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Faith C. Robertson, Laura Lippa, and Marike L. D. Broekman

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Marike L. D. Broekman, Janneke van Beijnum, Wilco C. Peul, and Luca Regli

Many neurosurgeons remove their patients' hair before surgery. They claim that this practice reduces the chance of postoperative surgical site infections, and facilitates planning, attachment of the drapes, and closure. However, most patients dread this procedure. The authors performed the first systematic review on shaving before neurosurgical procedures to investigate whether this commonly performed procedure is based on evidence. They systematically reviewed the literature on wound infections following different shaving strategies. Data on the type of surgery, surgeryrelated infections, preoperative shaving policy, decontamination protocols, and perioperative antibiotics protocols were collected. The search detected 165 articles, of which 21 studies—involving 11,071 patients—were suitable for inclusion. Two of these studies were randomized controlled trials. The authors reviewed 13 studies that reported on the role of preoperative hair removal in craniotomies, 14 on implantation surgery, 5 on bur hole procedures, and 3 on spine surgery. Nine studies described shaving policies in pediatric patients. None of these papers provided evidence that preoperative shaving decreases the occurrence of postoperative wound infections. The authors conclude that there is no evidence to support the routine performance of preoperative hair removal in neurosurgery. Therefore, properly designed studies are needed to provide evidence for preoperative shaving recommendations.

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David McKalip

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Ken R. Winston

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Enrico Martin, Joeky T. Senders, Aislyn C. DiRisio, Timothy R. Smith, and Marike L. D. Broekman

OBJECTIVE

Ideal timeframes for operating on traumatic stretch and blunt brachial plexus injuries remain a topic of debate. Whereas on the one hand spontaneous recovery might occur, on the other hand, long delays are believed to result in poorer functional outcomes. The goal of this review is to assess the optimal timeframe for surgical intervention for traumatic brachial plexus injuries.

METHODS

A systematic search was performed in January 2017 in PubMed and Embase databases according to the PRISMA guidelines. Search terms related to “brachial plexus injury” and “timing” were used. Obstetric plexus palsies were excluded. Qualitative synthesis was performed on all studies. Timing of operation and motor outcome were collected from individual patient data. Patients were categorized into 5 delay groups (0–3, 3–6, 6–9, 9–12, and > 12 months). Median delays were calculated for Medical Research Council (MRC) muscle grade ≥ 3 and ≥ 4 recoveries.

RESULTS

Forty-three studies were included after full-text screening. Most articles showed significantly better motor outcome with delays to surgery less than 6 months, with some studies specifying even shorter delays. Pain and quality of life scores were also significantly better with shorter delays. Nerve reconstructions performed after long time intervals, even more than 12 months, can still be useful. All papers reporting individual-level patient data described a combined total of 569 patients; 65.5% of all patients underwent operations within 6 months and 27.4% within 3 months. The highest percentage of ≥ MRC grade 3 (89.7%) was observed in the group operated on within 3 months. These percentages decreased with longer delays, with only 35.7% ≥ MRC grade 3 with delays > 12 months. A median delay of 4 months (IQR 3–6 months) was observed for a recovery of ≥ MRC grade 3, compared with a median delay of 7 months (IQR 5–11 months) for ≤ MRC grade 3 recovery.

CONCLUSIONS

The results of this systematic review show that in stretch and blunt injury of the brachial plexus, the optimal time to surgery is shorter than 6 months. In general, a 3-month delay appears to be appropriate because while recovery is better in those operated on earlier, this must be considered given the potential for spontaneous recovery.

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Brittany M. Stopa, Joeky T. Senders, Marike L. D. Broekman, Mark Vangel, and Alexandra J. Golby

OBJECTIVE

Functional MRI (fMRI) is increasingly being investigated for use in neurosurgical patient care. In the current study, the authors characterize the clinical use of fMRI by surveying neurosurgeons’ use of and attitudes toward fMRI as a surgical planning tool in neurooncology patients.

METHODS

A survey was developed to inquire about clinicians’ use of and experiences with preoperative fMRI in the neurooncology patient population, including example case images. The survey was distributed to all neurosurgical departments with a residency program in the US.

RESULTS

After excluding incomplete surveys and responders that do not use fMRI (n = 11), 50 complete responses were included in the final analysis. Responders were predominantly from academic programs (88%), with 20 years or more in practice (40%), with a main area of practice in neurooncology (48%) and treating an adult population (90%). All 50 responders currently use fMRI in neurooncology patients, mostly for low- (94%) and high-grade glioma (82%). The leading decision factors for ordering fMRI were location of mass in dominant hemisphere, location in a functional area, motor symptoms, and aphasia. Across 10 cases, language fMRI yielded the highest interrater reliability agreement (Fleiss’ kappa 0.437). The most common reasons for ordering fMRI were to identify language laterality, plan extent of resection, and discuss neurological risks with patients. Clinicians reported that fMRI results were not obtained when ordered a median 10% of the time and were suboptimal a median 27% of the time. Of responders, 70% reported that they had ever resected an fMRI-positive functional site, of whom 77% did so because the site was “cleared” by cortical stimulation. Responders reported disagreement between fMRI and awake surgery 30% of the time. Overall, 98% of responders reported that if results of fMRI and intraoperative mapping disagreed, they would rely on intraoperative mapping.

CONCLUSIONS

Although fMRI is increasingly being adopted as a practical preoperative planning tool for brain tumor resection, there remains a substantial degree of discrepancy with regard to its current use and presumed utility. There is a need for further research to evaluate the use of preoperative fMRI in neurooncology patients. As fMRI continues to gain prominence, it will be important for clinicians to collectively share best practices and develop guidelines for the use of fMRI in the preoperative planning phase of brain tumor patients.

Free access

Wouter J. Dronkers, Quirine J. M. A. Amelink, Dennis R. Buis, Marike L. D. Broekman, and Jochem K. H. Spoor

OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgery is historically seen as a high-risk medical specialty, with a large percentage of neurosurgeons facing complaints during their careers. The Dutch medicolegal system is characterized by a strong emphasis on informal mediation, which can be accompanied or followed by disciplinary actions. To determine if this system is associated with a low overall risk for medical litigation through disciplinary law, the authors conducted a review of disciplinary cases involving neurosurgeons in the Netherlands.

METHODS

The authors reviewed legal cases that had been filed against consultant neurosurgeons and neurosurgical residents under the Dutch disciplinary law for medical professions between 2009 and 2019.

RESULTS

A total of 1322 neurosurgical care–related cases from 2009 to 2019 were reviewed. Fifty-seven (4.3%) cases were filed against neurosurgeons (40 first-instance cases, 17 appeal cases). In total, 123 complaints were filed in the 40 first-instance cases. Most of these cases were related to spine surgery (62.5%), followed by cranial surgery (27.5%), peripheral nerve surgery (7.5%), and pediatric neurosurgery (2.5%). Complaints were filed in all stages of care but were mostly related to preoperative and intraoperative care.

CONCLUSIONS

The risk for medically related litigation in neurosurgery in the Netherlands through disciplinary law is low but not negligible. Although the absolute number of cases is low, spinal neurosurgery was found to be a risk factor for complaints. The relatively high number of cases that involved the sharing of information suggests that specific improvements—focusing on communication—can be made in order to lower the risk for future litigation.

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Ishaan Ashwini Tewarie, Alexander F. C. Hulsbergen, Victor Volovici, and Marike L. D. Broekman

Neurosurgical guidelines are fundamental for evidence-based practice and have considerably increased both in number and content over the last decades. Yet, guidelines in neurosurgery are not without limitations, as they are overwhelmingly based on low-level evidence. Such recommendations have in the past been occasionally overturned by well-designed randomized controlled trials (RCTs), demonstrating the volatility of poorly underpinned evidence. Furthermore, even RCTs in surgery come with several limitations; most notably, interventions are often insufficiently standardized and assume a homogeneous patient population, which is not always applicable to neurosurgery. Lastly, guidelines are often outdated by the time they are published and smaller fields such as neurosurgery may lack a sufficient workforce to provide regular updates. These limitations raise the question of whether it is ethical to use low-level evidence for guideline recommendations, and if so, how strictly guidelines should be adhered to from an ethical and legal perspective. This article aims to offer a critical approach to the ethical and legal status of guidelines in neurosurgery. To this aim, the authors discuss: 1) the current state of neurosurgical guidelines and the evidence they are based on; 2) the degree of implementation of these guidelines; 3) the legal status of guidelines in medical disciplinary cases; and 4) the ethical balance between confident and critical use of guidelines. Ultimately, guidelines are neither laws that should always be followed nor purely academic efforts with little practical use. Every patient is unique, and tailored treatment defined by the surgeon will ensure optimal care; guidelines play an important role in creating a solid base that can be adhered to or deviated from, depending on the situation. From a research perspective, it is inevitable to rely on weaker evidence initially in order to generate more robust evidence later, and clinician-researchers have an ethical duty to contribute to generating and improving neurosurgical guidelines.