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Betsy Hopson, MSHA, Elizabeth N. Alford, Kathrin Zimmerman, Jeffrey P. Blount and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

In spina bifida (SB), transition of care from the pediatric to adult healthcare settings remains an opportunity for improvement. Transition of care is necessarily multidimensional and focuses on increasing independence, autonomy, and personal responsibility for health-related tasks. While prior research has demonstrated that effective transition can improve health outcomes and quality of life while reducing healthcare utilization, little is known about the most advantageous transition program components/design. The individualized transition plan (ITP) was developed to optimize the readiness of the adolescent with SB for adult healthcare. The ITP is a set of clearly articulated, mutually developed goals that arise from best available data on successful transition and are individualized to meet the individual challenges, needs, and attributes of each patient and family.

METHODS

Prospectively completed ITPs were retrospectively reviewed from June 2018 to May 2019. Demographic and disease characteristics were collected, and specific goals were reviewed and categorized.

RESULTS

Thirty-two patients with an ITP were included. The cohort was 50% male and had a mean age of 16.4 years. For goal 1 (maximize education), the most common goal was to complete a career interest survey (44%), followed by researching application/admission requirements for programs of interest (25%), shadowing in and/or visiting a workplace (16%), and improving high school performance (16%). For goal 2 (bowel management), most patients (59%) had a working bowel program with few or no bowel accidents. Eight patients (25%) were having more than the desired number of bowel accidents and received formal consultation with a gastroenterologist. Five patients (16%) needed only minor adjustments to their bowel management regimen. Goal 3 (SB program coordinator goal) focused on documenting medical and/or surgical history for the majority of patients (66%). Other goals aimed to increase patient communication in healthcare settings or utilize available community resources.

CONCLUSIONS

The authors developed an evidence-based ITP that focuses around 5 goals: maximizing education, bowel continence, and goals set by the SB clinic coordinator, parent/caregiver, and patient. Although developed for the authors’ SB clinic, the ITP concept is applicable to transition of care in any chronic childhood illness.

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Brandon G. Rocque, Alexandra Cutillo, Kathrin Zimmerman, Anastasia Arynchyna, Susan Davies, Wendy Landier and Avi Madan-Swain

OBJECTIVE

Hospitalization for a newly diagnosed pediatric brain tumor is an extremely stressful time for a family, but this period has not been the focus of rigorous study. The purpose of this study was to quantify distress and psychosocial risk in this population to improve psychosocial care delivery.

METHODS

The authors administered the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Distress Thermometer (DT) and the Psychosocial Assessment Tool 2.0 (PAT) to primary caregivers of all children admitted to Children’s of Alabama with a new brain tumor between April 2016 and August 2017. The DT is a single-item measure of distress (scale range 0–10). The PAT (range 0–7) stratifies families by risk level: a score less than 1.0 indicates universal risk level (risk typically experienced during hospitalization); a score of 1.0–2.0 indicates targeted risk (specific psychosocial difficulties that impact medical treatment); and a score higher than 2.0 indicates clinically significant risk. Demographic and clinical information was abstracted from each child’s medical record. A correlation matrix using nonparametric statistics was created between abstracted data and the DT and PAT scores.

RESULTS

Forty primary caregivers were enrolled (of 49 eligible), with the patient age ranging from newborn to 17 years (mean 7.7 years). Twenty-five (63%) of the children were male, and 24 (60%) were white, non-Hispanic. Mean and median DT scores were 7.2 (SD 2.6) and 7, respectively. However, 12 (30%) rated their distress 10/10, and 85% rated distress 5 or greater. PAT scores ranged from 0.0 to 2.36 with mean and median scores of 0.89 (SD 0.50) and 0.86, respectively. PAT results for 16 (40%) families were in the targeted or clinical range, indicating psychosocial factors that have the potential to interfere with medical treatment. No clinical or demographic variable correlated significantly with the DT or PAT score.

CONCLUSIONS

Families of children with newly diagnosed brain tumors experience high levels of distress and psychosocial risk. This work will serve as the foundation for efforts to standardize psychosocial evaluation for newly diagnosed pediatric neurosurgical patients, and to create protocols that organize existing hospital-based psychosocial support services. These efforts have the potential to improve patient and family satisfaction as well as treatment outcomes.

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Alexandra Cutillo, Kathrin Zimmerman, Susan Davies, Avi Madan-Swain, Wendy Landier, Anastasia Arynchyna and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

Because caregivers are a crucial part of a child’s medical care, it is important to understand how to best communicate with them during hospitalization. Qualitative research can elucidate the best strategies for effective parent–provider communication. This study aims to reveal communication styles of neurosurgery team members, and to identify areas for improvement in the future.

METHODS

Caregivers of children with a newly diagnosed brain tumor requiring neurosurgery were enrolled during their child’s hospitalization. During routine follow-up clinic visits within 3 months after diagnosis and tumor resection, caregivers participated in a semistructured interview, which assessed the quality of communication with the neurosurgery and oncology teams during hospitalization. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded for common themes until thematic saturation was reached.

RESULTS

During caregiver interviews (N = 22), several domains were discussed including communicating the diagnosis to the patient and siblings, to the rest of the family/support network, and with the neurosurgery team. Regarding parent–neurosurgeon communication, 82% of caregivers identified at least one positive aspect and 55% identified at least one negative aspect of communication. Caregivers who provided positive feedback appreciated that their neurosurgeon was thorough (73%), direct (27%), or compassionate (14%). They also valued when providers would speak “on my level” (18%) and would speak directly to the patient (27%). In terms of negative feedback, caregivers identified miscommunications (32%), discussing the diagnosis in front of the child before feeling prepared to do so (14%), and a lack of clarity about expectations, medications, or treatment (32%).

CONCLUSIONS

These data provide specific ways in which neurosurgery providers have communicated effectively with caregivers and identify areas for improvement. Results have been used to develop a navigator-led intervention geared toward improving parent–provider communication during hospitalization for resection of a brain tumor.

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Alexandra Cutillo, Kathrin Zimmerman, Susan Davies, Avi Madan-Swain, Wendy Landier, Anastasia Arynchyna and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

The goal of this study was to determine what strategies caregivers use to cope with the stress of a child who has recently undergone surgical treatment for a newly diagnosed brain tumor. Results will be used to improve psychosocial assessments and treatments provided to these families during initial hospitalization.

METHODS

Caregivers of children with newly diagnosed brain tumors admitted to Children’s of Alabama were enrolled during the child’s initial hospitalization for surgical treatment from April 2016 to August 2017. The single-item, National Comprehensive Cancer Network visual analog Distress Thermometer (DT) was administered. Clinical and demographic variables were collected from the medical record. Approximately 1 month after patients were discharged from the hospital, caregivers participated in a semistructured interview that included questions about parent and family coping strategies. Broad questions about stress management since diagnosis were followed by specific questions about individual coping strategies. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded for common themes. Themes were broadly characterized as adaptive versus maladaptive coping. Analysis was then performed to determine if DT scores or clinical or demographic factors were associated with the presence of maladaptive coping using a concurrent triangulation mixed-methods design.

RESULTS

Caregivers identified several adaptive coping strategies, such as active coping, acceptance coping, emotion-focused coping, spiritual coping, social support, and posttraumatic growth. Maladaptive coping strategies were mostly categorized as avoidant coping. Caregivers endorsed multiple different coping strategies (mean of 4.59 strategies per caregiver). No clinical or demographic variables, whether the tumor was benign or malignant, or the DT score correlated with caregiver endorsement of maladaptive coping strategies.

CONCLUSIONS

Caregivers of children newly diagnosed with brain tumors employ a number of coping strategies, some of which are maladaptive. The authors have not identified any method for predicting who is at risk for maladaptive coping. Assessment of coping skills and education about coping have the potential to improve overall care delivery to these families.

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Jacob R. Lepard, Kathrin D. Zimmerman, Anastasia A. Arynchyna, Jessica A. Gutman, Arsalaan A. Salehani, Brandon G. Rocque and Curtis J. Rozzelle

OBJECTIVE

Surgical treatment of herniated lumbar disc (HLD) remains rare in children. The purpose of this study was to evaluate for potential disease risk factors leading to surgery based on a large single-center experience.

METHODS

Data for all patients who had undergone surgical treatment for HLD between December 2008 and December 2016 at a single pediatric tertiary care referral center were collected and compared to data for a healthy control population obtained through a Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) survey in order to determine relevant disease risk factors. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression were used to determine the effect of potential risk factors.

RESULTS

Twenty-seven patients in the disease cohort and 5212 healthy controls from the general population were included in the risk factor analysis. The mean body mass index was significantly higher in the disease population (30.2 vs 24.0 kg/m2, p < 0.0001). Children who had undergone microdiscectomy were more likely to be obese (OR 7.4, 95% CI 3.46–15.8, p < 0.001). No association was found between lumbar microdiscectomy and sports participation (OR 1.0, 95% CI −0.002 to 0.005, p = 0.37).

CONCLUSIONS

Microdiscectomy remains a viable and safe option in the setting of failed conservative management for pediatric HLD. Childhood obesity is a risk factor for HLD and many other diseases, which increases its importance as a public health priority.

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Samuel G. McClugage III, Nicholas M. B. Laskay, Brian N. Donahue, Anastasia Arynchyna, Kathrin Zimmerman, Inmaculada B. Aban, Elizabeth N. Alford, Myriam Peralta-Carcelen, Jeffrey P. Blount, Curtis J. Rozzelle, James M. Johnston and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

Posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus of prematurity remains a significant problem in preterm infants. In the literature, there is a scarcity of data on the early disease process, when neurosurgeons are typically consulted for recommendations on treatment. Here, the authors sought to evaluate functional outcomes in premature infants at 2 years of age following treatment for posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus. Their goal was to determine the relationship between factors identifiable at the time of the initial neurosurgical consult and outcomes of patients when they are 2 years of age.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective chart review of premature infants treated for intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) of prematurity (grade III and IV) between 2003 and 2014. Information from three time points (birth, first neurosurgical consult, and 2 years of age) was collected on each patient. Logistic regression analysis was performed to determine the association between variables known at the time of the first neurosurgical consult and each of the outcome variables.

RESULTS

One hundred thirty patients were selected for analysis. At 2 years of age, 16% of the patients had died, 88% had cerebral palsy/developmental delay (CP), 48% were nonverbal, 55% were nonambulatory, 33% had epilepsy, and 41% had visual impairment. In the logistic regression analysis, IVH grade was an independent predictor of CP (p = 0.004), which had an estimated probability of occurrence of 74% in grade III and 96% in grade IV. Sepsis at or before the time of consult was an independent predictor of visual impairment (p = 0.024), which had an estimated probability of 58%. IVH grade was an independent predictor of epilepsy (p = 0.026), which had an estimated probability of 18% in grade III and 43% in grade IV. The IVH grade was also an independent predictor of verbal function (p = 0.007), which had an estimated probability of 68% in grade III versus 41% in grade IV. A higher weeks gestational age (WGA) at birth was an independent predictor of the ability to ambulate (p = 0.0014), which had an estimated probability of 15% at 22 WGA and up to 98% at 36 WGA. The need for oscillating ventilation at consult was an independent predictor of death before 2 years of age (p = 0.001), which had an estimated probability of 42% in patients needing oscillating ventilation versus 13% in those who did not.

CONCLUSIONS

IVH grade was consistently an independent predictor of functional outcomes at 2 years. Gestational age at birth, sepsis, and the need for oscillating ventilation may also predict worse functional outcomes.

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Kathrin Zimmerman, Bobby May, Katherine Barnes, Anastasia Arynchyna, Elizabeth N. Alford, Gustavo Chagoya, Caroline Arata Wessinger, Laura E. Dreer, Inmaculada Aban, James M. Johnston, Curtis J. Rozzelle, Jeffrey P. Blount and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

Hydrocephalus is a chronic medical condition that has a significant impact on children and their caregivers. The objective of this study was to measure the quality of life (QOL) of children with hydrocephalus, as assessed by both caregivers and patients.

METHODS

Pediatric patients with hydrocephalus and their caregivers were enrolled during routine neurosurgery clinic visits. The Hydrocephalus Outcomes Questionnaire (HOQ), a report of hydrocephalus-related QOL, was administered to both children with hydrocephalus (self-report) and their caregivers (proxy report about the child). Patients with hydrocephalus also completed measures of anxiety, depression, fatigue, traumatic stress, and headache. Caregivers completed a proxy report of child traumatic stress and a measure of caregiver burden. Demographic information was collected from administration of the Psychosocial Assessment Tool (version 2.0) and from the medical record. Child and caregiver HOQ scores were analyzed and correlated with clinical, demographic, and psychological variables.

RESULTS

The mean overall HOQ score (parent assessment of child QOL) was 0.68. HOQ Physical Health, Social-Emotional Health, and Cognitive Health subscore averages were 0.69, 0.73, and 0.54, respectively. The mean overall child self-assessment (cHOQ) score was 0.77, with cHOQ Physical Health, Social-Emotional Health, and Cognitive Health subscore means of 0.84, 0.79, and 0.66, respectively. Thirty-nine dyads were analyzed, in which both a child with hydrocephalus and his or her caregiver completed the cHOQ and HOQ. There was a positive correlation between parent and child scores (p < 0.004 for all subscores). Child scores were consistently higher than parent scores. Variables that showed association with caregiver-assessed QOL in at least one domain included child age, etiology of hydrocephalus, and history of endoscopic third ventriculostomy. There was a significant negative relationship (rho −0.48 to −0.60) between child-reported cHOQ score and child-reported measures of posttraumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. There was a similar significant relationship between caregiver report of child’s QOL (HOQ) and caregiver assessment of the child’s posttraumatic stress symptoms as well as their assessment of burden of care (rho = −0.59 and rho = −0.51, respectively). No relationship between parent-reported HOQ and child-reported psychosocial factors was significant. No clinical or demographic variables were associated with child self-assessed cHOQ.

CONCLUSIONS

Pediatric patients with hydrocephalus consistently rate their own QOL higher than their caregivers do. Psychological factors such as anxiety and posttraumatic stress may be associated with lower QOL. These findings warrant further exploration.

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Kathrin Zimmerman, Bobby May, Katherine Barnes, Anastasia Arynchyna, Elizabeth N. Alford, Caroline Arata Wessinger, Laura Dreer, Inmaculada Aban, James M. Johnston, Curtis J. Rozzelle, Jeffrey P. Blount and Brandon G. Rocque

OBJECTIVE

Childhood hydrocephalus is a common chronic medical condition. However, little is known about the burden of headache and psychological comorbidities in children living with hydrocephalus. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and severity of these conditions among the pediatric hydrocephalus population.

METHODS

During routine neurosurgery clinic visits from July 2017 to February 2018, the authors administered four surveys to children ages 7 years and older: Pediatric Migraine Disability Assessment (PedMIDAS), Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) Anxiety, PROMIS Depression, and PROMIS Fatigue. The PedMIDAS is an assessment of headache disability in pediatric and adolescent patients. The PROMIS measures are pediatric self-reported instruments to assess social and emotional health. PROMIS measures utilize T-scores (mean 50, SD 10) to compare anxiety, depression, and fatigue in specific populations to those in the US general population. Clinical and demographic data were collected from the medical record (hydrocephalus etiology, shunt infection, race, etc.) and tested for associations with survey measure scores.

RESULTS

Forty children completed the PedMIDAS. Ten percent of them were in the severe headache range, 5% were in the moderate range, and 5% were in the mild range. There was a statistically significant association between undergoing a cluster of shunt operations and headache burden (p = 0.003).

Forty children completed all three PROMIS measures. The mean anxiety score was 45.8 (SD 11.7), and 2.5% of children scored in the severe anxiety range, 17.5% in the moderate range, and 20% in the mild range. The mean depression score was 42.7 (SD 10.0), with 2.5% of children scoring in the severe depression range, 5% in the moderate range, and 12.5% in the mild range. The mean fatigue score was 45.1 (SD 16.4), with 15% percent of children scoring in the severe fatigue range, 10% in the moderate range, and 7.5% in the mild range. There were no statistically significant associations between child anxiety, depression, or fatigue and clinical or demographic variables.

CONCLUSIONS

Children with hydrocephalus have an average burden of headache, anxiety, depression, and fatigue as compared to the general population overall. Having a cluster of shunt operations correlates with a higher headache burden, but no clinical or demographic variable is associated with anxiety, depression, or fatigue.