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Editorial. Research in global neurosurgery: informing the path to achieving neurosurgical equity

Kee B. Park

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Barriers to neurotrauma care in low- to middle-income countries: an international survey of neurotrauma providers

Saniya Mediratta, Jacob R. Lepard, Ernest J. Barthélemy, Jacquelyn Corley, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

Delays along the neurosurgical care continuum are associated with poor outcomes and are significantly greater in low- to middle-income countries (LMICs), with timely access to neurotrauma care remaining one of the most significant unmet neurosurgical needs worldwide. Using Lancet Global Surgery metrics and the Three Delays framework, the authors of this study aimed to identify and characterize the most significant barriers to the delivery of neurotrauma care in LMICs from the perspective of local neurotrauma providers.

METHODS

The authors conducted a cross-sectional study through the dissemination of a web-based survey to neurotrauma providers across all World Health Organization geographic regions. Responses were analyzed with descriptive statistics and Kruskal-Wallis testing, using World Bank data to provide estimates of populations at risk.

RESULTS

Eighty-two (36.9%) of 222 neurosurgeons representing 47 countries participated in the survey. It was estimated that 3.9 billion people lack access to neurotrauma care within 2 hours. Nearly 3.4 billion were estimated to be at risk for impoverishing expenditure and 2.9 billion were at risk of catastrophic expenditure as a result of paying for care for neurotrauma injuries. Delays in seeking care were rated as slightly common (p < 0.001), those in reaching care were very common (p < 0.001), and those in receiving care were slightly common (p < 0.05). The most significant causes for delays were associated with reaching care, including geographic distance from a facility, lack of ambulance service, and lack of finances for travel. All three delays were correlated to income classification and geographic region.

CONCLUSIONS

While expanding the global neurosurgical workforce is of the utmost importance, the study data suggested that it may not be entirely sufficient in gaining access to care for the emergent neurosurgical patient. Significant income and region-specific variability exists with regard to barriers to accessing neurotrauma care. Highlighting these barriers and quantifying worldwide access to neurotrauma care using metrics from the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery provides essential insight for future initiatives aiming to strengthen global neurotrauma systems.

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Third delay in traumatic brain injury: time to management as a predictor of mortality

Saksham Gupta, Monty Khajanchi, Vineet Kumar, Nakul P. Raykar, Blake C. Alkire, Nobhojit Roy, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a global epidemic with an increasing incidence in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The time from arrival at the hospital to receiving appropriate treatment (“third delay”) can vary widely in LMICs, although its association with mortality in TBI remains unknown.

METHODS

A retrospective cohort analysis with multivariable logistic regression was conducted using the Toward Improved Trauma Care Outcomes in India database, which contains data from 4 urban trauma centers in India from 2013–2015.

RESULTS

There were 6278 TBIs included in the cohort. The patients’ median age was 39 years (interquartile range 27–52 years) and 80% of patients were male. The most frequent mechanisms of injury were road traffic accidents (52%) and falls (34%). A majority of cases were transfers from other facilities (79%). In-hospital 30-day mortality was 27%; of patients who died, 21% died within 24 hours of arrival. The median third delay was 10 minutes (interquartile range 0–60 minutes); 34% of cases had moderate third delay (10–60 minutes) and 22% had extended third delay (≥ 61 minutes). Overall 30-day mortality was associated with moderate third delay (OR 1.3, p = 0.001) and extended third delay (OR 1.3, p = 0.001) after adjustment by pertinent covariates. This effect was pronounced for 24-hour mortality: moderate and extended third delays were independently associated with ORs of 3.4 and 3.8, respectively, for 24-hour mortality (both p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Third delay is associated with early mortality in patients with TBI, and represents a target for process improvement in urban trauma centers.

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The economic consequences of neurosurgical disease in low- and middle-income countries

Niclas Rudolfson, Michael C. Dewan, Kee B. Park, Mark G. Shrime, John G. Meara, and Blake C. Alkire

OBJECTIVE

The objective of this study was to estimate the economic consequences of neurosurgical disease in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

METHODS

The authors estimated gross domestic product (GDP) losses and the broader welfare losses attributable to 5 neurosurgical disease categories in LMICs using two distinct economic models. The value of lost output (VLO) model projects annual GDP losses due to neurosurgical disease during 2015–2030, and is based on the WHO’s “Projecting the Economic Cost of Ill-health” tool. The value of lost economic welfare (VLW) model estimates total welfare losses, which is based on the value of a statistical life and includes nonmarket losses such as the inherent value placed on good health, resulting from neurosurgical disease in 2015 alone.

RESULTS

The VLO model estimates the selected neurosurgical diseases will result in $4.4 trillion (2013 US dollars, purchasing power parity) in GDP losses during 2015–2030 in the 90 included LMICs. Economic losses are projected to disproportionately affect low- and lower-middle-income countries, risking up to a 0.6% and 0.54% loss of GDP, respectively, in 2030. The VLW model evaluated 127 LMICs, and estimates that these countries experienced $3 trillion (2013 US dollars, purchasing power parity) in economic welfare losses in 2015. Regardless of the model used, the majority of the losses can be attributed to stroke and traumatic brain injury.

CONCLUSIONS

The economic impact of neurosurgical diseases in LMICs is significant. The magnitude of economic losses due to neurosurgical diseases in LMICs provides further motivation beyond already compelling humanitarian reasons for action.

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Global neurosurgery: continued momentum at the 72nd World Health Assembly

Gail Rosseau, Walter D. Johnson, Kee B. Park, Peter J. Hutchinson, Laura Lippa, Russell Andrews, Franco Servadei, and Roxanna M. Garcia

Global neurosurgery is the practice of neurosurgery with the primary purpose of delivering timely, safe, and affordable neurosurgical care to all who need it. This field is led by neurosurgeons, and global neurosurgery sessions are now part of every major international neurosurgical meeting. The World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies (WFNS) is working to coordinate activities and align all related activities for greater impact. This report updates the contributions made by the WFNS-WHO Liaison Committee at the most recent World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2019. The WHA is a decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO), attended by its 194 Member States. The WFNS has maintained official relations as a nongovernmental organization with the WHO for over 30 years, and this year 15 neurosurgical delegates attended events during the WHA. Participation by neurosurgeons continues to grow as many WHA events focused on global surgery have intrinsically involved neurosurgical leadership and participation. This year, resolution WHA72.31, entitled “Emergency and trauma care, Emergency care systems for universal health coverage: ensuring timely care for the acutely ill and injured,” was passed. This resolution provides further opportunities for neurosurgical advocacy as the landscape of global surgery gains recognition and momentum.

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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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An estimation of global volume of surgically treatable epilepsy based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of epilepsy

Kerry A. Vaughan, Christian Lopez Ramos, Vivek P. Buch, Rania A. Mekary, Julia R. Amundson, Meghal Shah, Abbas Rattani, Michael C. Dewan, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders, yet its global surgical burden has yet to be characterized. The authors sought to compile the most current epidemiological data to quantify global prevalence and incidence, and estimate global surgically treatable epilepsy. Understanding regional and global epilepsy trends and potential surgical volume is crucial for future policy efforts and resource allocation.

METHODS

The authors performed a systematic literature review and meta-analysis to determine the global incidence, lifetime prevalence, and active prevalence of epilepsy; to estimate surgically treatable epilepsy volume; and to evaluate regional trends by WHO regions and World Bank income levels. Data were extracted from all population-based studies with prespecified methodological quality across all countries and demographics, performed between 1990 and 2016 and indexed on PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane. The current and annual new case volumes for surgically treatable epilepsy were derived from global epilepsy prevalence and incidence.

RESULTS

This systematic review yielded 167 articles, across all WHO regions and income levels. Meta-analysis showed a raw global prevalence of lifetime epilepsy of 1099 per 100,000 people, whereas active epilepsy prevalence is slightly lower at 690 per 100,000 people. Global incidence was found to be 62 cases per 100,000 person-years. The meta-analysis predicted 4.6 million new cases of epilepsy annually worldwide, a prevalence of 51.7 million active epilepsy cases, and 82.3 million people with any lifetime epilepsy diagnosis. Differences across WHO regions and country incomes were significant. The authors estimate that currently 10.1 million patients with epilepsy may be surgical treatment candidates, and 1.4 million new surgically treatable epilepsy cases arise annually. The highest prevalences are found in Africa and Latin America, although the highest incidences are reported in the Middle East and Latin America. These regions are primarily low- and middle-income countries; as expected, the highest disease burden falls disproportionately on regions with the fewest healthcare resources.

CONCLUSIONS

Understanding of the global epilepsy burden has evolved as more regions have been studied. This up-to-date worldwide analysis provides the first estimate of surgical epilepsy volume and an updated comprehensive overview of current epidemiological trends. The disproportionate burden of epilepsy on low- and middle-income countries will require targeted diagnostic and treatment efforts to reduce the global disparities in care and cost. Quantifying global epilepsy provides the first step toward restructuring the allocation of healthcare resources as part of global healthcare system strengthening.

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The global neurosurgical workforce: a mixed-methods assessment of density and growth

Swagoto Mukhopadhyay, Maria Punchak, Abbas Rattani, Ya-Ching Hung, James Dahm, Serena Faruque, Michael C. Dewan, Sophie Peeters, Sonal Sachdev, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

In 2000, the global density of neurosurgeons was estimated at 1 per 230,000 population, which remains the most recent estimate of the global neurosurgeon workforce density. In 2004, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that there were 33,193 neurosurgeons worldwide, including trainees. There have been no updates to this estimate in the past decade. Moreover, only WHO region–level granularity regarding neurosurgeon distribution exists; country-level estimates are limited. The neurosurgery workforce is a crucial component to meeting the growing burden of neurosurgical diseases, which not only represent high absolute incidences and prevalences, but also represent correspondingly high disability-adjusted life years affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Combining the lack of knowledge about the availability of the neurosurgical workforce and the increasing demand for neurosurgical services underscores the need for a system of neurosurgical workforce density surveillance.

METHODS

This study involved 3 key steps: 1) global survey/literature review to obtain the number of working neurosurgeons per WHO-recognized country, 2) regression to interpolate any missing data, and 3) calculation of workforce densities and comparison to available historical data by WHO region.

RESULTS

Data for 198 countries were collected (158) or interpolated (40). The global total number of neurosurgeons was estimated at 49,940. Overall, neurosurgeon density ranged from 0 to 58.95 (standardized to per 1,000,000 population) with a median of 3.56 (IQR 0.29–8.26). Thirty-three countries were found to have no neurosurgeons (zero). The highest density, 58.95, was in Japan, where 7495 neurosurgeons are taking care of a population of 127,131,800.

CONCLUSIONS

In 2015, the Lancet Commission on Global Surgery estimated that 143 million additional surgical procedures are needed in low- and middle-income countries each year, and a subsequent study revealed that approximately 15% of those surgical procedures are neurosurgical. Based on our results, we can conclude that there are approximately 49,940 neurosurgeons currently, worldwide. The availability of neurosurgeons appears to have increased in all geographic regions over the past decade, with Southeast Asia experiencing the greatest growth. Such remarkable expansion should be assessed to determine factors that could play a role in other regions where the acceleration of growth would be beneficial.

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Epidemiology of central nervous system infectious diseases: a meta-analysis and systematic review with implications for neurosurgeons worldwide

Faith C. Robertson, Jacob R. Lepard, Rania A. Mekary, Matthew C. Davis, Ismaeel Yunusa, William B. Gormley, Ronnie E. Baticulon, Muhammad Raji Mahmud, Basant K. Misra, Abbas Rattani, Michael C. Dewan, and Kee B. Park

OBJECTIVE

Central nervous system (CNS) infections cause significant morbidity and mortality and often require neurosurgical intervention for proper diagnosis and treatment. However, neither the international burden of CNS infection, nor the current capacity of the neurosurgical workforce to treat these diseases is well characterized. The objective of this study was to elucidate the global incidence of surgically relevant CNS infection, highlighting geographic areas for targeted improvement in neurosurgical capacity.

METHODS

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis were performed to capture studies published between 1990 and 2016. PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were searched using variations of terms relating to CNS infection and epidemiology (incidence, prevalence, burden, case fatality, etc.). To deliver a geographic breakdown of disease, results were pooled using the random-effects model and stratified by WHO region and national income status for the different CNS infection types.

RESULTS

The search yielded 10,906 studies, 154 of which were used in the final qualitative analysis. A meta-analysis was performed to compute disease incidence by using data extracted from 71 of the 154 studies. The remaining 83 studies were excluded from the quantitative analysis because they did not report incidence. A total of 508,078 cases of CNS infections across all studies were included, with a total sample size of 130,681,681 individuals. Mean patient age was 35.8 years (range: newborn to 95 years), and the male/female ratio was 1:1.74. Among the 71 studies with incidence data, 39 were based in high-income countries, 25 in middle-income countries, and 7 in low-income countries. The pooled incidence of studied CNS infections was consistently highest in low-income countries, followed by middle- and then high-income countries. Regarding WHO regions, Africa had the highest pooled incidence of bacterial meningitis (65 cases/100,000 people), neurocysticercosis (650/100,000), and tuberculous spondylodiscitis (55/100,000), whereas Southeast Asia had the highest pooled incidence of intracranial abscess (49/100,000), and Europe had the highest pooled incidence of nontuberculous vertebral spondylodiscitis (5/100,000). Overall, few articles reported data on deaths associated with infection. The limited case fatality data revealed the highest case fatality for tuberculous meningitis/spondylodiscitis (21.1%) and the lowest for neurocysticercosis (5.5%). In all five disease categories, funnel plots assessing for publication bias were asymmetrical and suggested that the results may underestimate the incidence of disease.

CONCLUSIONS

This systematic review and meta-analysis approximates the global incidence of neurosurgically relevant infectious diseases. These results underscore the disproportionate burden of CNS infections in the developing world, where there is a tremendous demand to provide training and resources for high-quality neurosurgical care.