogeneity regarding preoperative COVID-19 testing. The survey also reveals reluctance toward detailed patient examinations since the COVID-19 outbreak. The majority of respondents felt that the COVID-19 pandemic will hamper their operative and clinical skills. Fear of rescheduling or deferring of licensing examinations was significantly higher among those closest to the examination (p = 0.002).

CONCLUSIONS

The adverse impact of the pandemic on neurosurgical training needs to be addressed. While ensuring the safety of the residents, institutes and neurosurgical societies/bodies must take it upon themselves to ensure that their residents continue to learn and develop neurosurgical skills during these difficult times.

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Matheus Fernando Manzolli Ballestero, Luciano Furlanetti, and Ricardo Santos de Oliveira

OBJECTIVES

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a potentially severe respiratory illness that has threatened humanity globally. The pediatric neurosurgery practice differs from that of adults in that it treats children in various stages of physical and psychological development and contemplates diseases that do not exist in other areas. The aim of this study was to identify the level of knowledge and readiness of the healthcare providers, as well as to evaluate new preventive practices that have been introduced, psychological concerns, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on pediatric neurosurgical units in Brazil.

METHODS

Pediatric neurosurgeons were given an online questionnaire developed by the Brazilian Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery to evaluate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their clinical practice.

RESULTS

Of a cohort of 110 active members of the Brazilian Society of Pediatric Neurosurgery, 76 completed the survey (69%). Ninety-six percent were aware of the correct use of and indication for the types of personal protective equipment in clinical and surgical practices, but only 73.7% of them had unrestricted access to this equipment. Ninety-eight percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed that the pandemic had affected their pediatric neurosurgical practice. The COVID-19 pandemic interfered with outpatient care in 88% of the centers, it affected neurosurgical activity in 90.7%, and it led to the cancellation of elective neurosurgical procedures in 57.3%. Concerning the impact of COVID-19 on surgical activity, 9.2% of the centers had less than 25% of the clinical practice affected, 46.1% had 26%–50% of their activity reduced, 35.5% had a 51%–75% reduction, and 9.2% had more than 75% of their surgical work cancelled or postponed. Sixty-three percent affirmed that patients had been tested for COVID-19 before surgery. Regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of those interviewed, 3.9% reported fear and anxiety with panic episodes, 7.9% had worsening of previous anxiety symptoms, 60.5% reported occasional fear, 10.5% had sadness and some depressive symptoms, and 2.6% reported depressive symptoms.

CONCLUSIONS

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges to healthcare services worldwide, including neurosurgical units. Medical workers, pediatric neurosurgeons included, should be aware of safety measures and follow the recommendations of local healthcare organizations, preventing and controlling the disease. Attention should be given to the psychological burden of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in healthcare workers, which carries a high risk of anxiety and depression.

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Amol Raheja, Nitish Agarwal, Sarita Mohapatra, Vivek Tandon, Sachin Anil Borkar, P. Sarat Chandra, Shashank S. Kale, and Ashish Suri

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted healthcare systems globally. The need of the hour is the development of effective strategies for protecting the lives of healthcare providers (HCPs) and judicious triage for optimal utilization of human and hospital resources. During this pandemic, neurosurgery, like other specialties, must transform, innovate, and adopt new guidelines and safety protocols for reducing the risk of cross-infection of HCPs without compromising patient care. In this article, the authors discuss the current neurosurgical practice guidelines at a high-volume tertiary care referral hospital in India and compare them with international guidelines and global consensus for neurosurgery practice in the COVID-19 era. Additionally, the authors highlight some of the modifications incorporated into their clinical practice, including those for stratification of neurosurgical cases, patient triaging based on COVID-19 testing, optimal manpower management, infrastructure reorganization, evolving modules for resident training, and innovations in operating guidelines. The authors recommend the use of their blueprint for stratification of neurosurgical cases, including their protocol for algorithmic patient triage and management and their template for manpower allocation to COVID-19 duty, as a replicable model for efficient healthcare delivery.