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Mark S. Dias, Michele L. Shaffer, Mark R. Iantosca and Kenneth L. Hill Jr.

Object

The thresholds for shunting CSF in children with asymptomatic hydrocephalus are unclear; there are neither guidelines nor sufficient research to determine what degree of hydrocephalus should be treated. The authors hypothesize that 1) pediatric neurosurgeons currently have high thresholds for recommending treatment for these children, but 2) there is significant variability among these treatment thresholds.

Methods

The authors surveyed attendees of the Joint Pediatric Neurosurgery Section meeting in Spokane, Washington, in December 2008, regarding their treatment thresholds for 22 clinical scenarios. Each participant was provided an illustration of 5 imaging studies (3 slices each) showing progressively larger ventricles. For each scenario, respondents were asked to indicate the minimum ventricular size they would treat, if any. Responses were quantified from 1 to 6 from smaller to larger, with 6 being no treatment, and a mean theoretical treated ventricular size (MTTVS) was calculated for each scenario.

Results

Respondents were relatively conservative in recommending treatment, with MTTVSs of 3.7–6.0; in 13 scenarios, the MTTVS was greater than 5.0 (larger than the largest presented ventricular size). For scenarios in which a mean frontooccipital ratio could be calculated, the value ranged from 0.55 to 0.67 (moderate to severe hydrocephalus). Although there were clear majority responses for each scenario, there was also significant variability. There were no patterns of association with the respondent's age, training, board certification, or type or location of practice.

Conclusions

This study demonstrates that pediatric neurosurgeons' thresholds for treating asymptomatic children with hydrocephalus are generally high, but there is also significant variability.

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Mark S. Dias, Jeffrey S. Sussman, Susan Durham and Mark R. Iantosca

Object

Research suggests that there may be a growing disparity between the supply of and demand for both pediatric specialists and neurosurgeons. Whether pediatric neurosurgeons are facing such a disparity is disputable, but interest in pediatric neurosurgery (PNS) has waxed and waned as evidenced by the number of applicants for PNS fellowships. The authors undertook a survey to analyze current neurosurgical residents' perceptions of both benefits and deterrents to a pediatric neurosurgical career.

Methods

All residents and PNS fellows in the United States and Canada during the academic year 2008–2009 were invited to complete a Web-based survey that assessed 1) demographic and educational information about residents and their residency training, particularly as it related to training in PNS; 2) residents' exposure to mentoring opportunities from pediatric neurosurgical faculty and their plans for the future; and 3) residents' perceptions about how likely 40 various factors were to influence their decision about whether to pursue a PNS career.

Results

Four hundred ninety-six responses were obtained: 89% of the respondents were male, 63% were married, 75% were in at least their 3rd year of postgraduate training, 61% trained in a children's hospital and 29% in a children's “hospital within a hospital,” and 72% were in programs having one or more dedicated PNS faculty members. The residencies of 56% of respondents offered 6–11 months of PNS training and nearly three-quarters of respondents had completed 2 months of PNS training. During medical school, 92% had been exposed to neurosurgery and 45% to PNS during a clinical rotation, but only 7% identified a PNS mentor. Nearly half (43%) are considering a PNS career, and of these, 61% are definitely or probably considering post-residency fellowship. On the other hand, 68% would prefer an enfolded fellowship during residency. Perceived strengths of PNS included working with children, developing lasting relationships, wider variety of operations, fast healing and lack of comorbidities, and altruism. Perceived significant deterrents included shunts, lower reimbursement, cross-coverage issues, higher malpractice premiums and greater legal exposure, and working with parents and pediatric health professionals. The intrinsic nature of PNS was listed as the most significant deterrent (46%) followed by financial concerns (25%), additional training (12%), longer work hours (12%), and medicolegal issues (4%). The majority felt that fellowship training and PNS certification should be recommended for surgeons treating of all but traumatic brain injuries and Chiari I malformations and performing simple shunt-related procedures, although they felt that these credentials should be required only for treating complex craniosynostosis.

Conclusions

The nature of PNS is the most significant barrier to attracting residents, although reimbursement, cross-coverage, and legal issues are also important to residents. The authors provide several recommendations that might enhance resident perceptions of PNS and attract trainees to the specialty.

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Megha Madhukar, Vinod G. Maller, Arabinda K. Choudhary, Mark R. Iantosca, Charles S. Specht and Mark S. Dias

Primary intramedullary spinal cord germinoma (PISCG) is an exceedingly rare diagnosis, with fewer than 30 cases reported in the literature. It is even less common in the pediatric population. Usually, initial imaging at patient presentation reveals a mass. The authors describe the unique case of a child whose initial imaging showed only focal spinal cord atrophy, which was the earliest sign of a slowly growing intramedullary lesion that was eventually proven via biopsy to represent a PISCG. The authors outline this child's diagnostically challenging presentation, review the events leading up to a diagnosis, briefly discuss PISCG, and summarize their recommendations for other physicians who may encounter a similar case. They assert that PISCG should be considered as a rare entity in the differential diagnosis of progressive spinal cord dysfunction even in the absence of an MRI abnormality of an intrinsic spinal cord mass, especially if there is unexplained focal atrophy of the cord.