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Nitin Agarwal, Diego D. Luy, Joanne M. Bonaminio, Chris A. Philips, Kathryn A. Dattomo, Robert F. Heary, Charles L. Branch Jr., Jon H. Robertson, Michael W. Groff and Regis W. Haid Jr.

OBJECTIVE

The Neurosurgery Research & Education Foundation (NREF), previously known as the Research Foundation of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), was established in 1980 to encourage and facilitate innovation through financial support to young neurosurgeons in the process of honing their competencies in neurosciences and neurological surgery. This article provides a historical overview of NREF, its mission, and charitable contributions and the ever-expanding avenues for neurosurgeons, neurosurgical residents and fellows, and medical students to supplement clinical training and to further neurosurgical research advances.

METHODS

Data were collected from the historical archives of the AANS and NREF website. Available data included tabulated revenue, geographic and institutional records of funding, changes in funding for fellowships and awards, advertising methods, and sources of funding.

RESULTS

Since 1984, NREF has invested more than $23 million into the future of neurosurgery. To date, NREF has provided more than 500 fellowship opportunities which have funded neurosurgeons’ education and research efforts at all stages of training and practice.

CONCLUSIONS

NREF is designed to serve as the vehicle through which the neurosurgical community fosters the continued excellence in the care of patients with neurosurgical diseases.

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Michael D. White, Kristy Latour, Martina Giordano, Tavis Taylor and Nitin Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

There is an increasing trend among patients and their families to seek medical knowledge on the internet. Patients undergoing surgical interventions, including lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF), often rely on online videos as a first source of knowledge to familiarize themselves with the procedure. In this study the authors sought to investigate the reliability and quality of LLIF-related online videos.

METHODS

In December 2018, the authors searched the YouTube platform using 3 search terms: lateral lumbar interbody fusion, LLIF surgery, and LLIF. The relevance-based ranking search option was used, and results from the first 3 pages were investigated. Only videos from universities, hospitals, and academic associations were included for final evaluation. By means of the DISCERN instrument, a validated measure of reliability and quality for online patient education resources, 3 authors of the present study independently evaluated the quality of information.

RESULTS

In total, 296 videos were identified by using the 3 search terms. Ten videos met inclusion criteria and were further evaluated. The average (± SD) DISCERN video quality assessment score for these 10 videos was 3.42 ± 0.16. Two videos (20%) had an average score above 4, corresponding to a high-quality source of information. Of the remaining 8 videos, 6 (60%) scored moderately, in the range of 3–4, indicating that the publication is reliable but important information is missing. The final 2 videos (20%) had a low average score (2 or below), indicating that they are unlikely to be of any benefit and should not be used. Videos with intraoperative clips were significantly more popular, as indicated by the numbers of likes and views (p = 0.01). There was no correlation between video popularity and DISCERN score (p = 0.104). In August 2019, the total number of views for the 10 videos in the final analysis was 537,785.

CONCLUSIONS

The findings of this study demonstrate that patients who seek to access information about LLIF by using the YouTube platform will be presented with an overall moderate quality of educational content on this procedure. Moreover, compared with videos that provide patient information on treatments used in other medical fields, videos providing information on LLIF surgery are still exiguous. In view of the increasing trend to seek medical knowledge on the YouTube platform, and in order to support and optimize patient education on LLIF surgery, the authors encourage academic neurosurgery institutions in the United States and worldwide to implement the release of reliable video educational content.

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Michael M. McDowell, Nitin Agarwal, Gordon Mao, Stephen Johnson, Hideyuki Kano, L. Dade Lunsford and Stephanie Greene

OBJECTIVE

The study of pediatric arteriovenous malformations (pAVMs) is complicated by the rarity of the entity. Treatment choice has often been affected by the availability of different modalities and the experience of the providers present. The University of Pittsburgh experience of multimodality treatment of pAVMs is presented.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study examining 212 patients with pAVM presenting to the University of Pittsburgh between 1988 and 2018, during which patients had access to surgical, endovascular, and radiosurgical options. Univariate analysis was performed comparing good and poor outcomes. A poor outcome was defined as a modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score of ≥ 3. Multivariate analysis via logistic regression was performed on appropriate variables with a p value of ≤ 0.2. Seventy-five percent of the cohort had at least 3 years of follow-up.

RESULTS

Five patients (2.4%) did not receive any intervention, 131 (61.8%) had GKRS alone, 14 (6.6%) had craniotomies alone, and 2 (0.9%) had embolization alone. Twenty-two (10.4%) had embolization and Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS); 20 (9.4%) had craniotomies and GKRS; 8 (3.8%) had embolization and craniotomies; and 10 (4.7%) had embolization, craniotomies, and GKRS. Thirty-one patients (14.6%) were found to have poor outcome on follow-up. The multivariate analysis performed in patients with poor outcomes was notable for associations with no treatment (OR 18.9, p = 0.02), hemorrhage requiring craniotomy for decompression alone (OR 6, p = 0.03), preoperative mRS score (OR 2.1, p = 0.004), and Spetzler-Martin score (OR 1.8, p = 0.0005). The mean follow-up was 79.7 ± 62.1 months. The confirmed radiographic obliteration rate was 79.4% and there were 5 recurrences found on average 9.5 years after treatment.

CONCLUSIONS

High rates of long-term functional independence (mRS score of ≤ 2) can be achieved with comprehensive multimodality treatment of pAVMs. At this center there was no difference in outcome based on treatment choice when accounting for factors such as Spetzler-Martin grade and presenting morbidity. Recurrences are rare but frequently occur years after treatment, emphasizing the need for long-term screening after obliteration.

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Nitin Agarwal, Michael D. White, Xiaoran Zhang, Nima Alan, Alp Ozpinar, David J. Salvetti, Zachary J. Tempel, David O. Okonkwo, Adam S. Kanter and D. Kojo Hamilton

OBJECTIVE

Stand-alone lateral lumbar interbody fusion (LLIF) is a useful minimally invasive approach for select spinal disorders, but implant subsidence may occur in up to 30% of patients. Previous studies have suggested that wider implants reduce the subsidence rate. This study aimed to evaluate whether a mismatch of the endplate and implant area can predict the rate and grade of implant subsidence.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective review of prospectively collected data on consecutive patients who underwent stand-alone LLIF between July 2008 and June 2015; 297 patients (623 surgical levels) met inclusion criteria. Imaging studies were examined to grade graft subsidence according to Marchi criteria. Thirty patients had radiographic evidence of implant subsidence. The endplates above and below the implant were measured.

RESULTS

A total of 30 patients with implant subsidence were identified. Of these patients, 6 had Marchi grade 0, 4 had grade I, 12 had grade II, and 8 had grade III implant subsidence. There was no statistically significant correlation between the endplate-implant area mismatch and subsidence grade or incidence. There was also no correlation between endplate-implant width and length mismatch and subsidence grade or incidence. However, there was a strong correlation between the usage of the 18-mm-wide implants and the development of higher-grade subsidence (p = 0.002) necessitating surgery. There was no significant association between the degree of mismatch or Marchi subsidence grade and the presence of postoperative radiculopathy. Of the 8 patients with 18-mm implants demonstrating radiographic subsidence, 5 (62.5%) required reoperation. Of the 22 patients with 22-mm implants demonstrating radiographic subsidence, 13 (59.1%) required reoperation.

CONCLUSIONS

There was no correlation between endplate-implant area, width, or length mismatch and Marchi subsidence grade for stand-alone LLIF. There was also no correlation between either endplate-implant mismatch or Marchi subsidence grade and postoperative radiculopathy. The data do suggest that the use of 18-mm-wide implants in stand-alone LLIF may increase the risk of developing high-grade subsidence necessitating reoperation compared to the use of 22-mm-wide implants.

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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, Federico Angriman, Ezequiel Goldschmidt, James Zhou, Adam S. Kanter, David O. Okonkwo, Peter G. Passias, Themistocles Protopsaltis, Virginie Lafage, Renaud Lafage, Frank Schwab, Shay Bess, Christopher Ames, Justin S. Smith, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Douglas Burton, D. Kojo Hamilton and the International Spine Study Group

OBJECTIVE

Obesity, a condition that is increasing in prevalence in the United States, has previously been associated with poorer outcomes following deformity surgery, including higher rates of perioperative complications such as deep and superficial infections. To date, however, no study has examined the relationship between preoperative BMI and outcomes of deformity surgery as measured by spine parameters such as the sagittal vertical axis (SVA), as well as health-related quality of life (HRQoL) measures such as the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) and Scoliosis Research Society–22 patient questionnaire (SRS-22). To this end, the authors sought to clarify the relationship between BMI and postoperative change in SVA as well as HRQoL outcomes.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective review of a prospectively managed multicenter adult spinal deformity database collected and maintained by the International Spine Study Group (ISSG) between 2009 and 2014. The primary independent variable considered was preoperative BMI. The primary outcome was the change in SVA at 1 year after deformity surgery. Postoperative ODI and SRS-22 outcome measures were evaluated as secondary outcomes. Generalized linear models were used to model the primary and secondary outcomes at 1 year as a function of BMI at baseline, while adjusting for potential measured confounders.

RESULTS

Increasing BMI (compared to BMI < 18) was not associated with change of SVA at 1 year postsurgery. However, BMIs in the obese range of 30 to 34.9 kg/m2, compared to BMI < 18 at baseline, were associated with poorer outcomes as measured by the SRS-22 score (estimated change −0.47, 95% CI −0.93 to −0.01, p = 0.04). While BMIs > 30 appeared to be associated with poorer outcomes as determined by the ODI, this correlation did not reach statistical significance.

CONCLUSIONS

Baseline BMI did not affect the achievable SVA at 1 year postsurgery. Further studies should evaluate whether even in the absence of a change in SVA, baseline BMIs in the obese range are associated with worsened HRQoL outcomes after spinal surgery.

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Ahmed Kashkoush, Nitin Agarwal, Ashley Ayres, Victoria Novak, Yue-Fang Chang and Robert M. Friedlander

OBJECTIVE

The preoperative scrub has been shown to lower the incidence of surgical site infections (SSIs). Various scrubbing and gloving techniques exist; however, it is unknown how specific scrubbing technique influences SSI rates in neurosurgery. The authors aimed to assess whether the range of scrubbing practice in neurosurgery is associated with the incidence of SSIs.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database to identify all 90-day SSIs for neurosurgical procedures between 2012 and 2017 at one of their teaching hospitals. SSIs were classified by procedure type (craniotomy, shunt, fusion, or laminectomy). Surveys were administered to attending and resident physicians to understand the variation in scrubbing methods (wet vs dry, iodine vs chlorhexidine, single vs double glove). The chi-square followed by multivariate logistic regression analyses were utilized to identify independent predictors of SSI.

RESULTS

Forty-two operating physicians were included in the study (18 attending physicians, 24 resident physicians), who performed 14,200 total cases. Overall, SSI rates were 2.1% (296 SSIs of 14,200 total cases) and 2.0% (192 of 9,669 cases) for attending physicians and residents, respectively. Shunts were independently associated with an increased risk of SSI (OR 1.7 [95% CI 1.3–2.1]), whereas laminectomies were associated with a decreased SSI risk (OR 0.4 [95% CI 0.2–0.8]). Wet versus dry scrub (OR 0.9 [95% CI 0.6–1.4]), iodine versus chlorhexidine (OR 0.6 [95% CI 0.4–1.1]), and single- versus double-gloving (OR 1.1 [95% CI 0.8–1.4]) preferences were not associated with SSIs.

CONCLUSIONS

There is no evidence to suggest that perioperative infection is associated with personal scrubbing or gloving preference in neurosurgical procedures.

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Eric Reseland, Nitin Agarwal, Michael M. McDowell, Jeremy G. Stone, Daniel A. Tonetti, Issam A. Awad, Charles J. Hodge, Karen S. Koenig, Allan H. Friedman and Robert M. Friedlander

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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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Nitin Agarwal, Michael D. White, Susan C. Pannullo and Lola B. Chambless

OBJECTIVE

Resident attrition creates a profound burden on trainees and residency programs. This study aims to analyze trends in resident attrition in neurological surgery.

METHODS

This study followed a cohort of 1275 residents who started neurosurgical residency from 2005 to 2010. Data obtained from the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) included residents who matched in neurosurgery during this time. Residents who did not finish their residency training at the program in which they started were placed into the attrition group. Residents in the attrition group were characterized by one of five outcomes: transferred neurosurgery programs; transferred to a different specialty; left clinical medicine; deceased; or unknown. A thorough internet search was conducted for residents who did not complete their training at their first neurosurgical program. Variables leading to attrition were also analyzed, including age, sex, presence of advanced degree (Ph.D.), postgraduate year (PGY), and geographical region of program.

RESULTS

Residents starting neurosurgical residency from 2005 to 2010 had an overall attrition rate of 10.98%. There was no statistically significant difference in attrition rates among the years (p = 0.337). The outcomes for residents in the attrition group were found to be as follows: 33.61% transferred neurosurgical programs, 56.30% transferred to a different medical specialty, 8.40% left clinical medicine, and 1.68% were deceased. It was observed that women had a higher attrition rate (18.50%) than men (10.35%). Most attrition (65.07%) occurred during PGY 1 or 2. The attrition group was also observed to be significantly older at the beginning of residency training, with a mean of 31.69 years of age compared to 29.31 in the nonattrition group (p < 0.001). No significant difference was observed in the attrition rates for residents with a Ph.D. (9.86%) compared to those without a Ph.D. (p = 0.472).

CONCLUSIONS

A majority of residents in the attrition group pursued training in different medical specialties, most commonly neurology, radiology, and anesthesiology. Factors associated with an increased rate of attrition were older age at the beginning of residency, female sex, and junior resident (PGY-1 to PGY-2). Resident attrition remains a significant problem within neurosurgical training, and future studies should focus on targeted interventions to identify individuals at risk to help them succeed in their medical careers.