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Big data, machine learning, and artificial intelligence: a field guide for neurosurgeons

Bharath Raju, Fareed Jumah, Omar Ashraf, Vinayak Narayan, Gaurav Gupta, Hai Sun, Patrick Hilden, and Anil Nanda

Big data has transformed into a trend phrase in healthcare and neurosurgery, becoming a pervasive and inescapable phrase in everyday life. The upsurge in big data applications is a direct consequence of the drastic boom in information technology as well as the growing number of internet-connected devices called the Internet of Things in healthcare. Compared with business, marketing, and other sectors, healthcare applications are lagging due to a lack of technical knowledge among healthcare workers, technological limitations in acquiring and analyzing the data, and improper governance of healthcare big data. Despite these limitations, the medical literature is flooded with big data–related articles, and most of these are filled with abstruse terminologies such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, artificial neural network, and algorithm. Many of the recent articles are restricted to neurosurgical registries, creating a false impression that big data is synonymous with registries. Others advocate that the utilization of big data will be the panacea to all healthcare problems and research in the future. Without a proper understanding of these principles, it becomes easy to get lost without the ability to differentiate hype from reality. To that end, the authors give a brief narrative of big data analysis in neurosurgery and review its applications, limitations, and the challenges it presents for neurosurgeons and healthcare professionals naive to this field. Awareness of these basic concepts will allow neurosurgeons to understand the literature regarding big data, enabling them to make better decisions and deliver personalized care.

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The mediums of dissemination of knowledge and illustration in neurosurgery: unraveling the evolution

Bharath Raju, Fareed Jumah, Vinayak Narayan, Anika Sonig, Hai Sun, and Anil Nanda

The earliest evidence of man’s attempts in communicating ideas and emotions can be seen on cave walls and ceilings from the prehistoric era. Ingenuity, as well as the development of tools, allowed clay tablets to become the preferred method of documentation, then papyrus and eventually the codex. As civilizations advanced to develop structured systems of writing, knowledge became a power available to only those who were literate. As the search to understand the intricacies of the human brain moved forward, so did the demand for teaching the next generation of physicians. The different methods of distributing information were forced to advance, lest the civilization falls behind. Here, the authors present a historical perspective on the evolution of the mediums of illustration and knowledge dissemination through the lens of neurosurgery. They highlight how the medium of choice transitioned from primitive clay pots to cutting-edge virtual reality technology, aiding in the propagation of medical literature from generation to generation across the centuries.

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Repeat Gamma Knife radiosurgery versus microvascular decompression following failure of GKRS in trigeminal neuralgia: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Devi Prasad Patra, Amey Rajan Savardekar, Rimal Hanif Dossani, Vinayak Narayan, Nasser Mohammed, and Anil Nanda


Gamma Knife radiosurgery (GKRS) has emerged as a promising treatment modality for patients with classical trigeminal neuralgia (TN); however, considering that almost half of the patients experience post-GKRS failure or lesion recurrence, a repeat treatment is typically necessary. The existing literature does not offer clear evidence to establish which treatment modality, repeat GKRS or microvascular decompression (MVD), is superior. The present study aimed to compare the overall outcome of patients who have undergone either repeat GKRS or MVD after failure of their primary GKRS; the authors do so by conducting a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature and analysis of data from their own institution.


The authors conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the PubMed, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and CINAHL databases to identify studies describing patients who underwent either repeat GKRS or MVD after initial failed GKRS for TN. The primary outcomes were complete pain relief (CPR) and adequate pain relief (APR) at 1 year. The secondary outcomes were rate of postoperative facial numbness and the retreatment rate. The pooled data were analyzed with R software. Bias and heterogeneity were assessed using funnel plots and I2 tests, respectively. A retrospective analysis of a series of patients treated by the authors who underwent repeat GKRS or MVD after post-GKRS failure or relapse is presented.


A total of 22 studies met the selection criteria and were included for final data retrieval and meta-analysis. The search did not identify any study that had directly compared outcomes between patients who had undergone repeat GKRS versus those who had undergone MVD. Therefore, the authors’ final analysis included two groups: studies describing outcome after repeat GKRS (n = 17) and studies describing outcome after MVD (n = 5). The authors’ institutional study was the only study with direct comparison of the two cohorts. The pooled estimates of primary outcomes were APR in 83% of patients who underwent repeat GKRS and 88% of those who underwent MVD (p = 0.49), and CPR in 46% of patients who underwent repeat GKRS and 72% of those who underwent MVD (p = 0.02). The pooled estimates of secondary outcomes were facial numbness in 32% of patients who underwent repeat GKRS and 22% of those who underwent MVD (p = 0.11); the retreatment rate was 19% in patients who underwent repeat GKRS and 13% in those who underwent MVD (p = 0.74). The authors’ institutional study included 42 patients (repeat GKRS in 15 and MVD in 27), and the outcomes 1 year after retreatment were APR in 80% of those who underwent repeat GKRS and 81% in those who underwent MVD (p = 1.0); CPR was achieved in 47% of those who underwent repeat GKRS and 44% in those who underwent MVD (p = 1.0). There was no difference in the rate of postoperative facial numbness or retreatment.


The current meta-analysis failed to identify any superiority of one treatment over the other with comparable outcomes in terms of APR, postoperative facial numbness, and retreatment rates. However, MVD was shown to provide a better chance of CPR compared with repeat GKRS.