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Nitin Agarwal, Ahmed Kashkoush, Michael M. McDowell, William R. Lariviere, Naveed Ismail and Robert M. Friedlander

OBJECTIVE

Ventricular shunt (VS) durability has been well studied in the pediatric population and in patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus; however, further evaluation in a more heterogeneous adult population is needed. This study aims to evaluate the effect of diagnosis and valve type—fixed versus programmable—on shunt durability and cost for placement of shunts in adult patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all patients who underwent implantation of a VS for hydrocephalus at their institution over a 3-year period between August 2013 and October 2016 with a minimum postoperative follow-up of 6 months. The primary outcome was shunt revision, which was defined as reoperation for any indication after the initial procedure. Supply costs, shunt durability, and hydrocephalus etiologies were compared between fixed and programmable valves.

RESULTS

A total of 417 patients underwent shunt placement during the index time frame, consisting of 62 fixed shunts (15%) and 355 programmable shunts (85%). The mean follow-up was 30 ± 12 (SD) months. The shunt revision rate was 22% for programmable pressure valves and 21% for fixed pressure valves (HR 1.1 [95% CI 0.6–1.8]). Shunt complications, such as valve failure, infection, and overdrainage, occurred with similar frequency across valve types. Kaplan-Meier survival curve analysis showed no difference in durability between fixed (mean 39 months) and programmable (mean 40 months) shunts (p = 0.980, log-rank test). The median shunt supply cost per index case and accounting for subsequent revisions was $3438 (interquartile range $2938–$3876) and $1504 (interquartile range $753–$1584) for programmable and fixed shunts, respectively (p < 0.001, Wilcoxon rank-sum test). Of all hydrocephalus etiologies, pseudotumor cerebri (HR 1.9 [95% CI 1.2–3.1]) and previous shunt malfunction (HR 1.8 [95% CI 1.2–2.7]) were found to significantly increase the risk of shunt revision. Within each diagnosis, there were no significant differences in revision rates between shunts with a fixed valve and shunts with a programmable valve.

CONCLUSIONS

Long-term shunt revision rates are similar for fixed and programmable shunt pressure valves in adult patients. Hydrocephalus etiology may play a significant role in predicting shunt revision, although programmable valves incur higher supply costs regardless of initial diagnosis. Utilization of fixed pressure valves versus programmable pressure valves may reduce supply costs while maintaining similar revision rates. Given the importance of developing cost-effective management protocols, this study highlights the critical need for large-scale prospective observational studies and randomized clinical trials of ventricular shunt valve revisions and additional patient-centered outcomes.

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Nitin Agarwal, Ahmed Kashkoush, Michael M. McDowell, William R. Lariviere, Naveed Ismail and Robert M. Friedlander

OBJECTIVE

Ventricular shunt (VS) durability has been well studied in the pediatric population and in patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus; however, further evaluation in a more heterogeneous adult population is needed. This study aims to evaluate the effect of diagnosis and valve type—fixed versus programmable—on shunt durability and cost for placement of shunts in adult patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records of all patients who underwent implantation of a VS for hydrocephalus at their institution over a 3-year period between August 2013 and October 2016 with a minimum postoperative follow-up of 6 months. The primary outcome was shunt revision, which was defined as reoperation for any indication after the initial procedure. Supply costs, shunt durability, and hydrocephalus etiologies were compared between fixed and programmable valves.

RESULTS

A total of 417 patients underwent shunt placement during the index time frame, consisting of 62 fixed shunts (15%) and 355 programmable shunts (85%). The mean follow-up was 30 ± 12 (SD) months. The shunt revision rate was 22% for programmable pressure valves and 21% for fixed pressure valves (HR 1.1 [95% CI 0.6–1.8]). Shunt complications, such as valve failure, infection, and overdrainage, occurred with similar frequency across valve types. Kaplan-Meier survival curve analysis showed no difference in durability between fixed (mean 39 months) and programmable (mean 40 months) shunts (p = 0.980, log-rank test). The median shunt supply cost per index case and accounting for subsequent revisions was $3438 (interquartile range $2938–$3876) and $1504 (interquartile range $753–$1584) for programmable and fixed shunts, respectively (p < 0.001, Wilcoxon rank-sum test). Of all hydrocephalus etiologies, pseudotumor cerebri (HR 1.9 [95% CI 1.2–3.1]) and previous shunt malfunction (HR 1.8 [95% CI 1.2–2.7]) were found to significantly increase the risk of shunt revision. Within each diagnosis, there were no significant differences in revision rates between shunts with a fixed valve and shunts with a programmable valve.

CONCLUSIONS

Long-term shunt revision rates are similar for fixed and programmable shunt pressure valves in adult patients. Hydrocephalus etiology may play a significant role in predicting shunt revision, although programmable valves incur higher supply costs regardless of initial diagnosis. Utilization of fixed pressure valves versus programmable pressure valves may reduce supply costs while maintaining similar revision rates. Given the importance of developing cost-effective management protocols, this study highlights the critical need for large-scale prospective observational studies and randomized clinical trials of ventricular shunt valve revisions and additional patient-centered outcomes.

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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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Nitin Agarwal, Robert F. Heary and Prateek Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

Pedicle screw fixation is a technique widely used to treat conditions ranging from spine deformity to fracture stabilization. Pedicle screws have been used traditionally in the lumbar spine; however, they are now being used with increasing frequency in the thoracic spine as a more favorable alternative to hooks, wires, or cables. Although safety concerns, such as the incidence of adjacent-segment disease (ASD) after cervical and lumbar fusions, have been reported, such issues in the thoracic spine have yet to be addressed thoroughly. Here, the authors review the literature on ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation and report their own experience specifically involving the use of pedicle screws in the thoracic spine.

METHODS

Select references from online databases, such as PubMed (provided by the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health), were used to survey the literature concerning ASD after thoracic pedicle screw fixation. To include the authors’ experience at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, a retrospective review of a prospectively maintained database was performed to determine the incidence of complications over a 13-year period in 123 consecutive adult patients who underwent thoracic pedicle screw fixation. Children, pregnant or lactating women, and prisoners were excluded from the review. By comparing preoperative and postoperative radiographic images, the occurrence of thoracic ASD and disease within the surgical construct was determined.

RESULTS

Definitive radiographic fusion was detected in 115 (93.5%) patients. Seven incidences of instrumentation failure and 8 lucencies surrounding the screws were observed. One patient was observed to have ASD of the thoracic spine. The mean follow-up duration was 50 months.

CONCLUSIONS

This long-term radiographic evaluation revealed the use of pedicle screws for thoracic fixation to be an effective stabilization modality. In particular, ASD seems to be less of a problem in the relatively immobile thoracic spine than in the more mobile cervical and lumbar spines.

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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, Sumana S. Kommana, David R. Hansberry, Ahmed I. Kashkoush, Robert M. Friedlander and L. Dade Lunsford

OBJECTIVE

Closing the knowledge gap that exists between patients and health care providers is essential and is facilitated by easy access to patient education materials. Although such information has the potential to be an effective resource, it must be written in a user-friendly and understandable manner, especially when such material pertains to specialized and highly technical fields such as neurological surgery. The authors evaluated the accessibility, usability, and reliability of current educational resources provided by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS), Healthwise, and the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).

METHODS

Online neurosurgical patient education information provided by AANS, Healthwise, and NINDS was evaluated using the LIDA scale, a website quality assessment tool, by medical professionals and nonmedical professionals. A high achieving score is regarded as 90% or greater using the LIDA scale.

RESULTS

Accessibility scores were 76.7% (AANS), 83.3% (Healthwise), and 75.0% (NINDS). Average usability scores for the AANS, Healthwise, and NINDS were 73.3%, 82.6%, and 82.9%, respectively, when evaluated by medical professionals and 78.5%, 80.7%, and 75.9%, respectively, for nonmedical professionals, respectively. Average reliability scores were 58.5%, 53.3%, 72.6%, respectively, for medical professionals and 70.4%, 66.7%, and 78.5%, respectively, for nonmedical professionals when evaluating the AANS, Healthwise, and NINDS websites.

CONCLUSIONS

Although organizations like AANS, Healthwise, and NINDS should be commended for their ongoing commitment to provide health care–oriented materials, modification of this material is suggested to improve the patient education value.

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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.

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Robert F. Heary, Naresh K. Parvathreddy, Zainab S. Qayumi, Naiim S. Ali and Nitin Agarwal

OBJECTIVE

Fibular allograft remains a widely used strut for corpectomy surgeries. The amount of graft material that can be packed into an allograft strut has not been quantified. Cages are an alternative to fibular allograft for fusion surgeries. The authors of this study assessed the suitability of carbon fiber–reinforced polyetheretherketone (CFRP) cages for anterior corpectomy surgeries. They further explored the parameters known to affect fusion rates in clinical practice.

METHODS

Six fibular allografts were tested at standard lengths. Three sets of carbon fiber cages (Bengal, DePuy Spine), each with a different footprint size but the same lengths, were tested. The allografts and cages were wrapped in adhesive, fluid-tight transparent barriers and filled with oil. The volume and weight of the oil instilled as well as the implant footprints were measured. The fibular allografts and cages were tested at 20-, 40-, and 50-mm lengths. Two investigators independently performed all measurements 5 times. Five CFRP cubes (1 × 1 × 1 cm) were tested under pure compression, and load versus displacement curves were plotted to determine the modulus of elasticity.

RESULTS

Significantly more oil fit in the CFRP cages than in the fibular allografts (p < 0.0001). The weight and volume of oil was 4–6 times greater in the cages. Interobserver (r = 0.991) and intraobserver (r = 0.993) reliability was excellent. The modulus of elasticity for CFRP was 16.44 ± 2.07 GPa.

CONCLUSIONS

Carbon fiber–reinforced polyetheretherketone cages can accommodate much more graft material than can fibular allografts. In clinical practice, the ability to deliver greater amounts of graft material following a corpectomy may improve fusion rates.