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Jonathan Dallas, Katherine D. Sborov, Bradley S. Guidry, Silky Chotai and Christopher M. Bonfield

OBJECTIVE

Many patients undergoing spinal fusion for neuromuscular scoliosis have preexisting neurosurgical implants, including ventricular shunts (VSs) for hydrocephalus and baclofen pumps (BPs) for spastic cerebral palsy. Recent studies have discussed a possible increase in implant complication rates following spinal fusion, but published data are inconclusive. The authors therefore, sought to investigate: 1) the rate of implant complications following fusion, 2) possible causes of these complications, and 3) factors that place patients at higher risk for implant-related complications.

METHODS

Cases involving pediatric patients with a preexisting VS or BP who underwent spinal fusion for scoliosis correction between 2005 and 2016 at a single tertiary children’s hospital were retrospectively analyzed. Patient demographics, implant characteristics, spinal fusion details, neurosurgical follow-up, and implant complications in the 180 days following fusion were recorded and analyzed.

RESULTS

Overall, 75 patients who underwent scoliosis correction had preexisting implants: 39 had BPs, 31 VSs, and 5 both. The patients’ mean age at fusion was 13.49 ± 2.78 years (range 3.62–18.81 years), and the mean time from the most recent previous implant surgery to fusion was 5.70 ± 4.65 years (range 0.10–17.3 years). The mean preoperative and postoperative Cobb angles were 62.4° ± 18.9° degrees (range 20.9°–109.0°) and 23.5° ± 13.3° degrees (range 2.00°–67.3°), respectively. No VS complications were identified. Two patients with BPs were found to have complications (unintentional cutting of their BP catheter during posterior spinal fusion) within 180 days postfusion. There were no recorded neurosurgical implant infections, failures, fractures, or dislodgements. Although 10 patients required at least 1 surgical procedure for irrigation and debridement of the spine wound following fusion, there were no abdominal or cranial implant wound infections requiring revision, and no implants required removal.

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this study suggest that spinal fusion for scoliosis correction does not increase the rates of complications involving previously placed neurosurgical implants. A large-scale, prospective, multicenter study is needed to fully explore and confirm this finding.

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Silky Chotai, Bradley S. Guidry, Emily W. Chan, Katherine D. Sborov, Stephen Gannon, Chevis Shannon, Christopher M. Bonfield, John C. Wellons III and Robert P. Naftel

OBJECTIVE

Readmission and return to operating room after surgery are increasingly being used as a proxy for quality of care. Nearly 60% of these readmissions are unplanned, which translates into billions of dollars in health care costs. The authors set out to analyze the incidence of readmission at their center, to define causes of unplanned readmission, and to determine the preoperative and surgical variables associated with readmissions following pediatric neurosurgery.

METHODS

A total of 536 children who underwent operations for neurosurgical diagnoses between 2012 and 2015 and who were later readmitted were included in the final analysis. Unplanned readmissions were defined to have occurred as a result of complications within 90 days after index surgery. Patient records were retrospectively reviewed to determine the primary diagnosis, surgery indication, and cause of readmission and return to operating room. The cost for index hospitalization, readmission episode, and total cost were derived based on the charges obtained from administrative data. Bivariate and multivariable analyses were conducted.

RESULTS

Of 536 patients readmitted in total, 17.9% (n = 96) were readmitted within 90 days. Of the overall readmissions, 11.9% (n = 64) were readmitted within 30 days, and 5.97% (n = 32) were readmitted between 31 and 90 days. The median duration between discharge and readmission was 20 days (first quartile [Q1]: 9 days, third quartile [Q3]: 36 days). The most common reason for readmission was shunt related (8.2%, n = 44), followed by wound infection (4.7%, n = 25). In the risk-adjusted multivariable logistic regression model for total 90-day readmission, patients with the following characteristics: younger age (p = 0.001, OR 0.886, 95% CI 0.824–0.952); “other” (nonwhite, nonblack) race (p = 0.024, OR 5.49, 95% CI 1.246–24.2); and those born preterm (p = 0.032, OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.1–4.12) had higher odds of being readmitted within 90 days after discharge. The total median cost for patients undergoing surgery in this study cohort was $11,520 (Q1: $7103, Q3: $19,264). For the patients who were readmitted, the median cost for a readmission episode was $8981 (Q1: $5051, Q3: $18,713).

CONCLUSIONS

Unplanned 90-day readmissions in pediatric neurosurgery are primarily due to CSF-related complications. Patients with the following characteristics: young age at presentation; “other” race; and children born preterm have a higher likelihood of being readmitted within 90 days after surgery. The median cost was > $8000, which suggests that the readmission episode can be as expensive as the index hospitalization. Clearly, readmission reduction has the potential for significant cost savings in pediatric neurosurgery. Future efforts, such as targeted education related to complication signs, should be considered in the attempt to reduce unplanned events. Given the single-center, retrospective study design, the results of this study are primarily applicable to this population and cannot necessarily be generalized to other institutions without further study.

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Robert J. Dambrino IV, Scott L. Zuckerman, Bradley S. Guidry, Henry J. Domenico, Reid C. Thompson, Mitchell B. Galloway, James W. Pichert and William O. Cooper

OBJECTIVE

The number of unsolicited patient complaints (UPCs) about surgeons correlates with surgical complications and malpractice claims. Using a large, national patient complaint database, the authors sought to do the following: 1) compare the rates of UPCs for neurosurgeons to those for other physicians, 2) analyze the risk of UPCs with individual neurosurgeon characteristics, and 3) describe the types of UPCs made about neurosurgeons.

METHODS

Patient and family complaint reports among 36,265 physicians, including 423 neurosurgeons, 8292 other surgeons, and 27,550 nonsurgeons who practiced at 33 medical centers (22 academic and 11 regional) from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2017, were coded with a previously validated Patient Advocacy Reporting System (PARS) algorithm.

RESULTS

Among 423 neurosurgeons, 93% were male, and most (71%) practiced in academic medical centers. Neurosurgical subspecialties included general practice (25%), spine (25%), tumor (16%), vascular (13%), functional (10%), and pediatrics (10%). Neurosurgeons had more average total UPCs per physician (8.68; 95% CI 7.68–9.67) than nonsurgeons (3.40; 95% CI 3.33–3.47) and other surgeons (5.01; 95% CI 4.85–5.17; p < 0.001). In addition, a significantly higher percentage of neurosurgeons received at least one UPC (71.6%; 95% CI 67.3%–75.9%) than did nonsurgeons (50.2%; 95% CI 49.6%–50.8%) and other surgeons (58.2%; 95% CI 57.1%–59.3%; p < 0.001). Factors most associated with increased average UPCs were younger age, measured as median medical school graduation year (1990.5 in the 0-UPC group vs 1993 in the 14+-UPC group, p = 0.009) and spine subspecialty (13.4 mean UPCs in spine vs 7.9 mean UPCs in other specialties, 95% CI 2.3–8.5, p < 0.001). No difference in complaints was seen in those who graduated from non-US versus US medical schools (p = 0.605). The most common complaint types were related to issues surrounding care and treatment, communication, and accessibility, each of which was significantly more common for neurosurgeons than other surgical specialties (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Neurosurgeons were more likely to generate UPCs than other surgical specialties, and almost 3 out of 4 neurosurgeons (71.6%) had at least one UPC during the study period. Prior studies have shown that feedback to physicians about behavior can result in fewer UPCs. These results suggest that neurosurgeons have opportunities to reduce complaints and potentially improve the overall quality of care delivered.