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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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Jillian M. Berkman, Jonathan Dallas, Jaims Lim, Ritwik Bhatia, Amber Gaulden, Stephen R. Gannon, Chevis N. Shannon, Adam J. Esbenshade and John C. Wellons III

OBJECTIVE

Little is understood about the role that health disparities play in the treatment and management of brain tumors in children. The purpose of this study was to determine if health disparities impact the timing of initial and follow-up care of patients, as well as overall survival.

METHODS

The authors conducted a retrospective study of pediatric patients (< 18 years of age) previously diagnosed with, and initially treated for, a primary CNS tumor between 2005 and 2012 at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. Primary outcomes included time from symptom presentation to initial neurosurgery consultation and percentage of missed follow-up visits for ancillary or core services (defined as no-show visits). Core services were defined as healthcare interactions directly involved with CNS tumor management, whereas ancillary services were appointments that might be related to overall care of the patient but not directly focused on treatment of the tumor. Statistical analysis included Pearson’s chi-square test, nonparametric univariable tests, and multivariable linear regression. Statistical significance was set a priori at p < 0.05.

RESULTS

The analysis included 198 patients. The median time from symptom onset to initial presentation was 30.0 days. A mean of 7.45% of all core visits were missed. When comparing African American and Caucasian patients, there was no significant difference in age at diagnosis, timing of initial symptoms, or tumor grade. African American patients missed significantly more core visits than Caucasian patients (p = 0.007); this became even more significant when controlling for other factors in the multivariable analysis (p < 0.001). African American patients were more likely to have public insurance, while Caucasian patients were more likely to have private insurance (p = 0.025). When evaluating survival, no health disparities were identified.

CONCLUSIONS

No significant health disparities were identified when evaluating the timing of presentation and survival. A racial disparity was noted when evaluating missed follow-up visits. Future work should focus on identifying reasons for differences and whether social determinants of health affect other aspects of treatment.

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Campbell Liles, Jonathan Dallas, Andrew T. Hale, Stephen Gannon, E. Haley Vance, Christopher M. Bonfield and Chevis N. Shannon

OBJECTIVE

Open and endoscope-assisted repair are surgical options for sagittal craniosynostosis, with limited research evaluating each technique’s immediate and long-term costs. This study investigates the cost-effectiveness of open and endoscope-assisted repair for single, sagittal suture craniosynostosis.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective cohort study of patients undergoing single, sagittal suture craniosynostosis repair (open in 17 cases, endoscope-assisted in 16) at less than 1 year of age at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt (MCJCHV) between August 2015 and August 2017. Follow-up data were collected/analyzed for 1 year after discharge. Surgical and follow-up costs were derived by merging MCJCHV financial data with each patient’s electronic medical record (EMR) and were adjusted for inflation using the healthcare Producer Price Index. Proxy helmet costs were derived from third-party out-of-pocket helmet prices. To account for variable costs and probabilities, overall costs were calculated using TreeAge tree diagram software.

RESULTS

Open repair occurred in older patients (mean age 5.69 vs 2.96 months, p < 0.001) and required more operating room time (median 203 vs 145 minutes, p < 0.001), more ICU days (median 3 vs 1 day, p < 0.001), more hospital days (median 4 vs 1 day, p < 0.001), and more frequently required transfusion (88% vs 6% of cases). Compared to patients who underwent open surgery, patients who underwent endoscopically assisted surgery more often required postoperative orthotic helmets (100% vs 6%), had a similar number of follow-up clinic visits (median 3 vs 3 visits, p = 0.487) and CT scans (median 3 vs 2 scans), and fewer emergency department visits (median 1 vs 3 visits). The TreeAge diagram showed that, overall, open repair was 73% more expensive than endoscope-assisted repair ($31,314.10 vs $18,081.47). Sensitivity analysis identified surgical/hospital costs for open repair (mean $30,475, SEM $547) versus endoscope-assisted repair (mean $13,746, SEM $833) (p < 0.001) as the most important determinants of overall cost. Two-way sensitivity analysis comparing initial surgical/hospital costs confirmed that open repair remains significantly more expensive under even worst-case initial repair scenarios ($3254.81 minimum difference). No major surgical complications or surgical revisions occurred in either cohort.

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this study suggest that endoscope-assisted craniosynostosis repair is significantly more cost-effective than open repair, based on markedly lower costs and similar outcomes, and that the difference in initial surgical/hospital costs far outweighs the difference in subsequent costs associated with helmet therapy and outpatient management, although independent replication in a multicenter study is needed for confirmation due to practice and cost variation across institutions. Longer-term results will also be needed to examine whether cost differences are maintained.