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Harith Akram, Bilal Mirza, Neil Kitchen and Joanna M. Zakrzewska

Object

The aim of this study was to design a checklist with a scoring system for reporting on studies of surgical interventions for trigeminal neuralgia (TN) and to validate it by a review of the recent literature.

Methods

A checklist with a scoring system, the Surgical Trigeminal Neuralgia Score (STNS), was devised partially based on the validated STrengthening the Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) criteria and customized for TN after a literature review and then applied to a series of articles. These articles were identified using a prespecified MEDLINE and Embase search covering the period from 2008 to 2010. Of the 584 articles found, 59 were studies of interventional procedures for TN that fulfilled the inclusion criteria and 56 could be obtained in full. The STNS was then applied independently by 3 of the authors.

Results

The maximum STNS came to 30, and was reliable and reproducible when used by the 3 authors who performed the scoring. The range of scores was 6–23.5, with a mean of 14 for all the journals. The impact factor scores of the journals in which the papers were published ranged from 0 to 4.8. Twenty-four of the studies were published in the Journal of Neurosurgery or in Neurosurgery. Studies published in neurosurgical journals ranked higher on the STNS scale than those published in nonneurosurgical journals. There was no statistically significant correlation between STNS and impact factors. Stereotactic radiosurgery (n = 25) and microvascular decompression (n = 15) were the most commonly reported procedures.

The diagnostic criteria were stated in 35% of the studies, and 4 studies reported subtypes of TN. An increasing number of studies (46%) used the recommended Kaplan-Meier methodology for pain survival outcomes. The follow-up period was unclear in 8 studies, and 26 reported follow-ups of more than 5 years. Complications were reported fairly consistently but the temporal course was not always indicated. Direct interview, telephone conversation, and questionnaires were used to measure outcomes. Independent assessment of outcome was only clearly stated in 7 studies. Only 2 studies used the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey to measure quality of life and 4 studies reported on the severity of preoperative pain. The Barrow Neurological Institute pain questionnaire was the most commonly used outcome measure (n = 13), followed by the visual analog scale.

Conclusions

Similar to the STROBE criteria that provide a checklist of items that should be included in reports of observational studies in general, the authors' suggested checklist for the STNS could help editors and reviewers ensure that quality reports are published, and could prove useful for colleagues when reporting their results specifically on the surgical management of TN. It would help the patient and clinicians make a decision about selecting the appropriate neurosurgical procedure.