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Bryan A. Lieber, Geoffrey Appelboom, Blake E. S. Taylor, Hani Malone, Nitin Agarwal and E. Sander Connolly Jr.

OBJECT

Each July, 4th-year medical students become 1st-year resident physicians and have much greater responsibility in making management decisions. In addition, incumbent residents and fellows advance to their next postgraduate year and face greater challenges. It has been suggested that among patients who have resident physicians as members of their neurosurgical team, this transition may be associated with increased rates of morbidity and mortality, a phenomenon known as the “July Effect.” In this study, the authors compared morbidity and mortality rates between the initial and later months of the academic year to determine whether there is truly a July Effect that has an impact on this patient population.

METHODS

The authors compared 30-day postoperative outcomes of neurosurgery performed by surgical teams that included resident physicians in training during the first academic quarter (Q1, July through September) with outcomes of neurosurgery performed with resident participation during the final academic quarter (Q4, April through June), using 2006–2012 data from the prospectively collected American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) database. Regression analyses were performed on outcome data that included mortality, surgical complications, and medical complications, which were graded as mild or severe. To determine whether a July Effect was present in subgroups, secondary analyses were performed to analyze the association of outcomes with each major neurosurgical subspecialty, the postgraduate year of the operating resident, and the academic quarter during which the surgery was performed. To control for possible seasonal trends in certain diseases, the authors compared patient outcomes at academic medical centers to those at community-based hospitals, where procedures were not performed by residents. In addition, the efficiency of academic centers was compared to that of community centers in terms of operative duration and total length of hospital stay.

RESULTS

Overall, there were no statistically significant differences in mortality, morbidity, or efficiency between the earlier and later quarters of the academic year, a finding that also held true among neurosurgical subspecialties and among postgraduate levels of training. There was, however, a slight increase in intraoperative transfusions associated with the transitional period in July (6.41% of procedures in Q4 compared to 7.99% in Q1 of the prior calendar year; p = 0.0005), which primarily occurred in cases involving junior (2nd- to 4th-year) residents. In addition, there was an increased rate of reoperation (1.73% in Q4 to 2.19% in Q1; p < 0.0001) observed mainly among senior (5th- to 7th-year) residents in the early academic months and not paralleled in our community cohort.

CONCLUSIONS

There is minimal evidence for a significant July Effect in adult neurosurgery. Our results suggest that, overall, the current resident training system provides enough guidance and support during this challenging transition period.

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Bryan A. Lieber, Geoffrey Appelboom, Blake E. Taylor, Franklin D. Lowy, Eliza M. Bruce, Adam M. Sonabend, Christopher Kellner, E. Sander Connolly Jr. and Jeffrey N. Bruce

OBJECT

Preoperative corticosteroids and chemotherapy are frequently prescribed for patients undergoing cranial neurosurgery but may pose a risk of postoperative infection. Postoperative surgical-site infections (SSIs) have significant morbidity and mortality, dramatically increase the length and cost of hospitalization, and are a major cause of 30-day readmission. In patients undergoing cranial neurosurgery, there is a lack of data on the role of patient-specific risk factors in the development of SSIs. The authors of this study sought to determine whether chemotherapy and prolonged steroid use before surgery increase the risk of an SSI at postoperative Day 30.

METHODS

Using the national prospectively collected American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) database for 2006–2012, the authors calculated the rates of superficial, deep-incisional, and organ-space SSIs at postoperative Day 30 for neurosurgery patients who had undergone chemotherapy or had significant steroid use within 30 days before undergoing cranial surgery. Trauma patients, patients younger than 18 years, and patients with a preoperative infection were excluded. Univariate analysis was performed for 25 variables considered risk factors for superficial and organ-space SSIs. To identify independent predictors of SSIs, the authors then conducted a multivariate analysis in which they controlled for duration of operation, wound class, white blood cell count, and other potential confounders that were significant on the univariate analysis.

RESULTS

A total of 8215 patients who had undergone cranial surgery were identified. There were 158 SSIs at 30 days (frequency 1.92%), of which 52 were superficial, 27 were deep-incisional, and 79 were organ-space infections. Preoperative chemotherapy was an independent predictor of organ-space SSIs in the multivariate model (OR 5.20, 95% CI 2.33–11.62, p < 0.0001), as was corticosteroid use (OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.03–3.37, p = 0.04), but neither was a predictor of superficial or deep-incisional SSIs. Other independent predictors of organ-space SSIs were longer duration of operation (OR 1.16), wound class of ≥ 2 (clean-contaminated and further contaminated) (OR 3.17), and morbid obesity (body mass index ≥ 40 kg/m2) (OR 3.05). Among superficial SSIs, wound class of 3 (contaminated) (OR 6.89), operative duration (OR 1.13), and infratentorial surgical approach (OR 2.20) were predictors.

CONCLUSIONS

Preoperative chemotherapy and corticosteroid use are independent predictors of organ-space SSIs, even when data are controlled for leukopenia. This indicates that the disease process in organ-space SSIs may differ from that in superficial SSIs. In effect, this study provides one of the largest analyses of risk factors for SSIs after cranial surgery. The results suggest that, in certain circumstances, modulation of preoperative chemotherapy or steroid regimens may reduce the risk of organ-space SSIs and should be considered in the preoperative care of this population. Future studies are needed to determine optimal timing and dosing of these medications.