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Collin J. Larkin, Anastasios G. Roumeliotis, Constantine L. Karras, Nikhil K. Murthy, Maria Fay Karras, Huy Minh Tran, Ketan Yerneni, and Matthew B. Potts

Annually, 20% of all practicing neurosurgeons in the United States are faced with medical malpractice litigation. The average indemnity paid in a closed neurosurgical civil claim is $439,146, the highest of all medical specialties. The majority of claims result from dissatisfaction following spinal surgery, although claims after cranial surgery tend to be costlier. On a societal scale, the increasing prevalence of medical malpractice claims is a catalyst for the practice of defensive medicine, resulting in record-level healthcare costs. Outside of the obvious financial strains, malpractice claims have also been linked to professional disenchantment and career changes for afflicted physicians. Unfortunately, neurosurgical residents receive minimal practical education regarding these matters and are often unprepared and vulnerable to these setbacks in the earlier stages of their careers. In this article, the authors aim to provide neurosurgical residents and junior attendings with an introductory guide to the fundamentals of medical malpractice lawsuits and the implications for neurosurgeons as an adjunct to more formal residency education.

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Adham M. Khalafallah, Adrian E. Jimenez, Nathan A. Shlobin, Collin J. Larkin, Debraj Mukherjee, Corinna C. Zygourakis, Sheng-Fu Lo, Daniel M. Sciubba, Ali Bydon, Timothy F. Witham, Nader S. Dahdaleh, and Nicholas Theodore

OBJECTIVE

Although fellowship training is becoming increasingly common in neurosurgery, it is unclear which factors predict an academic career trajectory among spinal neurosurgeons. In this study, the authors sought to identify predictors associated with academic career placement among fellowship-trained neurological spinal surgeons.

METHODS

Demographic data and bibliometric information on neurosurgeons who completed a residency program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education between 1983 and 2019 were gathered, and those who completed a spine fellowship were identified. Employment was denoted as academic if the hospital where a neurosurgeon worked was affiliated with a neurosurgical residency program; all other positions were denoted as nonacademic. A logistic regression model was used for multivariate statistical analysis.

RESULTS

A total of 376 fellowship-trained spinal neurosurgeons were identified, of whom 140 (37.2%) held academic positions. The top 5 programs that graduated the most fellows in the cohort were Cleveland Clinic, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Miami, Barrow Neurological Institute, and Northwestern University. On multivariate analysis, increased protected research time during residency (OR 1.03, p = 0.044), a higher h-index during residency (OR 1.12, p < 0.001), completing more than one clinical fellowship (OR 2.16, p = 0.024), and attending any of the top 5 programs that graduated the most fellows (OR 2.01, p = 0.0069) were independently associated with an academic career trajectory.

CONCLUSIONS

Increased protected research time during residency, a higher h-index during residency, completing more than one clinical fellowship, and attending one of the 5 programs graduating the most fellowship-trained neurosurgical spinal surgeons independently predicted an academic career. These results may be useful in identifying and advising trainees interested in academic spine neurosurgery.