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Susan R. Durham, Jessica R. Lane and Scott A. Shipman

Object

The purpose of this study was to determine a reliable estimate of the size, demographic, and practice characteristics of the current pediatric neurosurgical workforce. The authors also sought to differentiate pediatric from nonpediatric neurosurgical practitioners and compare the demographic and practice characteristics of these 2 groups. The term “pediatric practitioner” will be used in this study to describe a practitioner whose practice is > 75% pediatric patients in accordance with the American Board of Pediatric Neurological Surgery (ABPNS) requirements for board certification in pediatric neurosurgery. Those practitioners with < 75% pediatric patients in their practice will be designated as “nonpediatric practitioners.”

Methods

The authors aggregated multiple databases of professional neurosurgical societies in an effort to identify pediatric neurosurgical practitioners. A 30-question survey was then administered to all identified practitioners, and responses were collected for 6 months. Primary analysis of pediatric versus nonpediatric practitioners was performed. Subgroup analyses of the characteristics of the pediatric practitioners were also performed to identify the effects of practitioner age, sex, and practice setting on survey responses.

Results

A total of 342 practitioners received the survey, and 267 responded (78.1% response rate); 158 pediatric practitioners and 92 nonpediatric practitioners were identified. Seventeen respondents were excluded from analysis. Pediatric practitioners were more likely to be women, ABPNS certified, have completed a pediatric fellowship, do fewer operative cases per year, have a more frequent call schedule, practice in a freestanding children's hospital, be in academic practice, and in need of recruiting additional faculty. Pediatric practitioners spent fewer hours per week in patient care, and were less likely to have a productivity-based salary or salary incentive based on relative value unit–production. Among pediatric practitioners, American Board of Neurological Surgery and ABPNS certification rates differed significantly among age groups, with older age groups being more likely to be certified by the American Board of Neurological Surgery and ABPNS. The rate of pediatric fellowship completion was significantly higher in the younger age groups. Anticipating retirement by age 65 was significantly more likely in the younger age groups, and hours spent per week spent in teaching and administrative duties were lower in the younger age groups. There were 27 female and 131 male pediatric practitioners. The women were more likely to have completed a pediatric fellowship and performed fewer operative cases per year than the men. Nonacademic pediatric practitioners were more likely to have a relative value unit–based salary incentive, be reimbursed for call coverage, and spend more hours per week in patient care than academic pediatric practitioners. Academic pediatric practitioners spent more hours per week in clinical research.

Conclusions

The authors estimate that there are fewer than 200 pediatric neurosurgeons currently practicing in the United States. Current practice patterns unique to pediatrics may have important implications in recruiting and retaining the next generation of pediatric neurosurgeons.

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Wesley J. Whitson, Jessica R. Lane, David F. Bauer and Susan R. Durham

OBJECT

Chiari malformation Type I (CM-I) in children is a common incidental finding. Resolution of cerebellar tonsil ectopia has been reported, but no studies have followed tonsil position over regular intervals throughout childhood. To better elucidate the clinical and radiological natural history of CM-I in children, the authors prospectively followed up children with nonoperatively managed CM-I for up to 7 years.

METHODS

The study included all children evaluated for CM-I over a period of 12 years for whom surgery was not initially recommended. The study excluded patients with associated conditions, including syringomyelia and hydrocephalus. For all patients, initial management was nonoperative, and follow-up management consisted of annual cervical spine or brain MRI and clinical examination. At each follow-up examination, the neurological examination findings, subjective symptoms, and the position of the cerebellar tonsils on MR images were recorded. An alteration in tonsillar descent of 2 mm or greater was considered a change.

RESULTS

Neurological examination findings did not change over the course of the study in the 52 children who met the inclusion criteria. Although radiological changes were common, no surgeries were performed solely because of radiological change. Overall, tonsil position on radiological images remained stable in 50% of patients, was reduced in 38%, and increased in 12%. Resolution was seen in 12% of patients. Radiological changes in tonsil position were seen during every year of follow-up. On average, in any given year, 24% of images showed some form of change in tonsil position. A total of 3 patients, for whom no changes were seen on MR images, ultimately underwent surgery for subjective clinical reasons.

CONCLUSIONS

CM-I in children is not a radiologically static entity but rather is a dynamic one. Radiological changes were seen throughout the 7 years of follow-up. A reduction in tonsillar descent was substantially more common than an increase. Radiological changes did not correlate with neurological examination finding changes, symptom development, or the need for future surgery. Follow-up imaging of asymptomatic children with CM-I did not alter treatment for any patient. It would be reasonable to follow these children with clinical examinations but without regular surveillance MRI.