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Vamsi Reddy, Arjun Gupta, Michael D. White, Raghav Gupta, Prateek Agarwal, Arpan V. Prabhu, Bryan Lieber, Yue-Fang Chang and Nitin Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

Publication metrics such as the Hirsch index (h-index) are often used to evaluate and compare research productivity in academia. The h-index is not a field-normalized statistic and can therefore be dependent on overall rates of publication and citation within specific fields. Thus, a metric that adjusts for this while measuring individual contributions would be preferable. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has developed a new, field-normalized, article-level metric called the “relative citation ratio” (RCR) that can be used to more accurately compare author productivity between fields. The mean RCR is calculated as the total number of citations per year of a publication divided by the average field-specific citations per year, whereas the weighted RCR is the sum of all article-level RCR scores over an author’s career. The present study was performed to determine how various factors, such as academic rank, career duration, a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree, and sex, impact the RCR to analyze research productivity among academic neurosurgeons.

METHODS

A retrospective data analysis was performed using the iCite database. All physician faculty affiliated with Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)–accredited neurological surgery programs were eligible for analysis. Sex, career duration, academic rank, additional degrees, total publications, mean RCR, and weighted RCR were collected for each individual. Mean RCR and weighted RCR were compared between variables to assess patterns of analysis by using SAS software version 9.4.

RESULTS

A total of 1687 neurosurgery faculty members from 125 institutions were included in the analysis. Advanced academic rank, longer career duration, and PhD acquisition were all associated with increased mean and weighted RCRs. Male sex was associated with having an increased weighted RCR but not an increased mean RCR score. Overall, neurological surgeons were highly productive, with a median RCR of 1.37 (IQR 0.93–1.97) and a median weighted RCR of 28.56 (IQR 7.99–85.65).

CONCLUSIONS

The RCR and its derivatives are new metrics that help fill in the gaps of other indices for research output. Here, the authors found that advanced academic rank, longer career duration, and PhD acquisition were all associated with increased mean and weighted RCRs. Male sex was associated with having an increased weighted, but not mean, RCR score, most likely because of historically unequal opportunities for women within the field. Furthermore, the data showed that current academic neurosurgeons are exceptionally productive compared to both physicians in other specialties and the general scientific community.

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Nitin Agarwal, Prateek Agarwal, Ashley Querry, Anna Mazurkiewicz, Zachary J. Tempel, Robert M. Friedlander, Peter C. Gerszten, D. Kojo Hamilton, David O. Okonkwo and Adam S. Kanter

OBJECTIVE

Previous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of infection prevention protocols in reducing infection rates. This study investigated the effects of the development and implementation of an infection prevention protocol that was augmented by increased physician awareness of spinal fusion surgical site infection (SSI) rates and resultant cost savings.

METHODS

A cohort clinical investigation over a 10-year period was performed at a single tertiary spine care academic institution. Preoperative infection control measures (chlorohexidine gluconate bathing, Staphylococcus aureus nasal screening and decolonization) followed by postoperative infection control measures (surgical dressing care) were implemented. After the implementation of these infection control measures, an awareness intervention was instituted in which all attending and resident neurosurgeons were informed of their individual, independently adjudicated spinal fusion surgery infection rates and rankings among their peers. During the course of these interventions, the overall infection rate was tracked as well as the rates for those neurosurgeons who complied with the preoperative and postoperative infection control measures (protocol group) and those who did not (control group).

RESULTS

With the implementation of postoperative surgical dressing infection control measures and physician awareness, the postoperative spine surgery infection rate decreased by 45% from 3.8% to 2.1% (risk ratio 0.55; 95% CI 0.32–0.93; p = 0.03) for those in the protocol cohort, resulting in an estimated annual cost savings of $291,000. This reduction in infection rate was not observed for neurosurgeons in the control group, although the overall infection rate among all neurosurgeons decreased by 54% from 3.3% to 1.5% (risk ratio 0.46; 95% CI 0.28–0.73; p = 0.0013).

CONCLUSIONS

A novel paradigm for spine surgery infection control combined with physician awareness methods resulted in significantly decreased SSI rates and an associated cost reduction. Thus, information sharing and physician engagement as a supplement to formal infection control measures result in improvements in surgical outcomes and costs.

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Nitin Agarwal, Robert F. Heary and Prateek Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle screw fixation is a technique widely used to treat conditions ranging from spine deformity to fracture stabilization. Pedicle screws have been used traditionally in the lumbar spine; however, they are now being used with increasing frequency in the thoracic spine as a more favorable alternative to hooks, wires, or cables. Although safety concerns, such as the incidence of adjacent-segment disease (ASD) after cervical and lumbar fusions, have been reported, such issues in the thoracic spine have yet to be addressed thoroughly. Here, the authors review the literature on ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation and report their own experience specifically involving the use of pedicle screws in the thoracic spine.

METHODS

Select references from online databases, such as PubMed (provided by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health), were used to survey the literature concerning ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation. To include the authors’ experience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database was performed to determine the incidence of complications over a 13-year period in 123 consecutive adult patients who underwent thoracic pedicle screw fixation. Children, pregnant or lactating women, and prisoners were excluded from the review. By comparing preoperative and postoperative radiographic images, the occurrence of thoracic ASD and disease within the surgical construct was determined.

RESULTS

Definitive radiographic fusion was detected in 115 (93.5%) patients. Seven incidences of instrumentation failure and 8 lucencies surrounding the screws were observed. One patient was observed to have ASD of the thoracic spine. The mean follow-up duration was 50 months.

CONCLUSIONS

This long-term radiographic evaluation revealed the use of pedicle screws for thoracic fixation to be an effective stabilization modality. In particular, ASD seems to be less of a problem in the relatively immobile thoracic spine than in the more mobile cervical and lumbar spines.