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Atman Desai, Kimon Bekelis, Wenyan Zhao, Perry A. Ball and Kadir Erkmen

Object

Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability. Given that neurologists and neurosurgeons have special expertise in this area, the authors hypothesized that the density of neuroscience providers is associated with reduced mortality rates from stroke across US counties.

Methods

This is a retrospective review of the Area Resource File 2009–2010, a national county-level health information database maintained by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The primary outcome variable was the 3-year (2004–2006) average in cerebrovascular disease deaths per million population for each county. The primary independent variable was the combined density of neurosurgeons and neurologists per million population in the year 2006. Multiple regression analysis was performed, adjusting for density of general practitioners (GPs), urbanicity of the county, and socioeconomic status of the residents of the county.

Results

In the 3141 counties analyzed, the median number of annual stroke deaths was 586 (interquartile range [IQR] 449–754), the median number of neuroscience providers was 0 (IQR 0–26), and the median number of GPs was 274 (IQR 175–410) per million population. On multivariate adjusted analysis, each increase of 1 neuroscience provider was associated with 0.38 fewer deaths from stroke per year (p < 0.001) per million population. Rural location (p < 0.001) and increased density of GPs (p < 0.001) were associated with increases in stroke-related mortality.

Conclusions

Higher density of specialist neuroscience providers is associated with fewer deaths from stroke. This suggests that the availability of specialists is an important factor in survival after stroke, and underlines the importance of promoting specialist education and practice throughout the country.

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M. Ross Bullock

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Atman Desai, Kimon Bekelis, Wenyan Zhao and Perry A. Ball

Object

Motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) are a leading cause of death and disability in young people. Given that a major cause of death from MVAs is traumatic brain injury, and neurosurgeons hold special expertise in this area relative to other members of a trauma team, the authors hypothesized that neurosurgeon population density would be related to reduced mortality from MVAs across US counties.

Methods

The Area Resource File (2009–2010), a national health resource information database, was retrospectively analyzed. The primary outcome variable was the 3-year (2004–2006) average in MVA deaths per million population for each county. The primary independent variable was the density of neurosurgeons per million population in the year 2006. Multiple regression analysis was performed, adjusting for population density of general practitioners, urbanicity of the county, and socioeconomic status of the county.

Results

The median number of annual MVA deaths per million population, in the 3141 counties analyzed, was 226 (interquartile range [IQR] 151–323). The median number of neurosurgeons per million population was 0 (IQR 0–0), while the median number of general practitioners per million population was 274 (IQR 175–410). Using an unadjusted analysis, each increase of 1 neurosurgeon per million population was associated with 1.90 fewer MVA deaths per million population (p < 0.001). On multivariate adjusted analysis, each increase of 1 neurosurgeon per million population was associated with 1.01 fewer MVA deaths per million population (p < 0.001), with a respective decrease in MVA deaths of 0.03 per million population for an increase in 1 general practitioner (p = 0.007). Rural location, persistent poverty, and low educational level were all associated with significant increases in the rate of MVA deaths.

Conclusions

A higher population density of neurosurgeons is associated with a significant reduction in deaths from MVAs, a major cause of death nationally. This suggests that the availability of local neurosurgeons is an important factor in the overall likelihood of survival from an MVA, and therefore indicates the importance of promoting neurosurgical education and practice throughout the country.

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Harold A. Wilkinson

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Atman Desai, Perry A. Ball, Kimon Bekelis, Jon D. Lurie, Sohail K. Mirza, Tor D. Tosteson and James N. Weinstein

Object

Incidental durotomy is an infrequent but well-recognized complication during lumbar disc surgery. The effect of a durotomy on long-term outcomes is, however, controversial. The authors sought to examine whether the occurrence of durotomy during surgery impacts long-term clinical outcome.

Methods

Spine Patient Outcomes Research Trial (SPORT) participants who had a confirmed diagnosis of intervertebral disc herniation and were undergoing standard first-time open discectomy were followed up at 6 weeks and at 3, 6, and 12 months after surgery and annually thereafter at 13 spine clinics in 11 US states. Patient data from this prospectively gathered database were reviewed. As of May 2009, the mean (± SD) duration of follow-up among all of the intervertebral disc herniation patients whose data were analyzed was 41.5 ± 14.5 months (41.4 months in those with no durotomy vs 40.2 months in those with durotomy, p < 0.68). The median duration of follow-up among all of these patients was 47 months (range 1–95 months).

Results

A total of 799 patients underwent first-time lumbar discectomy. There was an incidental durotomy in 25 (3.1%) of these cases. There were no significant differences between the durotomy and no-durotomy groups with respect to age, sex, race, body mass index, herniation level or type, or the prevalence of smoking, diabetes, or hypertension. When outcome differences between the groups were analyzed, the durotomy group was found to have significantly increased operative duration, operative blood loss, and length of inpatient stay. However, there were no significant differences in incidence rates for nerve root injury, postoperative mortality, additional surgeries, or SF-36 scores for Bodily Pain or Physical Function, or Oswestry Disability Index scores at 1, 2, 3, or 4 years.

Conclusions

Incidental durotomy during first-time lumbar discectomy does not appear to impact long-term outcome in affected patients.