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

Virendra R. DesaiDepartment of Neurosurgery, Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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Audrey GrossenDepartment of Neurosurgery, Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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Huy Gia VuongDepartment of Neurosurgery, Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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Nicholas HopkinsDepartment of Neurosurgery, Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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Mikayla PetersDepartment of Neurosurgery, Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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Andrew JeaDepartment of Neurosurgery, Section of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, University of Oklahoma School of Medicine, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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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.

ABBREVIATIONS

AANS = American Association of Neurological Surgeons; CNS = Congress of Neurological Surgeons; JNS Peds = Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics; LOE = level of evidence.
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Illustration from Wang et al. (pp 538–546). © Ju-lei Wang, published with permission.

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