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Nitin Agarwal, Andrew Faramand, Johanna Bellon, Jeffrey Borrebach, D. Kojo Hamilton, David O. Okonkwo and Adam S. Kanter

OBJECTIVE

The Clinician and Group Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CG-CAHPS) is a standardized patient experience survey that is used to evaluate the quality of care delivered by physicians. The authors sought to determine which factors influenced CG-CAHPS scores for spine surgery, and compare them to their cranial-focused cohorts.

METHODS

A retrospective study of prospectively obtained data was performed to evaluate CG-CAHPS scores. Between May 2013 and May 2017, all patients 18 years of age or older with an outpatient encounter with a neurosurgeon (5 spine-focused neurosurgeons and 20 cranial-focused neurosurgeons) received a CG-CAHPS survey. Three domains were assessed: overall physician rating, likelihood to recommend, and physician communication. Statistical analyses were performed using chi-square tests.

RESULTS

Seven thousand four hundred eighty-five patient surveys (2319 spine and 5166 cranial) were collected from patients presenting to the outpatient offices of an attending neurosurgeon. Analysis of the overall physician rating showed that 81.1% of spine neurosurgeons received a “top-box” score (answers of “yes, definitely”), whereas 86.2% of cranial neurosurgeons received a top-box response (p < 0.001). A similar difference was observed with the domains of “likelihood to recommend” and “physician communication.” Overall physician rating was also significantly influenced by the general and mental health of the patients surveyed (p < 0.001). For spine surgeons seeing patients at more than one facility, the scores with respect to location were also significantly different in all domains for each individual provider (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, spine-focused neurosurgeon ratings differed significantly from those of cranial-focused neurosurgical subspecialty providers. Office location also affected provider ratings for spine neurosurgeons. These results suggest that physician ratings obtained via patient experience surveys may be representative of factors aside from just the quality of physician care provided. This information should be considered as payers, government, and health systems design performance programs based on patient experience scores.

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Lateral lumbar interbody fusion in the elderly: a 10-year experience

Presented at the 2018 AANS/CNS Joint Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerves

Nitin Agarwal, Andrew Faramand, Nima Alan, Zachary J. Tempel, D. Kojo Hamilton, David O. Okonkwo and Adam S. Kanter

OBJECTIVE

Elderly patients, often presenting with multiple medical comorbidities, are touted to be at an increased risk of peri- and postoperative complications following spine surgery. Various minimally invasive surgical techniques have been developed and employed to treat an array of spinal conditions while minimizing complications. Lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) is one such approach. The authors describe clinical outcomes in patients over the age of 70 years following stand-alone LLIF.

METHODS

A retrospective query of a prospectively maintained database was performed for patients over the age of 70 years who underwent stand-alone LLIF. Patients with posterior segmental fixation and/or fusion were excluded. The preoperative and postoperative values for the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) were analyzed to compare outcomes after intervention. Femoral neck t-scores were acquired from bone density scans and correlated with the incidence of graft subsidence.

RESULTS

Among the study cohort of 55 patients, the median age at the time of surgery was 74 years (range 70–87 years). Seventeen patients had at least 3 medical comorbidities at surgery. Twenty-three patients underwent a 1-level, 14 a 2-level, and 18 patients a 3-level or greater stand-alone lateral fusion. The median estimated blood loss was 25 ml (range 5–280 ml). No statistically significant relationship was detected between volume of blood loss and the number of operative levels. The median length of hospital stay was 2 days (range 1–4 days). No statistically significant relationship was observed between the length of hospital stay and age at the time of surgery. There was one intraoperative death secondary to cardiac arrest, with a mortality rate of 1.8%. One patient developed a transient femoral nerve injury. Five patients with symptomatic graft subsidence subsequently underwent posterior instrumentation. A lower femoral neck t-score < −1.0 correlated with a higher incidence of graft subsidence (p = 0.006). The mean ODI score 1 year postoperatively of 31.1 was significantly (p = 0.003) less than the mean preoperative ODI score of 46.2.

CONCLUSIONS

Stand-alone LLIF can be safely and effectively performed in the elderly population. Careful evaluation of preoperative bone density parameters should be employed to minimize risk of subsidence and need for additional surgery. Despite an association with increased comorbidities, age alone should not be a deterrent when considering stand-alone LLIF in the elderly population.

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David J. Salvetti, Zachary J. Tempel, Ezequiel Goldschmidt, Nicole A. Colwell, Federico Angriman, David M. Panczykowski, Nitin Agarwal, Adam S. Kanter and David O. Okonkwo

OBJECTIVE

Nutritional deficiency negatively affects outcomes in many health conditions. In spine surgery, evidence linking preoperative nutritional deficiency to postoperative surgical site infection (SSI) has been limited to small retrospective studies. Authors of the current study analyzed a large consecutive cohort of patients who had undergone elective spine surgery to determine the relationship between a serum biomarker of nutritional status (preoperative prealbumin levels) and SSI.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective review of the electronic medical charts of patients who had undergone posterior spinal surgeries and whose preoperative prealbumin level was available. Additional data pertinent to the risk of SSI were also collected. Patients who developed a postoperative SSI were identified, and risk factors for postoperative SSI were analyzed. Nutritional deficiency was defined as a preoperative serum prealbumin level ≤ 20 mg/dl.

RESULTS

Among a consecutive series of 387 patients who met the study criteria for inclusion, the infection rate for those with preoperative prealbumin ≤ 20 mg/dl was 17.8% (13/73), versus 4.8% (15/314) for those with preoperative prealbumin > 20 mg/dl. On univariate and multivariate analysis a low preoperative prealbumin level was a risk factor for postoperative SSI with a crude OR of 4.29 (p < 0.01) and an adjusted OR of 3.28 (p = 0.02). In addition, several previously known risk factors for infection, including diabetes, spinal fusion, and number of operative levels, were significant for the development of an SSI.

CONCLUSIONS

In this consecutive series, preoperative prealbumin levels, a serum biomarker of nutritional status, correlated with the risk of SSI in elective spine surgery. Prehabilitation before spine surgery, including strategies to improve nutritional status in patients with nutritional deficiencies, may increase value and improve spine care.

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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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Ramesh Grandhi, Gregory M. Weiner, Nitin Agarwal, David M. Panczykowski, William J. Ares, Jesse S. Rodriguez, Jonathan A. Gelfond, John G. Myers, Louis H. Alarcon, David O. Okonkwo and Brian T. Jankowitz

OBJECTIVE

Blunt cerebrovascular injuries (BCVIs) following trauma carry risk for morbidity and mortality. Since patients with BCVI are often asymptomatic at presentation and neurological sequelae often occur within 72 hours, timely diagnosis is essential. Multidetector CT angiography (CTA) has been shown to be a noninvasive, cost-effective, reliable means of screening; however, the false-positive rate of CTA in diagnosing patients with BCVI represents a key drawback. Therefore, the authors assessed the role of DSA in the screening of BCVI when utilizing CTA as the initial screening modality.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective analysis of patients who experienced BCVI between 2013 and 2015 at 2 Level I trauma centers. All patients underwent CTA screening for BCVI according to the updated Denver Screening Criteria. Patients who were diagnosed with BCVI on CTA underwent confirmatory digital subtraction angiography (DSA). Patient demographics, screening indication, BCVI grade on CTA and DSA, and laboratory values were collected. Comparison of false-positive rates stratified by BCVI grade on CTA was performed using the chi-square test.

RESULTS

A total of 140 patients (64% males, mean age 50 years) with 156 cerebrovascular blunt injuries to the carotid and/or vertebral arteries were identified. After comparison with DSA findings, CTA findings were incorrect in 61.5% of vessels studied, and the overall CTA false-positive rates were 47.4% of vessels studied and 47.9% of patients screened. The positive predictive value (PPV) for CTA was higher among worse BCVI subtypes on initial imaging (PPV 76% and 97%, for BCVI Grades II and IV, respectively) compared with Grade I injuries (PPV 30%, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

In the current series, multidetector CTA as a screening test for blunt cerebrovascular injury had a high-false positive rate, especially in patients with Grade I BCVI. Given a false-positive rate of 47.9% with an estimated average of 132 patients per year screening positive for BCVI with CTA, approximately 63 patients per year would potentially be treated unnecessarily with antithrombotic therapy at a busy United States Level I trauma center. The authors’ data support the use of DSA after positive findings on CTA in patients with suspected BCVI. DSA as an adjunctive test in patients with positive CTA findings allows for increased diagnostic accuracy in correctly diagnosing BCVI while minimizing risk from unnecessary antithrombotic therapy in polytrauma patients.

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Nitin Agarwal, Phillip A. Choi, David O. Okonkwo, Daniel L. Barrow and Robert M. Friedlander

OBJECTIVE

Application for a residency position in neurosurgery is a highly competitive process. Visiting subinternships and interviews are integral parts of the application process that provide applicants and programs with important information, often influencing rank list decisions. However, the process is an expensive one that places significant financial burden on applicants. In this study, the authors aimed to quantify expenses incurred by 1st-year neurosurgery residents who matched into a neurosurgery residency program in 2014 and uncover potential trends in expenses.

METHODS

A 10-question survey was distributed in partnership with the Society of Neurological Surgeons to all 1st-year neurosurgery residents in the United States. The survey asked respondents about the number of subinternships, interviews, and second looks (after the interview) attended and the resultant costs, the type of program match, preferences for subinternship interviews, and suggestions for changes they would like to see in the application process. In addition to compiling overall results, also examined were the data for differences in cost when stratifying for region of the medical school or whether the respondent had contact with the program they matched to prior to the interview process (matched to home or subinternship program).

RESULTS

The survey had a 64.4% response rate. The mean total expenses for all components of the application process were US $10,255, with interview costs comprising the majority of the expenses (69.0%). No difference in number of subinternships, interviews, or second looks attended, or their individual and total costs, was seen for applicants from different regions of the United States. Respondents who matched to their home or subinternship program attended fewer interviews than respondents who had no prior contact with their matched program (13.5 vs 16.4, respectively, p = 0.0023) but incurred the same overall costs (mean $9774 vs $10,566; p = 0.58).

CONCLUSIONS

Securing a residency position in neurosurgery is a costly process for applicants. No differences are seen when stratifying by region of medical school attended or contact with a program prior to interviewing. Interview costs comprise the majority of expenses for applicants, and changes to the application process are needed to control costs incurred by applicants.