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Jonathan Dallas, Chevis N. Shannon and Christopher M. Bonfield

OBJECTIVE

Spinal fusion is used in the treatment of pediatric neuromuscular scoliosis (NMS) to improve spine alignment and delay disease progression. However, patients with NMS are often medically complex and require a higher level of care than those with other types of scoliosis, leading to higher treatment costs. The purpose of this study was to 1) characterize the cost of pediatric NMS fusion in the US and 2) determine hospital characteristics associated with changes in overall cost.

METHODS

Patients were identified from the National Inpatient Sample (2012 to the first 3 quarters of 2015). Inclusion criteria selected for patients with NMS, spinal fusion of at least 4 vertebral levels, and elective hospitalization. Patients with no cost information were excluded. Sociodemographics, treating hospital characteristics, disease etiology/severity, comorbidities, length of stay, and hospital costs were collected. Univariable analysis and multivariable gamma log-link regression were used to determine hospital characteristics associated with changes in cost.

RESULTS

A total of 1780 weighted patients met inclusion criteria. The median cost was $68,815. Following multivariable regression, both small (+$11,580, p < 0.001) and medium (+$6329, p < 0.001) hospitals had higher costs than large hospitals. Rural hospitals had higher costs than urban teaching hospitals (+$32,438, p < 0.001). Nonprofit hospitals were more expensive than both government (–$4518, p = 0.030) and investor-owned (–$10,240, p = 0.001) hospitals. There was significant variability by US census division; compared with the South Atlantic, all other divisions except for the Middle Atlantic had significantly higher costs, most notably the West North Central (+$15,203, p < 0.001) and the Pacific (+$22,235, p < 0.001). Hospital fusion volume was not associated with total cost.

CONCLUSIONS

A number of hospital factors were associated with changes in fusion cost. Larger hospitals may be able to achieve decreased costs due to economies of scale. Regional differences could reflect uncontrolled-for variability in underlying patient populations or systems-level and policy differences. Overall, this analysis identified multiple systemic patterns that could be targets of further cost-related interventions.

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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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Jonathan Dallas, Evan Mercer, Rebecca A. Reynolds, John C. Wellons III, Chevis N. Shannon and Christopher M. Bonfield

OBJECTIVE

Isolated, nondisplaced skull fractures (ISFs) are a common result of pediatric head trauma. They rarely require surgical intervention; however, many patients with these injuries are still admitted to the hospital for observation. This retrospective study investigates predictors of vomiting and ondansetron use following pediatric ISFs and the role that these factors play in the need for admission and emergency department (ED) revisits.

METHODS

The authors identified pediatric patients (< 18 years old) with a linear ISF who had presented to the ED of a single tertiary care center between 2008 and 2018. Patients with intracranial hemorrhage, significant fracture displacement, or other traumatic injuries were excluded. Outcomes included vomiting, ondansetron use, admission, and revisit following ED discharge. Both univariable and multivariable analyses were used to determine significant predictors of each outcome (p < 0.05).

RESULTS

Overall, 518 patients were included in this study. The median patient age was 9.98 months, and a majority of the patients (59%) were male. The most common fracture locations were parietal (n = 293 [57%]) and occipital (n = 144 [28%]). Among the entire patient cohort, 124 patients (24%) had documented vomiting, and 64 of these patients (52%) received ondansetron. In a multivariable analysis, one of the most significant predictors of vomiting was occipital fracture location (OR 4.05, p < 0.001). In turn, and as expected, both vomiting (OR 14.42, p < 0.001) and occipital fracture location (OR 2.66, p = 0.017) were associated with increased rates of ondansetron use. A total of 229 patients (44%) were admitted to the hospital, with vomiting as the most common indication for admission (n = 59 [26%]). Moreover, 4.1% of the patients had ED revisits following initial discharge, and the most common reason was vomiting (11/21 [52%]). However, in the multivariable analysis, ondansetron use at initial presentation (and not vomiting) was the sole predictor of revisit following initial ED discharge (OR 5.05, p = 0.009).

CONCLUSIONS

In this study, older patients and those with occipital fractures were more likely to present with vomiting and to be treated with ondansetron. Additionally, ondansetron use at initial presentation was found to be a significant predictor of revisits following ED discharge. Ondansetron could be masking recurrent vomiting in ED patients, and this should be considered when deciding which patients to observe further or discharge.

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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.

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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.