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Gabriel A. Smith, Phillip Dagostino, Mitchell G. Maltenfort, Aaron S. Dumont, and John K. Ratliff

Object

Considerable evolution has occurred in treatment options for cerebral aneurysms. Development of endovascular techniques has produced a significant change in the treatment of ruptured and unruptured intracranial aneurysms. Adoption of endovascular techniques and increasing numbers of patients undergoing endovascular treatment may affect health care expenditures. Geographic assessment of growth in endovascular procedures has not been assessed.

Methods

The National Inpatient Sample (NIS) was queried for ICD-9 codes for clipping and coiling of ruptured and unruptured cerebral aneurysms from 2002 to 2008. Patients with ruptured and unruptured cerebral aneurysms were compared according to in-hospital deaths, hospital length of stay, total hospital cost, and selected procedure. Hospital costs were adjusted to bring all costs to 2008 equivalents. Regional variation over the course of the study was explored.

Results

The NIS recorded 12,588 ruptured cerebral aneurysm cases (7318 clipped and 5270 coiled aneurysms) compared with 11,606 unruptured aneurysm cases (5216 clipped and 6390 coiled aneurysms), representing approximately 121,000 aneurysms treated in the study period. Linear regression analysis found that the number of patients treated endovascularly increased over time, with the total number of endovascular patients increasing from 17.28% to 57.59% for ruptured aneurysms and from 29.70% to 62.73% for unruptured aneurysms (p < 0.00001). Patient age, elective status, and comorbidities increased the likelihood of endovascular treatment (p < 0.00001, p < 0.00004, and p < 0.02, respectively). In patients presenting with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), endovascular treatments were more commonly chosen in urban and academic medical centers (p = 0.009 and p = 0.05, respectively). In-hospital deaths decreased over the study period in patients with both ruptured and unruptured aneurysms (p < 0.00001); presentation with SAH remained the single greatest predictor of death (OR 38.09, p < 0.00001). Geographic analysis showed growth in endovascular techniques concentrated in eastern and western coastal states, with substantial variation in adoption of endovascular techniques (range of percentage of endovascular patients [2008] 0%–92%). There were higher costs in patients treated endovascularly, but these differences were likely secondary to presenting diagnosis and site-of-service variations.

Conclusions

The NIS database reveals a significant increase in the use of endovascular techniques, with the majority of both ruptured and unruptured aneurysms treated endovascularly by 2008. Differences in hospital costs between open and endovascular techniques are likely secondary to patient and site-of-service factors. Presentation with SAH was the primary factor affecting hospital cost and a greater percentage of endovascular procedures completed at urban academic medical centers. There is substantial regional variation in the adoption of endovascular techniques.

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John K. Ratliff, Bryan Lebude, Todd Albert, Tony Anene-Maidoh, Greg Anderson, Phillip Dagostino, Mitchel Maltenfort, Alan Hilibrand, Ashwini Sharan, and Alexander R. Vaccaro

Object

Definitions of complications in spinal surgery are not clear. Therefore, the authors assessed a group of practicing spine surgeons and, through the surgeons' responses to an online and emailed survey, developed a simple definition of operative complications due to spinal surgery. To validate this assessment, the authors revised their survey to make it appropriate for a lay audience and repeated the assessment with a cohort of patients who underwent spine surgery.

Methods

The authors surveyed a cohort of practicing spine surgeons via email and a web-based survey. Surgeons were presented with various complication scenarios and were asked to grade the presence or absence of a complication as well as complication severity, with responses limited to “major complication” and “minor complication/adverse event.” The authors administered a similar assessment, modified for lay persons, to patients in a spinal surgery clinic.

Results

Complete responses were obtained from 229 surgeons; orthopedic surgeons comprised the majority of respondents (73%). The authors obtained completed surveys from 197 patients. Overall, there was consistent agreement between physicians and patients regarding the presence or absence of a complication in the majority of scenarios (8 [73%] of 11 scenarios with agreement that a complication was present). The overall kappa value, evaluating major versus minor complication, and presence or absence of a complication over the entire cohort, was fair (κ = 0.21). The authors found greater variation between the cohorts when evaluating complication severity. Patients were consistently more critical than physicians in the majority of scenarios in which a difference was evident. In 4 scenarios, patients were more likely than surgeons to deem the scenario a complication and to grade the complication as major versus minor (p < 0.01). In 3 additional scenarios, patients were more likely than physicians to grade a major complication as opposed to minor complication (p < 0.01). In only 1 scenario were patients less likely than physicians to report a complication (p < 0.001).

Conclusions

Comparing responses of spine surgeons and patients who underwent spinal surgery in assessing a group of common postoperative events, the authors found significant agreement on perception of presence of a complication in the majority of scenarios reviewed. However, patients were consistently more critical than surgeons when differences in reporting were found. The authors' data underscore the importance of reconciling differing opinions regarding complications through open discussions between physicians and patients to ensure accurate patient expectations of planned medical or surgical interventions.