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Suzanne M. Michalak, John D. Rolston and Michael T. Lawton

OBJECT

Surgery requires careful coordination of multiple team members, each playing a vital role in mitigating errors. Previous studies have focused on eliciting errors from only the attending surgeon, likely missing events observed by other team members.

METHODS

Surveys were administered to the attending surgeon, resident surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nursing staff immediately following each of 31 cerebrovascular surgeries; participants were instructed to record any deviation from optimal course (DOC). DOCs were categorized and sorted by reporter and perioperative timing, then correlated with delays and outcome measures.

RESULTS

Errors were recorded in 93.5% of the 31 cases surveyed. The number of errors recorded per case ranged from 0 to 8, with an average of 3.1 ± 2.1 errors (± SD). Overall, technical errors were most common (24.5%), followed by communication (22.4%), management/judgment (16.0%), and equipment (11.7%). The resident surgeon reported the most errors (52.1%), followed by the circulating nurse (31.9%), the attending surgeon (26.6%), and the anesthesiologist (14.9%). The attending and resident surgeons were most likely to report technical errors (52% and 30.6%, respectively), while anesthesiologists and circulating nurses mostly reported anesthesia errors (36%) and communication errors (50%), respectively. The overlap in reported errors was 20.3%. If this study had used only the surveys completed by the attending surgeon, as in prior studies, 72% of equipment errors, 90% of anesthesia and communication errors, and 100% of nursing errors would have been missed. In addition, it would have been concluded that errors occurred in only 45.2% of cases (rather than 93.5%) and that errors resulting in a delay occurred in 3.2% of cases instead of the 74.2% calculated using data from 4 team members. Compiled results from all team members yielded significant correlations between technical DOCs and prolonged hospital stays and reported and actual delays (p = 0.001 and p = 0.028, respectively).

CONCLUSIONS

This study is the only of its kind to elicit error reporting from multiple members of the operating team, and it demonstrates error is truly in the eye of the beholder—the types and timing of perioperative errors vary based on whom you ask. The authors estimate that previous studies surveying only the attending physician missed up to 75% of perioperative errors. By finding significant correlations between technical DOCs and prolonged hospital stays and reported and actual delays, this study shows that these surveys provide relevant and useful information for improving clinical practice. Overall, the results of this study emphasize that research on medical error must include input from all members of the operating team; it is only by understanding every perspective that surgical staff can begin to efficiently prevent errors, improve patient care and safety, and decrease delays.

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Bornali Kundu, Andrea A. Brock, Dario J. Englot, Christopher R. Butson and John D. Rolston

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a looming epidemic, growing most rapidly in the elderly population. Some of the most devastating sequelae of TBI are related to depressed levels of consciousness (e.g., coma, minimally conscious state) or deficits in executive function. To date, pharmacological and rehabilitative therapies to treat these sequelae are limited. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been used to treat a number of pathologies, including Parkinson disease, essential tremor, and epilepsy. Animal and clinical research shows that targets addressing depressed levels of consciousness include components of the ascending reticular activating system and areas of the thalamus. Targets for improving executive function are more varied and include areas that modulate attention and memory, such as the frontal and prefrontal cortex, fornix, nucleus accumbens, internal capsule, thalamus, and some brainstem nuclei. The authors review the literature addressing the use of DBS to treat higher-order cognitive dysfunction and disorders of consciousness in TBI patients, while also offering suggestions on directions for future research.

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Alvin Y. Chan, John D. Rolston, Brian Lee, Sumeet Vadera and Dario J. Englot

OBJECTIVE

Corpus callosotomy is a palliative surgery for drug-resistant epilepsy that reduces the severity and frequency of generalized seizures by disconnecting the two cerebral hemispheres. Unlike with resection, seizure outcomes remain poorly understood. The authors systematically reviewed the literature and performed a meta-analysis to investigate rates and predictors of complete seizure freedom and freedom from drop attacks after corpus callosotomy.

METHODS

PubMed, Web of Science, and Scopus were queried for primary studies examining seizure outcomes after corpus callosotomy published over 30 years. Rates of complete seizure freedom or drop attack freedom were recorded. Variables showing a potential relationship to seizure outcome on preliminary analysis were subjected to formal meta-analysis.

RESULTS

The authors identified 1742 eligible patients from 58 included studies. Overall, the rates of complete seizure freedom and drop attack freedom after corpus callosotomy were 18.8% and 55.3%, respectively. Complete seizure freedom was significantly predicted by the presence of infantile spasms (OR 3.86, 95% CI 1.13–13.23), normal MRI findings (OR 4.63, 95% CI 1.75–12.25), and shorter epilepsy duration (OR 2.57, 95% CI 1.23–5.38). Freedom from drop attacks was predicted by complete over partial callosotomy (OR 2.90, 95% CI 1.07–7.83) and idiopathic over known epilepsy etiology (OR 2.84, 95% CI 1.35–5.99).

CONCLUSIONS

The authors report the first systematic review and meta-analysis of seizure outcomes in both adults and children after corpus callosotomy for epilepsy. Approximately one-half of patients become free from drop attacks, and one-fifth achieve complete seizure freedom after surgery. Some predictors of favorable outcome differ from those in resective epilepsy surgery.

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John D. Rolston, Seunggu J. Han, Orin Bloch and Andrew T. Parsa

Object

Venous thromboembolisms (VTEs) occur frequently in surgical patients and can manifest as pulmonary emboli (PEs) or deep venous thromboses (DVTs). While many medical therapies have been shown to prevent VTEs, neurosurgeons are concerned about the use of anticoagulants in the postoperative setting. To better understand the prevalence of and the patient-level risk factors for VTE, the authors analyzed data from the National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP).

Methods

Retrospective data on 1,777,035 patients for the years from 2006 to 2011 were acquired from the American College of Surgeons NSQIP database. Neurosurgical cases were extracted by querying the data for which the surgical specialty was listed as “neurological surgery.” Univariate statistics were calculated using the chi-square test, with 95% confidence intervals used for the resultant risk ratios. Multivariate models were constructed using binary logistic regression with a maximum number of 20 iterations.

Results

Venous thromboembolisms were found in 1.7% of neurosurgical patients, with DVTs roughly twice as common as PEs (1.3% vs 0.6%, respectively). Significant independent predictors included ventilator dependence, immobility (that is, quadriparesis, hemiparesis, or paraparesis), chronic steroid use, and sepsis. The risk of VTE was significantly higher in patients who had undergone cranial procedures (3.4%) than in those who had undergone spinal procedures (1.1%).

Conclusions

Venous thromboembolism is a common complication in neurosurgical patients, and the frequency has not changed appreciably over the past several years. Many factors were identified as independently predictive of VTEs in this population: ventilator dependence, immobility, and malignancy. Less anticipated predictors included chronic steroid use and sepsis. Venous thromboembolisms appear significantly more likely to occur in patients undergoing cranial procedures than in those undergoing spinal procedures. A better appreciation of the prevalence of and the risk factors for VTEs in neurosurgical patients will allow targeting of interventions and a better understanding of which patients are most at risk.

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John D. Rolston, Seunggu J. Han, Catherine Y. Lau, Mitchel S. Berger and Andrew T. Parsa

Object

Surgical complications increase the cost of health care worldwide and directly contribute to patient morbidity and mortality. In an effort to mitigate morbidity and incentivize best practices, stakeholders such as health insurers and the US government are linking reimbursement to patient outcomes. In this study the authors analyzed a national database to determine basic metrics of how comorbidities specifically affect the subspecialty of neurosurgery.

Methods

Data on 1,777,035 patients for the years 2006–2011 were acquired from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) database. Neurosurgical cases were extracted by querying the data for which the surgical specialty was listed as “neurological surgery.” Univariate statistics were calculated using the chi-square test, and 95% confidence intervals were determined for the resultant risk ratios. A multivariate model was constructed using significant variables from the univariate analysis (p < 0.05) with binary logistic regression.

Results

Over 38,000 neurosurgical cases were analyzed, with complications occurring in 14.3%. Cranial cases were 2.6 times more likely to have complications than spine cases, and African Americans and Asians/Pacific Islanders were also at higher risk. The most frequent complications were bleeding requiring transfusion (4.5% of patients) and reoperation within 30 days of the initial operation (4.3% of patients), followed by failure to wean from mechanical ventilation postoperatively (2.5%). Significant predictors of complications included preoperative stroke, sepsis, blood transfusion, and chronic steroid use.

Conclusions

Understanding the landscape of neurosurgical complications will allow better targeting of the most costly and harmful complications of preventive measures. Data from the ACS NSQIP database provide a starting point for developing paradigms of improved care of neurosurgical patients.

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Dario J. Englot, David Ouyang, Doris D. Wang, John D. Rolston, Paul A. Garcia and Edward F. Chang

Object

Epilepsy surgery remains significantly underutilized. The authors recently reported that the number of lobectomies for localized intractable epilepsy in the US has not changed despite the implementation of clear evidence-based guidelines 10 years ago supporting early referral for surgery. To better understand why epilepsy surgery continues to be underused, the authors' objective was to carefully examine hospital-related factors related to the following: 1) where patients are being admitted for the evaluation of epilepsy, 2) rates of utilization for surgery across hospitals, and 3) perioperative morbidity between hospitals with low versus high volumes of epilepsy surgery.

Methods

The authors performed a population-based cohort study of US hospitals between 1990 and 2008 using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), stratifying epilepsy surgery rates and trends as well as perioperative morbidity rates by hospital surgical volume.

Results

The number of lobectomies for epilepsy performed at high-volume centers (> 15 lobectomies/year) significantly decreased between 1990 and 2008 (F = 20.4, p < 0.001), while significantly more procedures were performed at middle-volume hospitals (5–15 lobectomies/year) over time (F = 16.1, p < 0.001). No time trend was observed for hospitals performing fewer than 5 procedures per year. However, patients admitted to high-volume centers were significantly more likely to receive lobectomy than those at low-volume hospitals (relative risk 1.05, 95% CI 1.03–1.08, p < 0.001). Also, the incidence of perioperative adverse events was significantly higher at low-volume hospitals (12.9%) than at high-volume centers (6.1%) (relative risk 1.08, 95% CI 1.03–1.07, p < 0.001).

Conclusions

Hospital volume is an important predictor of epilepsy surgery utilization and perioperative morbidity. Patients with medically refractory epilepsy should be referred to a comprehensive epilepsy treatment center for surgical evaluation by an experienced clinical team.

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Dario J. Englot, John D. Rolston, Doris D. Wang, Peter P. Sun, Edward F. Chang and Kurtis I. Auguste

Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is the most common form of epilepsy in adults and is responsible for 15%–20% of epilepsy cases in children. Class I evidence strongly supports the use of temporal lobectomy for intractable TLE in adults, but fewer studies have examined seizure outcomes and predictors of seizure freedom after temporal lobectomy in pediatric patients. The authors performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies including 10 or more pediatric patients (age ≤ 19 years) published over the last 20 years examining seizure outcomes after temporal lobectomy for TLE. Thirty-six studies met their inclusion criteria. These 36 studies included 1318 pediatric patients with a mean age (± SEM) of 10.7 ± 0.3 years. Overall, seizure freedom (Engel Class I outcome) was achieved in 1002 cases (76%); 316 patients (24%) continued to have seizures (Engel Class II–IV outcome). All patients had at least 1 year of follow-up. Statistically significant predictors of seizure freedom after surgery included lesional epilepsy etiology (odds ratio [OR] 1.08, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02–1.15), abnormal findings on preoperative MRI (OR 1.27, 95% CI 1.16–1.40), and lack of generalized seizures (OR 1.36, 95% CI 1.20–1.56). Among lesional epilepsy cases, there was a trend toward better outcome with gross-total lesionectomy than with subtotal resection. Approximately three-fourths of pediatric patients with TLE attain seizure freedom after temporal lobectomy. Favorable outcomes may be predicted by lesional epilepsy etiology, abnormal MRI, and lack of generalized seizures. Pediatric patients with medically refractory TLE should be referred to a comprehensive pediatric epilepsy center for surgical evaluation.

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Dario J. Englot, John D. Rolston, Doris D. Wang, Kevin H. Hassnain, Charles M. Gordon and Edward F. Chang

Object

In the US, approximately 500,000 individuals are hospitalized yearly for traumatic brain injury (TBI), and posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE) is a common sequela of TBI. Improved treatment strategies for PTE are critically needed, as patients with the disorder are often resistant to antiepileptic medications and are poor candidates for definitive resection. Vagus nerve stimulation (VNS) is an adjunctive treatment for medically refractory epilepsy that results in a ≥ 50% reduction in seizure frequency in approximately 50% of patients after 1 year of therapy. The role of VNS in PTE has been poorly studied. The aim of this study was to determine whether patients with PTE attain more favorable seizure outcomes than individuals with nontraumatic epilepsy etiologies.

Methods

Using a case-control study design, the authors retrospectively compared seizure outcomes after VNS therapy in patients with PTE versus those with nontraumatic epilepsy (non-PTE) who were part of a large prospectively collected patient registry.

Results

After VNS therapy, patients with PTE demonstrated a greater reduction in seizure frequency (50% fewer seizures at the 3-month follow-up; 73% fewer seizures at 24 months) than patients with non-PTE (46% fewer seizures at 3 months; 57% fewer seizures at 24 months). Overall, patients with PTE had a 78% rate of clinical response to VNS therapy at 24 months (that is, ≥ 50% reduction in seizure frequency) as compared with a 61% response rate among patients with non-PTE (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.07–1.61), leading to improved outcomes according to the Engel classification (p < 0.0001, Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel statistic).

Conclusions

Vagus nerve stimulation should be considered in patients with medically refractory PTE who are not good candidates for resection. A controlled prospective trial is necessary to further examine seizure outcomes as well as neuropsychological outcomes after VNS therapy in patients with intractable PTE.

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John D. Rolston, Dario J. Englot, Arnau Benet, Jing Li, Soonmee Cha and Mitchel S. Berger

OBJECT

The dominant hemisphere frontal operculum may contain critical speech and language pathways, and due to these properties, patients with tumors of the opercular region may be at higher risk for postoperative speech dysfunction. However, the likelihood of incurring temporary or permanent language dysfunction is unknown.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively analyzed their cohort of patients with frontal gliomas to identify those tumors that predominantly involved the dominant frontal operculum. Each tumor was classified as involving the pars orbitalis, pars triangularis, pars opercularis, or a combination of some or all of these areas. The authors then identified and compared characteristics between those patients experiencing transient or permanent speech deficits, as opposed to those with no language dysfunction.

RESULTS

Forty-three patients were identified for inclusion in this analysis. Transient deficits occurred in 12 patients (27.9%), while 4 patients (9.8%) had persistent deficits involving language. Individuals with preoperative language deficits and patients with seizures characterized by speech dysfunction appear to be at the highest risk to develop a deficit (relative risks 3.09 and 1.75, respectively). No patient with a tumor involving the pars orbitalis experienced a persistent deficit.

CONCLUSIONS

Resection of gliomas is widely recognized as a critical element of improved outcome. Given the low rate of language morbidity reported in this group of patients, resection of gliomas within the dominant frontal operculum is well-tolerated with acceptable morbidity and, in this particular location, should not be a deterrent in the overall management of these tumors.