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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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A longitudinal survey of adult spine and peripheral nerve case entries during neurosurgery residency training

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

Nitin Agarwal, Michael D. White and D. Kojo Hamilton

OBJECTIVE

Currently, there is a lack of research assessing residents’ operative experience and caseload variability. The current study utilizes data from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) case log system to analyze national trends in neurosurgical residents’ exposure to adult spinal procedures.

METHODS

Prospectively populated ACGME resident case logs from 2013 to 2017 were retrospectively reviewed. The reported number of spinal procedures was compared to the ACGME minimum requirements for each surgical category pertaining to adult spine surgery. A linear regression analysis was conducted to identify changes in operative caseload by residents graduating during the study period, as well as a one-sample t-test using IBM SPSS software to compare the mean number of procedures in each surgical category to the ACGME required minimums.

RESULTS

A mean of 427.42 total spinal procedures were performed throughout residency training for each of the 877 residents graduating between 2013 and 2017. The mean number of procedures completed by graduating residents increased by 19.96 (r2 = 0.95) cases per year. The number of cases in every procedural subspecialty, besides peripheral nerve operations, significantly increased during this time. The two procedural categories with the largest changes were anterior and posterior cervical approaches for decompression/stabilization, which increased by 8.78% per year (r2 = 0.95) and 9.04% per year (r2 = 0.95), respectively. There was also a trend of increasing cases logged for lead resident surgeons and a decline in cases logged for senior resident surgeons. Residents’ mean caseloads during residency were found to be vastly greater than the ACGME required minimums: residents performed at least twice as many procedures as the required minimums in every surgical category.

CONCLUSIONS

Graduating neurosurgical residents reported increasing case volumes for adult spinal cases during this 5-year interval. An increase in logged cases for lead resident surgeons as opposed to senior resident surgeons indicates that residents were logging more cases in which they had a more critical role in the procedure. Moreover, the average resident was noted to perform more than twice the number of procedures required by the ACGME in every surgical category, indicating that neurosurgical residents are getting greater exposure to spine surgery than expected. Given the known correlation between case volume and improved surgical outcomes, this data demonstrates each graduating neurosurgical residency class experiences an augmented training in spine surgery.

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Nitin Agarwal, Michael D. White, Jonathan Cohen, L. Dade Lunsford and D. Kojo Hamilton

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to analyze national trends in adult cranial cases performed by neurological surgery residents as logged into the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) system.

METHODS

The ACGME resident case logs were retrospectively reviewed for the years 2009–2017. In these reports, the national average of cases performed by graduating residents is organized by year, type of procedure, and level of resident. These logs were analyzed in order to evaluate trends in residency experience with adult cranial procedures. The reported number of cranial procedures was compared to the ACGME neurosurgical minimum requirements for each surgical category. A linear regression analysis was conducted in order to identify changes in the average number of procedures performed by residents graduating during the study period. Additionally, a 1-sample t-test was performed to compare reported case volumes to the ACGME required minimums.

RESULTS

An average of 577 total cranial procedures were performed throughout residency training for each of the 1631 residents graduating between 2009 and 2017. The total caseload for graduating residents upon completion of training increased by an average of 26.59 cases each year (r2 = 0.99). Additionally, caseloads in most major procedural subspecialty categories increased; this excludes open vascular and extracranial vascular categories, which showed, respectively, a decrease and no change. The majority of cranial procedures performed throughout residency pertained to tumor (mean 158.38 operations), trauma (mean 102.17 operations), and CSF diversion (mean 76.12 operations). Cranial procedures pertaining to the subspecialties of trauma and functional neurosurgery showed the greatest rise in total procedures, increasing at 8.23 (r2 = 0.91) and 6.44 (r2 = 0.95) procedures per graduating year, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Neurosurgical residents reported increasing case volumes for most cranial procedures between 2009 and 2017. This increase was observed despite work hour limitations set forth in 2003 and 2011. Of note, an inverse relationship between open vascular and endovascular procedures was observed, with a decrease in open vascular procedures and an increase in endovascular procedures performed during the study period. When compared to the ACGME required minimums, neurosurgery residents gained much more exposure to cranial procedures than was expected. Additionally, a larger caseload throughout training suggests that residents are graduating with greater competency and experience in cranial neurosurgery.

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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.