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Jonathan Awori, Jennifer Strahle, Humphrey Okechi, and Matthew C. Davis

OBJECTIVE

Pediatric neurosurgery can be highly cost-effective even in the developing world, but delivery of these services is hampered by resource limitations at the levels of both health care infrastructure and individual patients. Few studies have evaluated costs borne by neurosurgical patients in the developing world and their potential implications for efficient and effective delivery of care in this population.

METHODS

The families of 40 pediatric neurosurgery patients were surveyed in February 2015 at the AIC Kijabe Hospital in Kijabe, Kenya. Costs associated with obtaining inpatient care were assessed.

RESULTS

Patient families were charged an average of US $539.44 for neurosurgical services, representing 132% of their annual income. Indirect expenses (transport, food and lodging, lost wages) constituted US $79.37, representing 14.7% of the overall cost and 19.5% of their annual income.

CONCLUSIONS

Expansion of pediatric neurosurgical services throughout the developing world necessitates increased attention to seemingly insignificant expenses that are absorbed by patients and their families. Even when all direct costs are covered at the institutional or national level, without additional assistance, some patients may be too poor to obtain even “free” neurosurgical care.

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Elizabeth N. Kuhn, Matthew C. Davis, Bonita S. Agee, Robert A. Oster, and James M. Markert

OBJECT

Handoffs and services changes are potentially modifiable sources of medical error and delays in transition of care. This cohort study assessed the relationship between resident service handoffs and length of stay for neurosurgical patients.

METHODS

All patients admitted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham neurosurgical service between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2014, were retrospectively identified. A service handoff was defined as any point when a resident handed off coverage of a service for longer than 1 weekend. A conditional probability distribution was constructed to adjust length of stay for the increasing probability of a random handoff. The Student t-test and ANCOVA were used to assess relationships between resident service handoffs and length of hospital stay, adjusted for potential confounders.

RESULTS

A total of 3038 patients met eligibility criteria and were included in the statistical analyses. Adjusted length of hospital stay (5.32 vs 3.53 adjusted days) and length of ICU stay (4.38 vs 2.96 adjusted days) were both longer for patients who experienced a service handoff, with no difference in mortality. In the ANCOVA model, resident service handoff remained predictive of both length of hospital stay (p < 0.001) and length of ICU stay (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Occurrence of a resident service handoff is an independent predictor of length of hospital and ICU stay in neurosurgical patients. This finding is novel in the neurosurgical literature. Future research might identify mechanisms for improving continuity of care and mitigating the effect of resident handoffs on patient outcomes.

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Matthew C. Davis, Elizabeth N. Kuhn, Bonita S. Agee, Robert A. Oster, and James M. Markert

OBJECTIVE

Many neurosurgical training programs have moved from a 24-hour resident call system to a night float system, but the impact on outcomes is unclear. Here, the authors compare length of stay (LOS) for neurosurgical patients admitted before and after initiation of a night float system at a tertiary care training hospital.

METHODS

The neurosurgical residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham transitioned from 24-hour call to a night float resident coverage system in July 2013. In this cohort study, all patients admitted to the neurosurgical service for 1 year before and 1 year after this transition were compared with respect to hospital and ICU LOSs, adjusted for potential confounders.

RESULTS

A total of 4619 patients were included. In the initial bivariate analysis, night float was associated with increased ICU LOS (p = 0.032) and no change in overall LOS (p = 0.65). However, coincident with the transition to a night float system was an increased frequency of resident service transitions, which were highly associated with hospital LOS (p < 0.01) and ICU LOS (p < 0.01). After adjusting for resident service transitions, initiation of the night float system was associated with decreased hospital LOS (p = 0.047) and no change in ICU LOS (p = 0.35).

CONCLUSIONS

This study suggests that a dedicated night float resident may improve night-to-night continuity of care and decrease hospital LOS, but caution must be exercised when initiation of night float results in increased resident service transitions.

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Esther B. Dupépé, Matthew Davis, Galal A. Elsayed, Bonita Agee, Keneshia Kirksey, Amber Gordon, and Patrick R. Pritchard

OBJECTIVE

The aim of this study was to determine the inter-rater reliability of the modified Medical Research Council (MRC) scale for grading motor function in patients with chronic incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI).

METHODS

Two neurosurgical residents and 2 faculty members performed motor examinations in 6 chronic incomplete SCI patients for a total of 156 muscle groups. Examinations were performed using the modified MRC grading scale during routine clinic visits for each patient. Informed consent was obtained prior to enrollment. Patients with American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) Impairment Scale grade A (ASIA A) injuries were excluded. Inter-rater reliability coefficients were calculated using Kendall’s coefficient of concordance (W) and intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs).

RESULTS

Sixty-four percent of the tested variables demonstrated extremely strong (W 0.71–0.9) or strong (0.51–0.7) inter-rater reliability using Kendall’s coefficient of concordance and an ICC corresponding to excellent (ICC > 0.75) or fair to good (ICC 0.4–0.75) inter-rater reliability. An additional 7% showed poor inter-rater reliability (ICC < 0.4). The remaining variables tested did not reach statistical significance.

CONCLUSIONS

The inter-rater reliability of the modified MRC scale was found to be high in the majority of tested variables, but the results suggest that discrepancy among trained observers does exist. Reliability was greatest in the lower-extremity muscle groups and least in the upper-extremity muscle groups in patients with chronic incomplete SCI.

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Matthew C. Davis, Brandon G. Rocque, Ash Singhal, Thomas Ridder, Jogi V. Pattisapu, and James M. Johnston Jr.

OBJECTIVE

Neurosurgical services are increasingly recognized as essential components of surgical care worldwide. The degree of interest among neurosurgeons regarding international work, and the barriers to involvement in global neurosurgical outreach, are largely unexplored. The authors distributed a survey to members of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons (AANS/CNS) Joint Section on Pediatric Neurosurgery to assess the state of global outreach among its members and to identify barriers to involvement.

METHODS

An internet-based questionnaire was developed by the International Education Subcommittee of the AANS/CNS Joint Section on Pediatric Neurosurgery and distributed to pediatric neurosurgeons via the AANS/CNS Joint Section email contact list. Participants were surveyed on their involvement in global neurosurgical outreach, geographic location, nature of the participation, and barriers to further involvement.

RESULTS

A 35.3% response rate was obtained, with 116 respondents completing the survey. Sixty-one percent have performed or taught neurosurgery in a developing country, and 49% travel at least annually. Africa was the most common region (54%), followed by South America (30%), through 29 separate organizing entities. Hydrocephalus was the most commonly treated condition (88%), followed by spinal dysraphism (74%), and tumor (68%). Most respondents obtained follow-up through communications from local surgeons (77%). Seventy-one percent believed the international experience improved their practice, and 74% were very or extremely interested in working elsewhere. Interference with current practice (61%), cost (44%), and difficulty identifying international partners (43%) were the most commonly cited barriers to participation.

CONCLUSIONS

Any coordinated effort to expand global neurosurgical capacity begins with appreciation for the current state of outreach efforts. Increasing participation in global outreach will require addressing both real and perceived barriers to involvement. Creation and curation of a centralized online database of ongoing projects to facilitate coordination and involvement may be beneficial.

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Davis G. Taylor, Thomas J. Buell, Tony R. Wang, Matthew J. Shepard, Dominic Maggio, Ching-Jen Chen, Min S. Park, and Mark E. Shaffrey

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Jacob R. Lepard, S. Hassan A. Akbari, Faizal Haji, Matthew C. Davis, William Harkness, and James M. Johnston

OBJECTIVE

Despite general enthusiasm for international collaboration within the organized neurosurgical community, establishing international partnerships remains challenging. The current study analyzes the initial experience of the InterSurgeon website in partnering surgeons from across the world to increase surgical collaboration.

METHODS

One year after the launch of the InterSurgeon website, data were collected to quantify the number of website visits, average session duration, total numbers of matches, and number of offers and requests added to the website each month. Additionally, a 15-question survey was designed and distributed to all registered members of the website.

RESULTS

There are currently 321 surgeon and institutional members of InterSurgeon representing 69 different countries and all global regions. At the time of the survey there were 277 members, of whom 76 responded to the survey, yielding a response rate of 27.4% (76/277). Twenty-five participants (32.9%) confirmed having either received a match email (12/76, 15.8%) or initiated contact with another user via the website (13/76, 17.1%). As expected, the majority of the collaborations were either between a high-income country (HIC) and a low-income country (LIC) (5/18, 27.8%) or between an HIC and a middle-income country (MIC) (9/18, 50%). Interestingly, there were 2 MIC-to-MIC collaborations (2/18, 11.1%) as well as 1 MIC-to-LIC (1/18, 5.6%) and 1 LIC-to-LIC partnership. At the time of response, 6 (33.3%) of the matches had at least resulted in initial contact via email or telephone. One of the partnerships had involved face-to-face interaction via video conference. A total of 4 respondents had traveled internationally to visit their partner’s institution.

CONCLUSIONS

Within its first year of launch, the InterSurgeon membership has grown significantly. The partnerships that have already been formed involve not only international visits between HICs and low- to middle-income countries (LMICs), but also telecollaboration and inter-LMIC connections that allow for greater exchange of knowledge and expertise. As membership and site features grow to include other surgical and anesthesia specialties, membership growth and utilization is expected to increase rapidly over time according to social network dynamics.

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Jacob R. Lepard, Esther Dupépé, Matthew Davis, Jennifer DeWolfe, Bonita Agee, J. Nicole Bentley, and Kristen Riley

OBJECTIVE

Invasive monitoring has long been utilized in the evaluation of patients for epilepsy surgery, providing localizing information to guide resection. Stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG) was introduced at the authors’ level 4 epilepsy surgery program in 2013, with responsive neurostimulation (RNS) becoming available the following year. The authors sought to characterize patient demographics and epilepsy-related variables before and after SEEG introduction to understand whether differences emerged in their patient population. This information will be useful in understanding how SEEG, possibly in conjunction with RNS availability, may have changed practice patterns over time.

METHODS

This is a retrospective cohort study of consecutive patients who underwent surgery for epilepsy from 2006 to 2018, comprising 7 years before and 5 years after the introduction of SEEG. The authors performed univariate analyses of patient characteristics and outcomes and used generalized estimating equations logistic regression for predictive analysis.

RESULTS

A total of 178 patients were analyzed, with 109 patients in the pre-SEEG cohort and 69 patients in the post-SEEG cohort. In the post-SEEG cohort, more patients underwent invasive monitoring for suspected bilateral seizure onsets (40.6% vs 22.0%, p = 0.01) and extratemporal seizure onsets (68.1% vs 8.3%, p < 0.0001). The post-SEEG cohort had a higher proportion of patients with seizures arising from eloquent cortex (14.5% vs 0.9%, p < 0.001). Twelve patients underwent RNS insertion in the post-SEEG group versus none in the pre-SEEG group. Fewer patients underwent resection in the post-SEEG group (55.1% vs 96.3%, p < 0.0001), but there was no significant difference in rates of seizure freedom between cohorts for those patients having undergone a follow-up resection (53.1% vs 59.8%, p = 0.44).

CONCLUSIONS

These findings demonstrate that more patients with suspected bilateral, eloquent, or extratemporal epilepsy underwent invasive monitoring after adoption of SEEG. This shift occurred coincident with the adoption of RNS, both of which likely contributed to increased patient complexity. The authors conclude that their practice now considers invasive monitoring for patients who likely would not previously have been candidates for surgical investigation and subsequent intervention.

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Owoicho Adogwa, Scott L. Parker, Brandon J. Davis, Oran Aaronson, Clinton Devin, Joseph S. Cheng, and Matthew J. McGirt

Object

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) for spondylolisthesis-associated back and leg pain is associated with improvement in pain, disability, and quality of life. However, given the rising health care costs associated with spinal fusion procedures and varying results of recent cost-utility studies, the cost-effectiveness of TLIF remains unclear. The authors set out to assess the comprehensive costs of TLIF at their institution and to determine its cost-effectiveness in the treatment of degenerative spondylolisthesis.

Methods

Forty-five patients undergoing TLIF for Grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis–associated back and leg pain after 6–12 months of conservative therapy were included. The authors assessed the 2-year back pain visual analog scale (VAS) score, leg pain VAS score, Oswestry Disability Index, and total back-related medical resource utilization, missed work, and health-state values (quality-adjusted life years [QALYs], calculated from EQ-5D with US valuation). Two-year resource use was multiplied by unit costs based on Medicare national allowable payment amounts (direct cost), and patient and caregiver workday losses were multiplied by the self-reported gross-of-tax wage rate (indirect cost). The mean total 2-year cost per QALY gained after TLIF was assessed.

Results

Compared with preoperative health states reported after at least 6 months of medical management, a significant improvement in back pain VAS score, leg pain VAS score, and Oswestry Disability Index was observed 2 years after TLIF, with a mean 2-year gain of 0.86 QALYs. The mean ± SD total 2-year cost of TLIF was $36,836 ± $11,800 (surgery cost, $21,311 ± $2800; outpatient resource utilization cost, $3940 ± $2720; indirect cost, $11,584 ± $11,363). Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion was associated with a mean 2-year cost per QALY gained of $42,854.

Conclusions

Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion improved pain, disability, and quality of life in patients with degenerative spondylolisthesis–associated back and leg pain. The total cost per QALY gained for TLIF was $42,854 when evaluated 2 years after surgery with Medicare fees, suggesting that TLIF is a cost-effective treatment of lumbar spondylolisthesis.

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Elizabeth N. Alford, Lauren E. Rotman, Matthew S. Erwood, Robert A. Oster, Matthew C. Davis, H. Bruce C. Pittman, H. Evan Zeiger, and Winfield S. Fisher III

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to describe the development of a novel prognostic score, the Subdural Hematoma in the Elderly (SHE) score. The SHE score is intended to predict 30-day mortality in elderly patients (those > 65 years of age) with an acute, chronic, or mixed-density subdural hematoma (SDH) after minor, or no, prior trauma.

METHODS

The authors used the Prognosis Research Strategy group methods to develop the clinical prediction model. The training data set included patients with acute, chronic, and mixed-density SDH. Based on multivariate analyses from a large data set, in addition to review of the extant literature, 3 components to the score were selected: age, admission Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, and SDH volume. Patients are given 1 point if they are over 80 years old, 1 point for an admission GCS score of 5–12, 2 points for an admission GCS score of 3–4, and 1 point for SDH volume > 50 ml. The sum of points across all categories determines the SHE score.

RESULTS

The 30-day mortality rate steadily increased as the SHE score increased for all SDH acuities. For patients with an acute SDH, the 30-day mortality rate was 3.2% for SHE score of 0, and the rate increased to 13.1%, 32.7%, 95.7%, and 100% for SHE scores of 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. The model was most accurate for acute SDH (area under the curve [AUC] = 0.94), although it still performed well for chronic (AUC = 0.80) and mixed-density (AUC = 0.87) SDH.

CONCLUSIONS

The SHE score is a simple clinical grading scale that accurately stratifies patients’ risk of mortality based on age, admission GCS score, and SDH volume. Use of the SHE score could improve counseling of patients and their families, allow for standardization of clinical treatment protocols, and facilitate clinical research studies in SDH.