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Devin K. Binder, Justin S. Smith and Nicholas M. Barbaro

Object

The authors report on the treatment of primary brachial plexus tumors in 25 patients at the University of California, San Francisco. They compare their findings with those obtained in similar series.

Methods

The authors reviewed the electronic and medical records, radiological images, operative reports, and pathological findings in 25 consecutive cases of primary brachial plexus tumors. Cases of metastatic lesions or adjacent neoplasms extending into and involving the brachial plexus were excluded.

At presentation patients ranged in age from 19 to 71 years (mean 47 ±15 years), and neurofibromatosis was present in eight patients (32%). Presenting signs and symptoms included palpable mass (60%), numbness/paresthesias (44%), radiating pain (44%), local pain (16%), and weakness (12%). Duration of symptoms ranged from 2 months to 10 years. Neuroimaging revealed lesions ranging widely in size (volume ~1 to >100 ml). Pathological diagnoses included schwannoma (15 [60%]), neurofibroma (five [20%]), malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor (four [16%]), and desmoid tumor (one [4%]).

Conclusions

Primary tumors arising in the brachial plexus are rare. Careful workup, surgical technique, and attention to pathological diagnosis optimize management.

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Devin K. Binder, Daniel C. Lu and Nicholas M. Barbaro

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Vincent Y. Wang, Edward F. Chang and Nicholas M. Barbaro

Focal cortical dysplasia (FCD) is found in approximately one-half of patients with medically refractory epilepsy. These lesions may involve only mild disorganization of the cortex, but they may also contain abnormal neuronal elements such as balloon cells. Advances in neuroimaging have allowed better identification of these lesions, and thus more patients have become surgical candidates. Molecular biology techniques have been used to explore the genetics and pathophysiological characteristics of FCD. Data from surgical series have shown that surgery often results in significant reduction or cessation of seizures, especially if the entire lesion is resected.

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Nicolas W. Villelli, Hong Yan, Jian Zou and Nicholas M. Barbaro

OBJECTIVE

Several similarities exist between the Massachusetts health care reform law of 2006 and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The authors’ prior neurosurgical research showed a decrease in uninsured surgeries without a significant change in surgical volume after the Massachusetts reform. An analysis of the payer-mix status and the age of spine surgery patients, before and after the policy, should provide insight into the future impact of the ACA on spine surgery in the US.

METHODS

Using the Massachusetts State Inpatient Database and spine ICD-9-CM procedure codes, the authors obtained demographic information on patients undergoing spine surgery between 2001 and 2012. Payer-mix status was assigned as Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, uninsured, or other, which included government-funded programs and workers’ compensation. A comparison of the payer-mix status and patient age, both before and after the policy, was performed. The New York State data were used as a control.

RESULTS

The authors analyzed 81,821 spine surgeries performed in Massachusetts and 248,757 in New York. After 2008, there was a decrease in uninsured and private insurance spine surgeries, with a subsequent increase in the Medicare and “other” categories for Massachusetts. Medicaid case numbers did not change. This correlated to an increase in surgeries performed in the age group of patients 65–84 years old, with a decrease in surgeries for those 18–44 years old. New York showed an increase in all insurance categories and all adult age groups.

CONCLUSIONS

After the Massachusetts reform, spine surgery decreased in private insurance and uninsured categories, with the majority of these surgeries transitioning to Medicare. Moreover, individuals who were younger than 65 years did not show an increase in spine surgeries, despite having greater access to health insurance. In a health care system that requires insurance, the decrease in private insurance is primarily due to an increasing elderly population. The Massachusetts model continues to show that this type of policy is not causing extreme shifts in the payer mix, and suggests that spine surgery will continue to thrive in the current US health care system.

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Jason S. Cheng, Rene O. Sanchez-Mejia, Mary Limbo, Mariann M. Ward and Nicholas M. Barbaro

Object

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is a painful disorder that frequently causes lancinating, electrical shock–like pain in the trigeminal distribution. Common surgical treatments include microvascular decompression (MVD), radio-surgery, and radiofrequency ablation, and complete pain relief is generally achieved with a single treatment in 70 to 85% of cases for all modalities. In a subset of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS), however, the rates of surgical treatment failure and the need for additional procedures are significantly increased compared with those in patients without MS. In this study the authors report their experience with a cohort of 11 patients with TN who also had MS, and assess the efficacy of MVD, gamma knife surgery (GKS), and radiofrequency ablation in achieving complete or partial long-term pain relief.

Methods

Eleven patients with TN and MS who were treated by the senior author (N.B.) at the University of California, San Francisco were included in this study. All patients underwent GKS and/or radiofrequency ablation, and four received MVD. A detailed clinical history and intraoperative findings were recorded for each patient and frequent follow-up evaluations were performed, with a mean follow-up duration of 40.6 months (range 1–96 months). Pain was assessed for each patient by using the Barrow Neurological Institute scale (Scores I–V).

Conclusions

Achieving complete pain relief in patients with TN and MS required significantly more treatments compared with all other patients with TN who did not have MS (p = 0.004). Even when compared with a group of 32 patients who had highly refractory TN, the cohort with MS required significantly more treatments (p = 0.05). Radiosurgery proved to be an effective procedure and resulted in fewer retreatments and longer pain-free intervals compared with MVD or radiofrequency ablation.

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R. Mark Richardson, Nicholas M. Barbaro, Arturo Alvarez-Buylla and Scott C. Baraban

✓ Mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) is presumed to develop progressively as a consequence of synaptic reorganization and neuronal loss, although the exact etiology of seizure development is unknown. Nearly 30% of patients with MTLE have disabling seizures despite pharmacological treatment, and the majority of these patients are recommended for resection. The authors review cell transplantation as an alternative approach to the treatment of epilepsy. Recent work in animal models shows that grafted neuronal precursors that differentiate into inhibitory interneurons can increase the level of local inhibition. Grafts of these inhibitory neurons could help restore equilibrium in MTLE. Developing a sound transplantation strategy involves careful consideration of the etiology of MTLE and the expected functional role of transplanted cells. These issues are reviewed, with a focus on those factors most likely to influence clinically applicable results.

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Nicolas W. Villelli, Rohit Das, Hong Yan, Wei Huff, Jian Zou and Nicholas M. Barbaro

OBJECTIVE

The Massachusetts health care insurance reform law passed in 2006 has many similarities to the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). To address concerns that the ACA might negatively impact case volume and reimbursement for physicians, the authors analyzed trends in the number of neurosurgical procedures by type and patient insurance status in Massachusetts before and after the implementation of the state's health care insurance reform. The results can provide insight into the future of neurosurgery in the American health care system.

METHODS

The authors analyzed data from the Massachusetts State Inpatient Database on patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures in Massachusetts from 2001 through 2012. These data included patients' insurance status (insured or uninsured) and the numbers of procedures performed classified by neurosurgical procedural codes of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM). Each neurosurgical procedure was grouped into 1 of 4 categories based on ICD-9-CM codes: 1) tumor, 2) other cranial/vascular, 3) shunts, and 4) spine. Comparisons were performed of the numbers of procedures performed and uninsured patients, before and after the implementation of the reform law. Data from the state of New York were used as a control. All data were controlled for population differences.

RESULTS

After 2008, there were declines in the numbers of uninsured patients who underwent neurosurgical procedures in Massachusetts in all 4 categories. The number of procedures performed for tumor and spine were unchanged, whereas other cranial/vascular procedures increased. Shunt procedures decreased after implementation of the reform law but exhibited a similar trend to the control group. In New York, the number of spine surgeries increased, as did the percentage of procedures performed on uninsured patients. Other cranial/vascular procedures decreased.

CONCLUSIONS

After the Massachusetts health care insurance reform, the number of uninsured individuals undergoing neurosurgical procedures significantly decreased for all categories, but more importantly, the total number of surgeries performed did not change dramatically. To the extent that trends in Massachusetts can predict the overall US experience, we can expect that some aspects of reimbursement may be positively impacted by the ACA. Neurosurgeons, who often treat patients with urgent conditions, may be affected differently than other specialists.

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Nathan R. Selden, Valerie C. Anderson, Shirley McCartney, Thomas C. Origitano, Kim J. Burchiel and Nicholas M. Barbaro

Object

In July 2010, the Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS) introduced regional courses to promote patient safety and teach fundamental skills and knowledge to all postgraduate Year 1 (PGY1) trainees entering Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)–accredited US neurosurgery residency programs. Data from these courses demonstrated significant didactic learning and high faculty and resident satisfaction with hands-on training. Here, the authors evaluated the durability of learning from and the relevance of participation in SNS PGY1 courses as measured midway through PGY1 training.

Methods

Resident participants were resurveyed 6 months after boot camp course attendance to assess knowledge retention and course effectiveness. Exposure to relevant hands-on experiences during PGY1 training and the subjective value of pre-residency simulated training in the courses were assessed.

Results

Ninety-four percent of all residents entering US PGY1 neurosurgical training participated in the 2010 SNS boot camp courses. One hundred sixty-four (88%) of these resident participants responded to the survey. Six months after course completion, 99% of respondents believed the boot camp courses benefited beginning neurosurgery residents and imparted skills and knowledge that would improve patient care. The PGY1 residents' knowledge of information taught in the courses was retained 6 months after initial testing (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions

The learning and other benefits of participation in a national curriculum for residents entering PGY1 neurosurgical training were maintained 6 months after the courses, halfway through the initial training year.

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Rene O. Sanchez-Mejia, Mary Limbo, Jason S. Cheng, Joaquin Camara, Mariann M. Ward and Nicholas M. Barbaro

Object

Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) is characterized by paroxysmal lancinating pain in the trigeminal nerve distribution. When TN is refractory to medical management, patients are referred for microvascular decompression (MVD), radiofrequency ablation, or radiosurgery. After the initial treatment, patients may have refractory or recurrent symptoms requiring retreatment. The purpose of this study was to determine what factors are associated with the need for retreatment and which modality is most effective.

Methods

To define this population further, the authors evaluated a cohort of patients who required retreatment for TN. The mean follow-up periods were 51 months from the first treatment and 23 months from the last one, and these were comparable among treatment groups.

Conclusions

Trigeminal neuralgia can recur after neurosurgical treatment. In this study the authors demonstrate that the number of patients requiring retreatment is not negligible. Lower retreatment rates were seen in patients who initially underwent radiosurgery, compared with those in whom MVD or radiofrequency ablation were performed. Radiosurgery was more likely to be the final treatment for recurrent TN regardless of the initial treatment. After retreatment, the majority of patients attained complete or very good pain relief. Pain relief after retreatment correlates with postoperative facial numbness.