COVID-19

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Academic productivity in pediatric neurosurgery in relation to elective surgery slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic

Virendra R. Desai, Audrey Grossen, Huy Gia Vuong, Nicholas Hopkins, Mikayla Peters, and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

COVID-19 has not only impacted healthcare systems directly via hospitalizations and resource utilization, but also indirectly via adaptations in healthcare practice, such as the evolution of the academic environment and the rise of telemedicine and virtual education. This void in clinical responsibilities has been filled with academic productivity in various fields. In this study the authors investigate the influence of COVID-19 on the academic focus within pediatric neurosurgery.

METHODS

All data were obtained from the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics (JNS Peds). The number of submissions for each month from January 2017 to December 2021 was collected. Data including number of publications, publication level of evidence (LOE), and COVID-19–related articles were collected and verified. Each publication was categorized by manuscript and LOE according to adaptations from the Canadian Task Force on Periodic Health Examination. Publication groups were categorized as pre–COVID-19 (January 2017–February 2020), peri–COVID-19 (March 2020–July 2020), and post–COVID-19 (August 2020–December 2021). Statistical analysis was performed to compare pre–COVID-19, peri–COVID-19, and post–COVID-19 academic volume and quality.

RESULTS

During the study time period, a total of 3116 submissions and 997 publications were identified for JNS Peds. Only 2 articles specifically related to COVID-19 and its impact on pediatric neurosurgery were identified, both published in 2021. When analyzing submission volume, a statistically significant increase was seen during the shutdown relative to pre–COVID-19 and post-shutdown time periods, and a significant decrease was seen post-shutdown relative to pre–COVID-19. LOE changed significantly as well. When comparing pre–COVID-19 versus post–COVID-19 articles, a statistically significant increase was identified only in level 4 publications. When analyzing pre–COVID-19 versus post–COVID-19 (2020) and post–COVID-19 (2021), a statistically significant decrease in level 3 and increases in levels 4 and 5 were identified during post–COVID-19 (2020), with a rebound increase in level 3 and a decrease in level 5 during post–COVID-19 (2021).

CONCLUSIONS

There was a significant increase in manuscript submission during the initial pandemic period. However, there was no change during subsequent spikes in COVID-19–related hospitalizations. Coincident with the initial surge in academic productivity, despite steady publication volume, was an inverse decline in quality as assessed by LOE.

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Outcomes of a virtual craniofacial clinic for assessing plagiocephaly during the COVID-19 pandemic

Neelan J. Marianayagam, Ishani D. Premaratne, Michelle M. Buontempo, Francis N. Villamater, Mark M. Souweidane, and Caitlin E. Hoffman

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to carry out a quantitative analysis of a virtual craniofacial clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS

The charts of 90 patients from a single institution were reviewed. Of these patients, 45 visited the virtual clinic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other 45 patients visited the clinic in the 3 months prior to COVID-19. Demographics including the mean age at the visit, chief complaint, visit diagnosis, appointment duration, helmet usage, accuracy of the diagnosis, need for a CT scan, and the need for a follow-up appointment were assessed. Diagnostic accuracy, the frequency of follow-up appointments, and patient satisfaction (via survey), as well as additional associated factors, were analyzed to determine the efficacy and satisfaction associated with the virtual clinic approach.

RESULTS

The mean patient age at time of the visit was 5.6 and 7.3 months (p = 0.244), and the mean time from referral to appointment was 19.2 and 19 days (p = 0.934), in the in-person and virtual cohorts, respectively. There was no significant difference in the variety of chief complaints between the in-person and virtual visits, with 97.8% and 93.3% of patients’ parents reporting abnormal head shape, respectively, and the remainder reporting more infrequent complaints (p = 0.435). The visit diagnosis was plagiocephaly in 93.3% of the in-person cohort and 80.0% of the virtual cohort (p = 0.118). The final diagnosis exhibited a similar pattern, with 95.6% of the in-person cohort and 88.9% of the virtual cohort observed as positional plagiocephaly; the remaining diagnoses were more infrequent (p = 0.434). The most common alternative diagnosis in the virtual visit cohort was a metopic ridge (8.4%). In the in-person visit cohort, the most common alternative diagnosis was equally a benign enlargement of the subarachnoid space in infancy, scalp mass, and skull lesion (2.2% each). None of the patients in either cohort were diagnosed with synostosis. Eighty percent of the in-person visits were 15 to 30 minutes in duration, with the remaining 20% being 31 minutes or longer; virtual visits were all 30 minutes or less, with 95.6% being 15 to 30 minutes (p = 0.002). Helmets were prescribed for 2 patients in the in-person cohort and no patients in the virtual cohort (p = 0.494). Alterations in diagnosis were made in 2.2% of in-person visits and 6.7% of virtual visits (p = 0.616). Follow-up was required in 15.6% of the in-person visits and 31.1% of the virtual visits (p = 0.134). CT was only utilized twice, once in the in-person visit cohort and once in the virtual visit cohort.

CONCLUSIONS

Virtual clinic encounters resulted in comparable diagnostic accuracy. The trend toward frequent follow-up assessments and changes in the final diagnosis in the virtual clinic cohort has indicated a level of diagnostic uncertainty via the virtual interface, which required in-person assessment for confirmation. This finding did not contribute toward diagnostic inaccuracy with respect to missed synostosis. The study results have indicated that telemedicine can be an effective modality in assessing craniofacial pathology.

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Editorial. Pediatric neurosurgery along with Children's Hospitals' innovations are rapid and uniform in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Howard L. Weiner, P. David Adelson, Douglas L. Brockmeyer, Cormac O. Maher, Nalin Gupta, Matthew D. Smyth, Andrew Jea, Jeffrey P. Blount, Jay Riva-Cambrin, Sandi K. Lam, Edward S. Ahn, Gregory W. Albert, and Jeffrey R. Leonard

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Editorial. Early lessons in the management of COVID-19 for the pediatric neurosurgical community from the leadership of the American Society of Pediatric Neurosurgeons

John C. Wellons III, Gerald Grant, Mark D. Krieger, John Ragheb, Shenandoah Robinson, Bradley Weprin, and Jeffrey Ojemann