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  • Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics x
  • By Author: Luerssen, Thomas G. x
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Guillermo Aldave, Daniel Hansen, Valentina Briceño, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The authors previously demonstrated the use of a validated Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills (OSATS) tool for evaluating residents' operative skills in pediatric neurosurgery. However, no benchmarks have been established for specific pediatric procedures despite an increased need for meaningful assessments that can either allow for early intervention for underperforming trainees or allow for proficient residents to progress to conducting operations independently with more passive supervision. This validated methodology and tool for assessment of operative skills for common pediatric neurosurgical procedures—external ventricular drain (EVD) placement and shunt surgery— was applied to establish its procedure-based feasibility and reliability, and to document the effect of repetition on achieving surgical skill proficiency in pediatric EVD placement and shunt surgery.

METHODS

A procedure-based technical skills assessment for EVD placements and shunt surgeries in pediatric neurosurgery was established through the use of task analysis. The authors enrolled all residents from 3 training programs (Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, and University of Texas–Medical Branch) who rotated through pediatric neurosurgery at Texas Children's Hospital over a 26-month period. For each EVD placement or shunt procedure performed with a resident, the faculty and resident (for self-assessment) completed an evaluation form (OSATS) based on a 5-point Likert scale with 7 categories. Data forms were then grouped according to faculty versus resident (self) assessment, length of pediatric neurosurgery rotation, postgraduate year level, and date of evaluation (“beginning of rotation,” within 1 month of start date; “end of rotation,” within 1 month of completion date; or “middle of rotation”). Descriptive statistical analyses were performed with the commercially available SPSS statistical software package. A p value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS

Five attending evaluators (including 2 fellows who acted as attending surgeons) completed 260 evaluations. Twenty house staff completed 269 evaluations for self-assessment. Evaluations were completed in 562 EVD and shunt procedures before the surgeons left the operating room. There were statistically significant differences (p < 0.05) between overall attending (mean 4.3) and junior resident (self; mean 3.6) assessments, and between overall attending (mean 4.8) and senior resident (self; mean 4.6) assessment scores on general performance and technical skills. The learning curves produced for the residents demonstrate a stereotypical U- or V-shaped curve for acquiring skills, with a significant improvement in overall scores at the end of the rotation compared with the beginning. The improvement for junior residents (Δ score = 0.5; p = 0.002) was larger than for senior residents (Δ score = 0.2; p = 0.018).

CONCLUSIONS

The OSATS is an effective assessment tool as part of a comprehensive evaluation of neurosurgery residents' performance for specific pediatric procedures. The authors observed a U-shaped learning curve, contradicting the idea that developing one's surgical technique and learning a procedure represents a monotonic, cumulative process of repetitions and improvement.

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Daniel Hansen, Aditya Vedantam, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The emphasis on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes is increasing, along with an emphasis on evidence-based medicine. However, there is a notable paucity of validated HRQOL instruments for the pediatric population. Furthermore, no standardization or consensus currently exists concerning which HRQOL outcome measures ought to be used in pediatric neurosurgery. The authors wished to identify HRQOL outcomes used in pediatric neurosurgery research over the past 10 years, their frequency, and usage trends.

METHODS

Three top pediatric neurosurgical journals were reviewed for the decade from 2005 to 2014 for clinical studies of pediatric neurosurgical procedures that report HRQOL outcomes. Similar studies in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics were also used as a benchmark. Publication year, level of evidence, and HRQOL outcomes were collected for each article.

RESULTS

A total of 31 HRQOL studies were published in the pediatric neurosurgical literature over the study period. By comparison, there were 55 such articles in Pediatrics. The number of publications using HRQOL instruments showed a significant positive trend over time for Pediatrics (B = 0.62, p = 0.02) but did not increase significantly over time for the 3 neurosurgical journals (B = 0.12, p = 0.5). The authors identified a total of 46 different HRQOL instruments used across all journals. Within the neurosurgical journals, the Hydrocephalus Outcome Questionnaire (HOQ) (24%) was the most frequently used, followed by the Health Utilities Index (HUI) (16%), the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) (12%), and the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) (12%). Of the 55 articles identified in Pediatrics, 22 (40%) used a version of the PedsQL. No neurosurgical study reached above Level 4 on the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (OCEBM) system. However, multiple studies from Pediatrics achieved OCEBM Level 3, several were categorized as Level 2, and one reached Level 1.

CONCLUSIONS

The frequency of studies using HRQOL outcomes in pediatric neurosurgical research has not increased over the past 10 years. Within pediatric neurosurgery, high-quality studies and standardization are lacking, as compared with contemporary studies in Pediatrics. In general, although the HOQ, HUI, PedsQL, and SF-36 instruments are emerging as standards in pediatric neurosurgery, even greater standardization across the specialty is needed, along with the design and implementation of more rigorous studies.

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Sandi Lam, I-Wen Pan, Andrew Jea and Thomas G. Luerssen

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Jonathan N. Sellin, Aditya Vedantam, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The complication profile of epidural triamcinolone acetonide use during lumbar decompression surgery is not known. However, isolated reports of increased risk of delayed CSF leakage with the use of triamcinolone acetonide in adult spinal surgery patients have been published. The purpose of this study was to determine the safety of epidural triamcinolone acetonide use in conjunction with lumbar decompression surgery in pediatric patients.

METHODS

The medical records of all patients who underwent lumbar decompression surgery with or without discectomy between July 1, 2007, and July 31, 2015, were retrospectively reviewed.

RESULTS

During the study period, 58 patients underwent 59 spine procedures at Texas Children's Hospital. There were 33 female and 25 male patients. The mean age at surgery was 16.5 years (range 12–24 years). Patients were followed for an average of 38.2 months (range 4–97 months). Triamcinolone acetonide was used in 28 (of 35 total) cases of discectomy; there were no cases of delayed symptomatic CSF leaks (0%) in the minimally invasive and open discectomies. On the other hand, triamcinolone acetonide was used in 14 (of 24 total) cases of multilevel laminectomy, among which there were 10 delayed CSF leaks (71.4%) requiring treatment. The use of triamcinolone acetonide in patients who underwent multilevel laminectomy was significantly associated with an increased risk of delayed CSF leaks or pseudomeningoceles (Fisher's exact test, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

There was an unacceptable incidence of delayed postoperative CSF leaks when epidural triamcinolone acetonide was used in patients who underwent multilevel laminectomy.

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Ben A. Strickland, Christina Sayama, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

In a previous study, the authors reported on their experience with the use of sublaminar polyester bands as part of segmental spinal constructs. However, the risk of neurological complications with sublaminar passage of instrumentation, such as spinal cord injury, limits the use of this technique. The present study reports the novel use of subtransverse process polyester bands in posterior instrumented spinal fusions of the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum or ilium in 4 patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographic and procedural data of patients who had undergone posterior instrumented fusion using subtransverse process polyester bands.

RESULTS

Four patients, ranging in age from 11 to 22 years, underwent posterior instrumented fusion for neuromuscular scoliosis (3 patients) and thoracic hyperkyphosis (1 patient). There were 3 instances of transverse process fracture, with application and tensioning of the polyester band in 1 patient. Importantly, there was no instance of spinal cord injury with subtransverse process passage of the polyester band. The lessons learned from this technique are discussed.

CONCLUSIONS

This study has shown the “Eleghia” technique of passing subtransverse process bands to be a technically straightforward and neurologically safe method of spinal fixation. Pedicle screws, laminar/pedicle/transverse process hooks, and sublaminar metal wires/bands have been incorporated into posterior spinal constructs; they have been widely reported and used in the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum or ilium with varying success. This report demonstrates the promising results of hybrid posterior spinal constructs that include the Eleghia technique of passing subtransverse process polyester bands. This technique incorporates technical ease with minimal risk of neurological injury and biomechanical stability.

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Virendra Desai, David Gonda, Sheila L. Ryan, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen, Sohail H. Syed and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

Several studies have indicated that the 30-day morbidity and mortality risks are higher among pediatric and adult patients who are admitted on the weekends. This “weekend effect” has been observed among patients admitted with and fora variety of diagnoses and procedures, including myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, stroke, peptic ulcer disease, and pediatric surgery. In this study, morbidity and mortality outcomes for emergency pediatric neurosurgical procedures carried out on the weekend or after hours are compared with emergency surgical procedures performed during regular weekday business hours.

METHODS

A retrospective analysis of operative data was conducted. Between December 1, 2011, and August 20, 2014, a total of 710 urgent or emergency neurosurgical procedures were performed at Texas Children’s Hospital in children younger than than 18 years of age. These procedures were then stratified into 3 groups: weekday regular hours, weekday after hours, and weekend hours. By cross-referencing these events with a prospectively collected morbidity and mortality database, the impact of the day and time on complication incidence was examined. Outcome metrics were compared using logistic regression models.

RESULTS

The weekday regular hours and after-hours (weekday after hours and weekends) surgery groups consisted of 341 and 239 patients and 434 and 276 procedures, respectively. There were no significant differences in the types of cases performed (p = 0.629) or baseline preoperative health status as determined by American Society of Anesthesiologists classifications (p = 0.220) between the 2 cohorts. After multivariate adjustment and regression, children undergoing emergency neurosurgical procedures during weekday after hours or weekends were more likely to experience complications (p = 0.0227).

CONCLUSIONS

Weekday after-hours and weekend emergency pediatric neurosurgical procedures are associated with significantly increased 30-day morbidity and mortality risk compared with procedures performed during weekday regular hours.

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John R. W. Kestle

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Caroline Hadley, Sandi K. Lam, Valentina Briceño, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

Currently there is no standardized tool for assessment of neurosurgical resident performance in the operating room. In light of enhanced requirements issued by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s Milestone Project and the Matrix Curriculum Project from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, the implementation of such a tool seems essential for objective evaluation of resident competence. Beyond compliance with governing body guidelines, objective assessment tools may be useful to direct early intervention for trainees performing below the level of their peers so that they may be given more hands-on teaching, while strong residents can be encouraged by faculty members to progress to conducting operations more independently with passive supervision. The aims of this study were to implement a validated assessment tool for evaluation of operative skills in pediatric neurosurgery and determine its feasibility and reliability.

METHODS

All neurosurgery residents completing their pediatric rotation over a 6-month period from January 1, 2014, to June 30, 2014, at the authors’ institution were enrolled in this study. For each procedure, residents were evaluated by means of a form, with one copy being completed by the resident and a separate copy being completed by the attending surgeon. The evaluation form was based on the validated Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills for Surgery (OSATS) and used a 5-point Likert-type scale with 7 categories: respect for tissue; time and motion; instrument handling; knowledge of instruments; flow of operation; use of assistants; and knowledge of specific procedure. Data were then stratified by faculty versus resident (self-) assessment; postgraduate year level; and difficulty of procedure. Descriptive statistics (means and SDs) were calculated, and the results were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test and Student t-test. A p value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS

Six faculty members, 1 fellow, and 8 residents completed evaluations for 299 procedures, including 32 ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt revisions, 23 VP shunt placements, 19 endoscopic third ventriculostomies, and 18 craniotomies for tumor resection. There was no significant difference between faculty and resident self-assessment scores overall or in any of the 7 domains scores for each of the involved residents. On self-assessment, senior residents scored themselves significantly higher (p < 0.02) than junior residents overall and in all domains except for “time and motion.” Faculty members scored senior residents significantly higher than junior residents only for the “knowledge of instruments” domain (p = 0.05). When procedure difficulty was considered, senior residents’ scores from faculty members were significantly higher (p = 0.04) than the scores given to junior residents for expert procedures only. Senior residents’ self-evaluation scores were significantly higher than those of junior residents for both expert (p = 0.03) and novice (p = 0.006) procedures.

CONCLUSIONS

OSATS is a feasible and reliable assessment tool for the comprehensive evaluation of neurosurgery resident performance in the operating room. The authors plan to use this tool to assess resident operative skill development and to improve direct resident feedback.

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David D. Gonda, Jared Fridley, Sheila L. Ryan, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, MD MBA, Thomas G. Luerssen and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

Low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs), mainly enoxaparin, offer several advantages over standard anticoagulation therapies such as unfractionated heparin and warfarin, including predictable pharmacokinetics, minimal monitoring, and subcutaneous administration. The purpose of this study was to determine the safety and efficacy of LMWHs in pediatric neurosurgical patients.

METHODS

A retrospective study was performed with patients 18 years old or younger who were admitted to the Pediatric Neurosurgery Service at Texas Children's Hospital and treated with LMWH for either therapeutic or prophylactic purposes between March 1, 2011, and December 30, 2013. Demographic and clinical features and outcomes were recorded.

RESULTS

LMWH was administered for treatment of venous thromboembolic events (VTEs) in 17 children and for prophylaxis in 24 children. Clinical resolution of VTEs occurred in 100% (17 of 17) of patients receiving therapeutic doses of LMWH. No patient receiving prophylactic doses of LMWH developed a new VTE. Major or minor bleeding complications occurred in 18% (3 of 17 children) and 4% (1 of 24 children) of those receiving therapeutic and prophylactic doses, respectively. All 4 patients who experienced hemorrhagic complications had other bleeding risk factors—i.e., coagulopathies and antiplatelet medications.

CONCLUSIONS

LMWH seems to be safe and efficacious for both management and prophylaxis of VTEs in pediatric neurosurgery. However, pediatric practitioners should be aware of higher risk for bleeding complications with increasing doses of LMWH, especially in patients with preexisting bleeding disorders or concurrent use of antiplatelet agents.