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Handoyo Pramusinto, Daniel Agriva Tamba, Yoyok Subagio, Tommy J. Numberi, Bangun Pramujo, Franklin L. Sinanu, Gheanita Ariasthapuri, Haryo Bismantara, and Andreasta Meliala

OBJECTIVE

The recent COVID-19 outbreak has forced notable adjustments to surgical procedure preparation, including neurosurgical services. However, due to the uniqueness of the recent situation, neurosurgical centers, especially those located in low-resource settings, are facing several challenges such as a lack of coordination, poor equipment, and shortage of medical personnel. Therefore, several guidelines from local authorities and international neurosurgical bodies have been published to help clinicians manage their patients. In addition, the academic health system (AHS), which is an integrated system containing a medical institution, universities, and a teaching hospital, may play some role in the management of patients during COVID-19. The objective of this study was to describe how each hospital in the authors’ network adjusted their neurosurgical practice and how the AHS of the Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM) played its role in the adaptation process during the pandemic.

METHODS

The authors gathered both local and national data about the number of COVID-19 infections from the government’s database. To assess the contribution of the AHS to the efforts of each hospital to address the pandemic, questionnaires were given to 6 neurosurgeons, 1 resident, and 2 general surgeons about the management of neurosurgical cases during the pandemic in their hospitals.

RESULTS

The data illustrate various strategies to manage neurosurgical cases by hospitals within the authors’ networks. The hospitals were grouped into three categories based on the transmission risk in each region. Most of these hospitals stated that UGM AHS had a positive impact on the changes in their strategies. In the early phase of the outbreak, some hospitals faced a lack of coordination between hospitals and related stakeholders, inadequate amount of personal protective equipment (PPE), and unclear regulations. As the nation enters a new phase, almost all hospitals had performed routine screening tests, had a sufficient amount of PPE for the medical personnel, and followed both national and international guidelines in caring for their neurosurgical patients.

CONCLUSIONS

The management of neurosurgical procedures during the outbreak has been a challenging task and a role of the AHS in improving patient care has been experienced by most hospitals in the authors’ network. In the future, the authors expect to develop a better collaboration for the next possible pandemic.

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Alina Mohanty, Visish M. Srinivasan, Jan-Karl Burkhardt, Jeremiah Johnson, Akash J. Patel, Sameer A. Sheth, Ashwin Viswanathan, Daniel Yoshor, and Peter Kan

OBJECTIVE

Telemedicine has rapidly expanded in the recent years as technologies have afforded healthcare practitioners the ability to diagnose and treat patients remotely. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, nonessential clinical visits were greatly limited, and much of the outpatient neurosurgical practice at the authors’ institution was shifted quickly to telehealth. Although there are prior data suggesting that the use of telemedicine is satisfactory in other surgical fields, data in neurosurgery are limited. This study aimed to investigate both patient and provider satisfaction with telemedicine and its strengths and limitations in outpatient neurosurgery visits.

METHODS

This quality improvement study was designed to analyze provider and patient satisfaction with telemedicine consultations in an outpatient neurosurgery clinic setting at a tertiary care, large-volume, academic center. The authors designed an 11-question survey for neurosurgical providers and a 13-question survey for patients using both closed 5-point Likert scale responses and multiple choice responses. The questionnaires were administered to patients and providers during the period when the clinic restricted in-person visits. At the conclusion of the study, the overall data were analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively.

RESULTS

During the study period, 607 surveys were sent out to patients seen by telehealth at the authors’ academic center, and 122 responses were received. For the provider survey, 85 surveys were sent out to providers at the authors’ center and other academic centers, and 40 surveys were received. Ninety-two percent of patients agreed or strongly agreed that they were satisfied with that particular telehealth visit. Eighty-eight percent of patients agreed that their telehealth visit was more convenient for them than an in-person visit, but only 36% of patients stated they would like their future visits to be telehealth. Sixty-three percent of providers agreed that telehealth visits were more convenient for them than in-person visits, and 85% of responding providers stated that they wished to incorporate telehealth into their future practice.

CONCLUSIONS

Although the authors’ transition to telehealth was both rapid and unexpected, most providers and patients reported positive experiences with their telemedicine visits and found telemedicine to be an effective form of ambulatory neurosurgical care. Not all patients preferred telemedicine visits over in-person visits, but the high satisfaction with telemedicine by both providers and patients is promising to the future expansion of telehealth in ambulatory neurosurgery.

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Francesco Doglietto, Marika Vezzoli, Antonio Biroli, Giorgio Saraceno, Luca Zanin, Marta Pertichetti, Stefano Calza, Edoardo Agosti, Jahard Mijail Aliaga Arias, Roberto Assietti, Silvio Bellocchi, Claudio Bernucci, Simona Bistazzoni, Daniele Bongetta, Andrea Fanti, Antonio Fioravanti, Alessandro Fiorindi, Alberto Franzin, Davide Locatelli, Raffaelino Pugliese, Elena Roca, Giovanni Marco Sicuri, Roberto Stefini, Martina Venturini, Oscar Vivaldi, Costanza Zattra, Cesare Zoia, and Marco Maria Fontanella

OBJECTIVE

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many countries into lockdown and has led to the postponement of nonurgent neurosurgical procedures. Although stress has been investigated during this pandemic, there are no reports on anxiety in neurosurgical patients undergoing nonurgent surgical procedures.

METHODS

Neurosurgical patients admitted to hospitals in eastern Lombardy for nonurgent surgery after the lockdown prospectively completed a pre- and postoperative structured questionnaire. Recorded data included demographics, pathology, time on surgical waiting list, anxiety related to COVID-19, primary pathology and surgery, safety perception during hospital admission before and after surgery, and surgical outcomes. Anxiety was measured with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Descriptive statistics were computed on the different variables and data were stratified according to pathology (oncological vs nononcological). Three different models were used to investigate which variables had the greatest impact on anxiety, oncological patients, and safety perception, respectively. Because the variables (Xs) were of a different nature (qualitative and quantitative), mostly asymmetrical, and related to outcome (Y) by nonlinear relationships, a machine learning approach composed of three steps (1, random forest growing; 2, relative variable importance measure; and 3, partial dependence plots) was chosen.

RESULTS

One hundred twenty-three patients from 10 different hospitals were included in the study. None of the patients developed COVID-19 after surgery. State and trait anxiety were reported by 30.3% and 18.9% of patients, respectively. Higher values of state anxiety were documented in oncological compared to nononcological patients (46.7% vs 25%; p = 0.055). Anxiety was strongly associated with worry about primary pathology, surgery, disease worsening, and with stress during waiting time, as expected. Worry about positivity to SARS-CoV-2, however, was the strongest factor associated with anxiety, even though none of the patients were infected. Neuro-oncological disease was associated with state anxiety and with worry about surgery and COVID-19. Increased bed distance and availability of hand sanitizer were associated with a feeling of safety.

CONCLUSIONS

These data underline the importance of psychological support, especially for neuro-oncological patients, during a pandemic.

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Jennifer L. Quon, Michelle Han, Lily H. Kim, Mary Ellen Koran, Leo C. Chen, Edward H. Lee, Jason Wright, Vijay Ramaswamy, Robert M. Lober, Michael D. Taylor, Gerald A. Grant, Samuel H. Cheshier, John R. W. Kestle, Michael S. B. Edwards, and Kristen W. Yeom

OBJECTIVE

Imaging evaluation of the cerebral ventricles is important for clinical decision-making in pediatric hydrocephalus. Although quantitative measurements of ventricular size, over time, can facilitate objective comparison, automated tools for calculating ventricular volume are not structured for clinical use. The authors aimed to develop a fully automated deep learning (DL) model for pediatric cerebral ventricle segmentation and volume calculation for widespread clinical implementation across multiple hospitals.

METHODS

The study cohort consisted of 200 children with obstructive hydrocephalus from four pediatric hospitals, along with 199 controls. Manual ventricle segmentation and volume calculation values served as “ground truth” data. An encoder-decoder convolutional neural network architecture, in which T2-weighted MR images were used as input, automatically delineated the ventricles and output volumetric measurements. On a held-out test set, segmentation accuracy was assessed using the Dice similarity coefficient (0 to 1) and volume calculation was assessed using linear regression. Model generalizability was evaluated on an external MRI data set from a fifth hospital. The DL model performance was compared against FreeSurfer research segmentation software.

RESULTS

Model segmentation performed with an overall Dice score of 0.901 (0.946 in hydrocephalus, 0.856 in controls). The model generalized to external MR images from a fifth pediatric hospital with a Dice score of 0.926. The model was more accurate than FreeSurfer, with faster operating times (1.48 seconds per scan).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors present a DL model for automatic ventricle segmentation and volume calculation that is more accurate and rapid than currently available methods. With near-immediate volumetric output and reliable performance across institutional scanner types, this model can be adapted to the real-time clinical evaluation of hydrocephalus and improve clinician workflow.

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Sushanta K. Sahoo, Sivashanmugam Dhandapani, Apinderpreet Singh, Chandrashekhar Gendle, Madhivanan Karthigeyan, Pravin Salunke, Ashish Aggarwal, Navneet Singla, Raghav Singla, Manjul Tripathi, Rajesh Chhabra, Sandeep Mohindra, Manoj Kumar Tewari, Manju Mohanty, Hemant Bhagat, Arunaloke Chakrabarti, and Sunil Kumar Gupta

OBJECTIVE

COVID-19 has affected surgical practice globally. Treating neurosurgical patients with the restrictions imposed by the pandemic is challenging in institutions with shared patient areas. The present study was performed to assess the changing patterns of neurosurgical cases, the efficacy of repeated testing before surgery, and the prevalence of COVID-19 in asymptomatic neurosurgical inpatients.

METHODS

Cases of non–trauma-related neurosurgical patients treated at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) before and during the COVID-19 pandemic were reviewed. During the pandemic, all patients underwent a nasopharyngeal swab reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction test to detect COVID-19 at admission. Patients who needed immediate intervention were surgically treated following a single COVID-19 test, while stable patients who initially tested negative for COVID-19 were subjected to repeated testing at least 5 days after the first test and within 48 hours prior to the planned surgery. The COVID-19 positivity rate was compared with the local period prevalence. The number of patients who tested positive at the second test, following a negative first test, was used to determine the probable number of people who could have become infected during the surgical procedure without second testing.

RESULTS

Of the total 1769 non–trauma-related neurosurgical patients included in this study, a mean of 337.2 patients underwent surgery per month before COVID-19, while a mean of 184.2 patients (54.6% of pre–COVID-19 capacity) underwent surgery per month during the pandemic period, when COVID-19 cases were on the rise in India. There was a significant increase in the proportion of patients undergoing surgery for a ruptured aneurysm, stroke, hydrocephalus, and cerebellar tumors, while the number of patients seeking surgery for chronic benign diseases declined. At the first COVID-19 test, 4 patients (0.48%) tested were found to have the disease, a proportion 3.7 times greater than that found in the local community. An additional 5 patients tested positive at the time of the second COVID-19 test, resulting in an overall inpatient period prevalence of 1%, in contrast to a 0.2% national cumulative caseload. It is possible that COVID-19 was prevented in approximately 67.4 people every month by using double testing.

CONCLUSIONS

COVID-19 has changed the pattern of neurosurgical procedures, with acute cases dominating the practice. Despite the fact that the pandemic has not yet reached its peak in India, COVID-19 has been detected 3.7 times more often in asymptomatic neurosurgical inpatients than in the local community, even with single testing. Double testing displays an incremental value by disclosing COVID-19 overall in 1 in 100 inpatients and thus averting its spread through neurosurgical services.

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Zhengyu Lin, Chencheng Zhang, Yingying Zhang, Lulin Dai, Valerie Voon, Dianyou Li, and Bomin Sun

OBJECTIVE

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has considerably affected the delivery of postoperative care to patients who have undergone deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery. DBS teleprogramming technology was developed and deployed in China before the COVID-19 outbreak. In this report, the authors share their experiences with telemedical DBS treatment of patients with psychiatric disorders during the COVID-19 outbreak.

METHODS

Four patients (2 with obsessive-compulsive disorder, 1 with major depressive disorder, and 1 with anorexia nervosa) underwent DBS surgery at Ruijin Hospital and received continuous postoperative DBS telemedicine case management from January 2020 to July 2020. DBS teleprogramming, individualized psychological support, and medical consultations were provided via the authors’ DBS telemedicine platform, which also incorporated a synchronous real-time video communication system.

RESULTS

Forty-five DBS telemedicine sessions were conducted; there was no unexpected loss of network connection during the sessions. Of these, 28 sessions involved DBS teleprogramming. Adjustments were made to the stimulation voltage, frequency, pulse width, and contact site in 21, 12, 9, and 9 sessions, respectively. Psychological support and troubleshooting were provided during the remaining telemedicine sessions. Modest to substantial clinical improvements after DBS surgery were observed in some but not all patients, whereas stimulation-related side effects were reported by 2 patients and included reversible sleep and mood problems, headache, and a sensation of heat.

CONCLUSIONS

DBS telemedicine seems to offer a feasible, safe, and efficient strategy for maintaining the delivery of medical care to psychiatric patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. The authors propose that implementation of a comprehensive DBS telemedicine system, which combines DBS teleprogramming with psychological counseling, medical consultations, and medication prescriptions and delivery, could be an efficient and effective approach to manage the mental health and quality of life of patients with psychiatric disorders during future local or global public health crises.

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Pierre-Olivier Champagne, Michael M. McDowell, Eric W. Wang, Carl H. Snyderman, Georgios A. Zenonos, and Paul A. Gardner

OBJECTIVE

During the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, endoscopic endonasal surgery (EES) is feared to be a high-risk procedure for the transmission of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Nonetheless, data are lacking regarding the management of EES during the pandemic. The object of this study was to understand current worldwide practices pertaining to EES for skull base/pituitary tumors during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and provide a basis for the formulation of guidelines.

METHODS

The authors conducted a web-based survey of skull base surgeons worldwide. Different practices by geographic region and COVID-19 prevalence were analyzed.

RESULTS

One hundred thirty-five unique responses were collected. Regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), North America reported using more powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), and Asia and Europe reported using more standard precautions. North America and Europe resorted more to reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) for screening asymptomatic patients. High-prevalence countries showed a higher use of PAPRs. The medium-prevalence group reported lower RT-PCR testing for symptomatic cases, and the high-prevalence group used it significantly more in asymptomatic cases.

Nineteen respondents reported transmission of COVID-19 to healthcare personnel during EES, with a higher rate of transmission among countries classified as having a medium prevalence of COVID-19. These specific respondents (medium prevalence) also reported a lower use of airborne PPE. In the cases of healthcare transmission, the patient was reportedly asymptomatic 32% of the time.

CONCLUSIONS

This survey gives an overview of EES practices during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Intensified preoperative screening, even in asymptomatic patients, RT-PCR for all symptomatic cases, and an increased use of airborne PPE is associated with decreased reports of COVID-19 transmission during EES.

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Franco Servadei, Miguel A. Arráez, Jincao Chen, John G. Golfinos, and Mahmood M. Qureshi

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Claudio Bernucci, Andrea Fanti, Pierlorenzo Veiceschi, Emanuele Costi, Angelo Mirco Sicignano, and Carlo Brembilla

In this tumultuous time, the entire world has been shaken up by the COVID-19 outbreak. Italy has had one of the highest infection-related mortality rates. Bergamo, a city in eastern Lombardy, was among the most affected. Here, the authors describe the main healthcare actions taken at their institution to stem the crisis, with particular concern regarding the fate of their neurosurgery department. Among the different topics, the authors particularly focus on the retraining of neurosurgeons, organization of activities, and what should be the role of neurosurgeons during a pandemic.

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Wihasto Suryaningtyas, Joni Wahyuhadi, Agus Turchan, Eko Agus Subagio, Muhammad Arifin Parenrengi, Tedy Apriawan, Asra Al Fauzi, and Abdul Hafid Bajamal

OBJECTIVE

Global outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has forced healthcare systems worldwide to reshape their facilities and protocols. Although not considered the frontline specialty in managing COVID-19 patients, neurosurgical service and training were also significantly affected. This article focuses on the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak at a low- and/or middle-income country (LMIC) academic tertiary referral hospital, the university and hospital policies and actions for the neurosurgical service and training program during the outbreak, and the contingency plan for future reference on preparedness for service and education.

METHODS

The authors collected data from several official databases, including the Indonesian Ministry of Health database, East Java provincial government database, hospital database, and neurosurgery operative case log. Policies and regulations information was obtained from stakeholders, including the Indonesian Society of Neurological Surgeons, the hospital board of directors, and the dean’s office.

RESULTS

The curve of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Indonesia had not flattened by the 2nd week of June 2020. Surabaya, the second-largest city in Indonesia, became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Indonesia. The neurosurgical service experienced a significant drop in cases (50% of cases from normal days) along all lines (outpatient clinic, emergency room, and surgical ward). Despite a strict preadmission screening, postoperative COVID-19 infection cases were detected during the treatment course of neurosurgical patients, and those with a positive COVID-19 infection had a high mortality rate. The reduction in the overall number of cases treated in the neurosurgical service had an impact on the educational and training program. The digital environment found popularity in the educational term; however, digital resources could not replace direct exposure to real patients. The education stakeholders adjusted the undergraduate students’ clinical postings and residents’ working schemes for safety reasons.

CONCLUSIONS

The neurosurgery service at an academic tertiary referral hospital in an LMIC experienced a significant reduction in cases. The university and program directors had to adapt to an off-campus and off-hospital policy for neurosurgical residents and undergraduate students. The hospital instituted a reorganization of residents for service. The digital environment found popularity during the outbreak to support the educational process.