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  • Journal of Neurosurgery x
  • By Author: Agarwal, Nitin x
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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.

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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, 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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Bryan A. Lieber, Geoffrey Appelboom, Blake E. S. Taylor, Hani Malone, Nitin Agarwal and E. Sander Connolly Jr.

OBJECT

Each July, 4th-year medical students become 1st-year resident physicians and have much greater responsibility in making management decisions. In addition, incumbent residents and fellows advance to their next postgraduate year and face greater challenges. It has been suggested that among patients who have resident physicians as members of their neurosurgical team, this transition may be associated with increased rates of morbidity and mortality, a phenomenon known as the “July Effect.” In this study, the authors compared morbidity and mortality rates between the initial and later months of the academic year to determine whether there is truly a July Effect that has an impact on this patient population.

METHODS

The authors compared 30-day postoperative outcomes of neurosurgery performed by surgical teams that included resident physicians in training during the first academic quarter (Q1, July through September) with outcomes of neurosurgery performed with resident participation during the final academic quarter (Q4, April through June), using 2006–2012 data from the prospectively collected American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) database. Regression analyses were performed on outcome data that included mortality, surgical complications, and medical complications, which were graded as mild or severe. To determine whether a July Effect was present in subgroups, secondary analyses were performed to analyze the association of outcomes with each major neurosurgical subspecialty, the postgraduate year of the operating resident, and the academic quarter during which the surgery was performed. To control for possible seasonal trends in certain diseases, the authors compared patient outcomes at academic medical centers to those at community-based hospitals, where procedures were not performed by residents. In addition, the efficiency of academic centers was compared to that of community centers in terms of operative duration and total length of hospital stay.

RESULTS

Overall, there were no statistically significant differences in mortality, morbidity, or efficiency between the earlier and later quarters of the academic year, a finding that also held true among neurosurgical subspecialties and among postgraduate levels of training. There was, however, a slight increase in intraoperative transfusions associated with the transitional period in July (6.41% of procedures in Q4 compared to 7.99% in Q1 of the prior calendar year; p = 0.0005), which primarily occurred in cases involving junior (2nd- to 4th-year) residents. In addition, there was an increased rate of reoperation (1.73% in Q4 to 2.19% in Q1; p < 0.0001) observed mainly among senior (5th- to 7th-year) residents in the early academic months and not paralleled in our community cohort.

CONCLUSIONS

There is minimal evidence for a significant July Effect in adult neurosurgery. Our results suggest that, overall, the current resident training system provides enough guidance and support during this challenging transition period.