Pediatricians play a vital role in the diagnosis and initial treatment of children with pediatric neurosurgical disease. Exposure of pediatrics residents to neurosurgical diseases during training is inconsistent and is usually quite limited. After residency, opportunities for pediatricians' education on neurosurgical topics are few and fall mainly on pediatric neurosurgeons. The American Association of Neurological Surgery/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Joint Section on Pediatric Neurological Surgery Committee on Education undertook a survey of practicing pediatric neurosurgeons to determine whether focused education of practicing pediatricians might lead to better patient outcomes for children with a sampling of common pediatric neurosurgical conditions.
An Internet-based 40-item survey was administered to practicing pediatric neurosurgeons from the US and Canada identified from the roster of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons/Congress of Neurological Surgeons Joint Section of Pediatric Neurological Surgery. Survey topics included craniosynostosis and plagiocephaly, occult spinal dysraphism and tethered cord, hydrocephalus and endoscopic third ventriculostomy, Chiari malformation Type I, mild or minor head injury, spastic cerebral palsy, and brain tumors. Most questions pertained to diagnosis, initial medical treatment, and referral.
One hundred three (38%) of the 273 practicing pediatric neurosurgeons completed the survey. Two-thirds of the respondents had completed a pediatric neurosurgery fellowship, and two-thirds were in academic practice. Eighty-two percent of the respondents agreed that the care of pediatric neurosurgical patients could be improved with further education of pediatricians. In the opinion of the respondents, the 3 disease topics in greatest need of educational effort were craniosynostosis and plagiocephaly, occult spinal dysraphism and tethered cord, and hydrocephalus. Head injury and spasticity were given the lowest priorities.
This survey identified what practicing pediatric neurosurgeons perceive to be the most important knowledge deficits of their colleagues in pediatrics. These perceptions may not necessarily be congruent with the perceptions of practicing pediatricians themselves; nevertheless, the data from this survey may serve to inform conversations between neurosurgeons and planners of continuing medical education for pediatricians, pediatrics residency program directors, and medical school pediatrics faculty.