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Global neurosurgery: the current capacity and deficit in the provision of essential neurosurgical care. Executive Summary of the Global Neurosurgery Initiative at the Program in Global Surgery and Social Change

Michael C. Dewan, Abbas Rattani, Graham Fieggen, Miguel A. Arraez, Franco Servadei, Frederick A. Boop, Walter D. Johnson, Benjamin C. Warf, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

Worldwide disparities in the provision of surgical care result in otherwise preventable disability and death. There is a growing need to quantify the global burden of neurosurgical disease specifically, and the workforce necessary to meet this demand.

METHODS

Results from a multinational collaborative effort to describe the global neurosurgical burden were aggregated and summarized. First, country registries, third-party modeled data, and meta-analyzed published data were combined to generate incidence and volume figures for 10 common neurosurgical conditions. Next, a global mapping survey was performed to identify the number and location of neurosurgeons in each country. Finally, a practitioner survey was conducted to quantify the proportion of disease requiring surgery, as well as the median number of neurosurgical cases per annum. The neurosurgical case deficit was calculated as the difference between the volume of essential neurosurgical cases and the existing neurosurgical workforce capacity.

RESULTS

Every year, an estimated 22.6 million patients suffer from neurological disorders or injuries that warrant the expertise of a neurosurgeon, of whom 13.8 million require surgery. Traumatic brain injury, stroke-related conditions, tumors, hydrocephalus, and epilepsy constitute the majority of essential neurosurgical care worldwide. Approximately 23,300 additional neurosurgeons are needed to address more than 5 million essential neurosurgical cases—all in low- and middle-income countries—that go unmet each year. There exists a gross disparity in the allocation of the surgical workforce, leaving large geographic treatment gaps, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia.

CONCLUSIONS

Each year, more than 5 million individuals suffering from treatable neurosurgical conditions will never undergo therapeutic surgical intervention. Populations in Africa and Southeast Asia, where the proportion of neurosurgeons to neurosurgical disease is critically low, are especially at risk. Increasing access to essential neurosurgical care in low- and middle-income countries via neurosurgical workforce expansion as part of surgical system strengthening is necessary to prevent severe disability and death for millions with neurological disease.

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Global hydrocephalus epidemiology and incidence: systematic review and meta-analysis

Michael C. Dewan, Abbas Rattani, Rania Mekary, Laurence J. Glancz, Ismaeel Yunusa, Ronnie E. Baticulon, Graham Fieggen, John C. Wellons III, Kee B. Park, and Benjamin C. Warf

OBJECTIVE

Hydrocephalus is one of the most common brain disorders, yet a reliable assessment of the global burden of disease is lacking. The authors sought a reliable estimate of the prevalence and annual incidence of hydrocephalus worldwide.

METHODS

The authors performed a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to estimate the incidence of congenital hydrocephalus by WHO region and World Bank income level using the MEDLINE/PubMed and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews databases. A global estimate of pediatric hydrocephalus was obtained by adding acquired forms of childhood hydrocephalus to the baseline congenital figures using neural tube defect (NTD) registry data and known proportions of posthemorrhagic and postinfectious cases. Adult forms of hydrocephalus were also examined qualitatively.

RESULTS

Seventy-eight articles were included from the systematic review, representative of all WHO regions and each income level. The pooled incidence of congenital hydrocephalus was highest in Africa and Latin America (145 and 316 per 100,000 births, respectively) and lowest in the United States/Canada (68 per 100,000 births) (p for interaction < 0.1). The incidence was higher in low- and middle-income countries (123 per 100,000 births; 95% CI 98–152 births) than in high-income countries (79 per 100,000 births; 95% CI 68–90 births) (p for interaction < 0.01). While likely representing an underestimate, this model predicts that each year, nearly 400,000 new cases of pediatric hydrocephalus will develop worldwide. The greatest burden of disease falls on the African, Latin American, and Southeast Asian regions, accounting for three-quarters of the total volume of new cases. The high crude birth rate, greater proportion of patients with postinfectious etiology, and higher incidence of NTDs all contribute to a case volume in low- and middle-income countries that outweighs that in high-income countries by more than 20-fold. Global estimates of adult and other forms of acquired hydrocephalus are lacking.

CONCLUSIONS

For the first time in a global model, the annual incidence of pediatric hydrocephalus is estimated. Low- and middle-income countries incur the greatest burden of disease, particularly those within the African and Latin American regions. Reliable incidence and burden figures for adult forms of hydrocephalus are absent in the literature and warrant specific investigation. A global effort to address hydrocephalus in regions with the greatest demand is imperative to reduce disease incidence, morbidity, mortality, and disparities of access to treatment.

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Operative and consultative proportions of neurosurgical disease worldwide: estimation from the surgeon perspective

Michael C. Dewan, Abbas Rattani, Ronnie E. Baticulon, Serena Faruque, Walter D. Johnson, Robert J. Dempsey, Michael M. Haglund, Blake C. Alkire, Kee B. Park, Benjamin C. Warf, and Mark G. Shrime

OBJECTIVE

The global magnitude of neurosurgical disease is unknown. The authors sought to estimate the surgical and consultative proportion of diseases commonly encountered by neurosurgeons, as well as surgeon case volume and perceived workload.

METHODS

An electronic survey was sent to 193 neurosurgeons previously identified via a global surgeon mapping initiative. The survey consisted of three sections aimed at quantifying surgical incidence of neurological disease, consultation incidence, and surgeon demographic data. Surgeons were asked to estimate the proportion of 11 neurological disorders that, in an ideal world, would indicate either neurosurgical operation or neurosurgical consultation. Respondent surgeons indicated their confidence level in each estimate. Demographic and surgical practice characteristics—including case volume and perceived workload—were also captured.

RESULTS

Eighty-five neurosurgeons from 57 countries, representing all WHO regions and World Bank income levels, completed the survey. Neurological conditions estimated to warrant neurosurgical consultation with the highest frequency were brain tumors (96%), spinal tumors (95%), hydrocephalus (94%), and neural tube defects (92%), whereas stroke (54%), central nervous system infection (58%), and epilepsy (40%) carried the lowest frequency. Similarly, surgery was deemed necessary for an average of 88% cases of hydrocephalus, 82% of spinal tumors and neural tube defects, and 78% of brain tumors. Degenerative spine disease (42%), stroke (31%), and epilepsy (24%) were found to warrant surgical intervention less frequently. Confidence levels were consistently high among respondents (lower quartile > 70/100 for 90% of questions), and estimates did not vary significantly across WHO regions or among income levels. Surgeons reported performing a mean of 245 cases annually (median 190). On a 100-point scale indicating a surgeon’s perceived workload (0—not busy, 100—overworked), respondents selected a mean workload of 75 (median 79).

CONCLUSIONS

With a high level of confidence and strong concordance, neurosurgeons estimated that the vast majority of patients with central nervous system tumors, hydrocephalus, or neural tube defects mandate neurosurgical involvement. A significant proportion of other common neurological diseases, such as traumatic brain and spinal injury, vascular anomalies, and degenerative spine disease, demand the attention of a neurosurgeon—whether via operative intervention or expert counsel. These estimates facilitate measurement of the expected annual volume of neurosurgical disease globally.