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Pranay Soni, Ghaith Habboub, Varun R. Kshettry, Richard Schlenk, Frederick Lautzenheiser and Edward C. Benzel

The Cleveland Clinic was established in 1921 under the direction of 4 experienced and iconic physicians: George Crile, Frank Bunts, William Lower, and John Phillips. The Clinic initially employed a staff of only 6 surgeons, 4 internists, 1 radiologist, and 1 biophysicist, but Crile was quick to realize the need for broadening its scope of practice. He asked his close friend, Harvey Cushing, for assistance in finding a suitable candidate to establish a department of neurosurgery at the Cleveland Clinic. With his full endorsement, Cushing recommended Dr. Charles Edward Locke Jr., a former student and burgeoning star in the field of neurosurgery. Unfortunately, Locke’s life and career both ended prematurely in the Cleveland Clinic fire of 1929, but not before he would leave a lasting legacy, both at the Cleveland Clinic and in the field of neurosurgery.

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Daniel Lubelski, Andrew T. Healy, Alan Friedman, Dyan Ferraris, Edward C. Benzel and Richard Schlenk

OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgery is among the most competitive residencies, as evidenced by the high number of applicants for relatively few positions. Although it is important to recruit candidates who have the intellectual capacity and drive to succeed, traditional objective selection criteria, such as US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) (also known as Step 1) score, number of publications, and class ranking, have not been shown to consistently predict clinical and academic success. Furthermore, these traditional objective parameters have not been associated with specific personality traits.

METHODS

The authors sought to determine the efficacy of a personality assessment in the selection of neurosurgery residents. Specifically, the aim was to determine the correlation between traditional measures used to evaluate an applicant (e.g., USMLE score, number of publications, MD/PhD status) and corresponding validated personality traits.

RESULTS

Fifty-four neurosurgery residency applicants were interviewed at the Cleveland Clinic during the 2014–2015 application cycle. No differences in validated personality scores were identified between the 46 MD applicants and 8 MD/PhD applicants. The mean USMLE score (± SD) was 252.3 ± 11.9, and those in the high-USMLE-score category (USMLE score ≥ 260) had a significantly lower “imaginative” score (a stress measure of eccentric thinking and impatience with those who think more slowly). The average number of publications per applicant was 8.6 ± 7.9, and there was a significant positive correlation (r = 0.339, p = 0.016) between greater number of publications and a higher “adjustment” score (a measure of being even-tempered, having composure under pressure). Significant negative correlations existed between the total number of publications and the “excitable” score (a measure of being emotionally volatile) (r = −0.299, p = 0.035) as well as the “skeptical” score (measure of being sensitive to criticism) (r = −0.325, p = 0.021). The average medical school rank was 25.8, and medical school rankings were positively correlated with the “imaginative” score (r = 0.287, p = 0.044).

CONCLUSIONS

This is the first study to investigate the use of personality scores in the selection of neurosurgical residents. The use of personality assessments has the potential to provide insight into an applicant's future behavior as a resident and beyond. This information may be useful in the selection of neurosurgical residents and can be further used to customize the teaching of residents and for enabling them to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses for self-improvement.

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Swetha J. Sundar, Andrew T. Healy, Varun R. Kshettry, Thomas E. Mroz, Richard Schlenk and Edward C. Benzel

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle and lateral mass screw placement is technically demanding due to complex 3D spinal anatomy that is not easily visualized. Neurosurgical and orthopedic surgery residents must be properly trained in such procedures, which can be associated with significant complications and associated morbidity. Current training in pedicle and lateral mass screw placement involves didactic teaching and supervised placement in the operating room. The objective of this study was to assess whether teaching residents to place pedicle and lateral mass screws using navigation software, combined with practice using cadaveric specimens and Sawbones models, would improve screw placement accuracy.

METHODS

This was a single-blinded, prospective, randomized pilot study with 8 junior neurosurgical residents and 2 senior medical students with prior neurosurgery exposure. Both the study group and the level of training-matched control group (each group with 4 level of training-matched residents and 1 senior medical student) were exposed to a standardized didactic education regarding spinal anatomy and screw placement techniques. The study group was exposed to an additional pilot program that included a training session using navigation software combined with cadaveric specimens and accessibility to Sawbones models.

RESULTS

A statistically significant reduction in overall surgical error was observed in the study group compared with the control group (p = 0.04). Analysis by spinal region demonstrated a significant reduction in surgical error in the thoracic and lumbar regions in the study group compared with controls (p = 0.02 and p = 0.04, respectively). The study group also was observed to place screws more optimally in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions (p = 0.02, p = 0.04, and p = 0.04, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

Surgical resident education in pedicle and lateral mass screw placement is a priority for training programs. This study demonstrated that compared with a didactic-only training model, using navigation simulation with cadavers and Sawbones models significantly reduced the number of screw placement errors in a laboratory setting.

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Daniel Lubelski, Nilgun Senol, Michael P. Silverstein, Matthew D. Alvin, Edward C. Benzel, Thomas E. Mroz and Richard Schlenk

OBJECT

The authors investigated quality of life (QOL) outcomes after primary versus revision discectomy.

METHODS

A retrospective review was performed for all patients who had undergone a primary or revision discectomy at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health from January 2008 through December 2011. Among patients in the revision cohort, they identified those who needed a second revision discectomy. Patient QOL measures were recorded before and after surgery. These measures included responses to the EQ-5D health questionnaire, Patient Health Questionnaire–9, Pain and Disability Questionnaire, and quality-adjusted life years (QALYs). Cohorts were compared by using independent-sample t-tests and Fisher exact tests for continuous and categorical variables, respectively. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to adjust for confounding.

RESULTS

A total of 196 patients were identified (116 who underwent primary discectomy and 80 who underwent revision discectomy); average follow-up time was 150 days. There were no preoperative QOL differences between groups. Postoperatively, both groups improved significantly in all QOL measures. For QALYs, the primary cohort improved by 0.25 points (p < 0.001) and the revision cohort improved by 0.18 points (p < 0.001). QALYs improved for significantly more patients in the primary than in the revision cohort (76% vs 59%, respectively; p = 0.02), and improvement exceeded the minimum clinically important difference for more patients in the primary cohort (62% vs 45%, respectively; p = 0.03). Of the 80 patients who underwent revision discectomy, yet another recurrent herniation (third herniation) occurred in 14 (17.5%). Of these, 4 patients (28.6%) chose to undergo a second revision discectomy and the other 10 (71.4%) underwent conservative management. For those who underwent a second revision discectomy, QOL worsened according to all questionnaire scores.

CONCLUSIONS

QOL, pain and disability, and psychosocial outcomes improved after primary and revision discectomy, but the improvement diminished after revision discectomy.

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Atilla Akbay, Serkan İnceoğlu, Ryan Milks, Richard Schlenk, Selcuk Palaoglu and Edward C. Benzel

Object. Pedicle screw instrumentation of the thoracic spine remains technically challenging. Transverse process and costotransverse screw fixation techniques have been described as alternatives to pedicle screw fixation (PSF). In this study, the authors introduce thoracic transfacet PSF and compare its experimental biomechanical results with those of standard PSF in short-term cyclic loading in cadaveric thoracic specimens.

Methods. Specimens were tested intact for six cycles at compressive loads of 250 N offset by 1 cm along appropriate axes to induce flexion, extension, and left and right lateral bending. The specimens were then fixed with either a pedicle screw/rod construct or transfacet pedicle screws and retested in the same fashion. After this sequence, specimens were loaded until failure in flexion mode at a rate of 5 mm/minute was observed.

Both fixation constructs provided significantly greater stiffnesses than that demonstrated when the specimen was intact (p < 0.05, two-way analysis of variance). Additionally, the two constructs were statistically equivalent in terms of stiffness and load-to-failure values (p < 0.05, two-tailed nonpaired t-test). The only difference observed was that the low midthoracic region (T7–9) was biomechanically weaker than the upper midthoracic and lower thoracic areas in flexion after the destabilization and instrumentation-augmented stabilization procedures.

Conclusions. In selected thoracic surgical procedures, transfacet PSF may, after analysis of long-term biomechanical data, potentially become a reasonable alternative to conventional PSF.