The objective of this study was to explore approaches to intraoperative decision-making in pediatric neurosurgeons when they encounter unexpected events, uncertainties, or complications while operating on children.
Twenty-six pediatric neurosurgeons from 12 countries around the world were interviewed using a semistructured interview guide. The grounded theory method of data collection and analysis was used. Analysis involved line-by-line coding and was inductive, with codes and categories emerging from participants’ narratives.
When asked to discuss the strategies they used to make intraoperative decisions, neurosurgeons reported three distinct approaches that formed a philosophy of practice. This included the theme of professional practice—with the subthemes of preparing for uncertainty, doing no harm, being creative and adaptive, being systematic, and working on teams. The second theme pertained to patient and caregiver practices—with the subthemes of shared decision-making and seeing the whole patient. The third theme involved surgeon practice—with the subthemes of cultivating self-awareness and learning from experience.
Pediatric neurosurgeons have a structured, diverse, and well-thought-out analytical philosophy and practice regarding intraoperative decision-making that encompasses a range of approaches including the following: doing no harm, cultivating self-awareness, and seeing the whole patient; and concrete practices such as preparing in advance for uncertainty, working on teams, and learning from experience. These philosophies and practices can be structured and codified in order to teach residents how to develop intraoperative judgment techniques.