The Internet is used frequently by patients and family members to acquire information about pediatric neurosurgical conditions. The sources, nature, accuracy, and usefulness of this information have not been examined recently. The authors analyzed the results from searches of 10 common pediatric neurosurgical terms using a novel scoring test to assess the value of the educational information obtained.
Google and Bing searches were performed for 10 common pediatric neurosurgical topics (concussion, craniosynostosis, hydrocephalus, pediatric brain tumor, pediatric Chiari malformation, pediatric epilepsy surgery, pediatric neurosurgery, plagiocephaly, spina bifida, and tethered spinal cord). The first 10 “hits” obtained with each search engine were analyzed using the Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose (CRAAP) test, which assigns a numerical score in each of 5 domains. Agreement between results was assessed for 1) concurrent searches with Google and Bing; 2) Google searches over time (6 months apart); 3) Google searches using mobile and PC platforms concurrently; and 4) searches using privacy settings. Readability was assessed with an online analytical tool.
Google and Bing searches yielded information with similar CRAAP scores (mean 72% and 75%, respectively), but with frequently differing results (58% concordance/matching results). There was a high level of agreement (72% concordance) over time for Google searches and also between searches using general and privacy settings (92% concordance). Government sources scored the best in both CRAAP score and readability. Hospitals and universities were the most prevalent sources, but these sources had the lowest CRAAP scores, due in part to an abundance of self-marketing. The CRAAP scores for mobile and desktop platforms did not differ significantly (p = 0.49).
Google and Bing searches yielded useful educational information, using either mobile or PC platforms. Most information was relevant and accurate; however, the depth and breadth of information was variable. Search results over a 6-month period were moderately stable. Pediatric neurosurgery practices and neurosurgical professional organization websites were inferior (less current, less accurate, less authoritative, and less purposeful) to governmental and encyclopedia-type resources such as Wikipedia. This presents an opportunity for pediatric neurosurgeons to participate in the creation of better online patient/parent educational material.