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Caroline Hadley, Sandi K. Lam, Valentina Briceño, Thomas G. Luerssen, and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

Currently there is no standardized tool for assessment of neurosurgical resident performance in the operating room. In light of enhanced requirements issued by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education’s Milestone Project and the Matrix Curriculum Project from the Society of Neurological Surgeons, the implementation of such a tool seems essential for objective evaluation of resident competence. Beyond compliance with governing body guidelines, objective assessment tools may be useful to direct early intervention for trainees performing below the level of their peers so that they may be given more hands-on teaching, while strong residents can be encouraged by faculty members to progress to conducting operations more independently with passive supervision. The aims of this study were to implement a validated assessment tool for evaluation of operative skills in pediatric neurosurgery and determine its feasibility and reliability.

METHODS

All neurosurgery residents completing their pediatric rotation over a 6-month period from January 1, 2014, to June 30, 2014, at the authors’ institution were enrolled in this study. For each procedure, residents were evaluated by means of a form, with one copy being completed by the resident and a separate copy being completed by the attending surgeon. The evaluation form was based on the validated Objective Structured Assessment of Technical Skills for Surgery (OSATS) and used a 5-point Likert-type scale with 7 categories: respect for tissue; time and motion; instrument handling; knowledge of instruments; flow of operation; use of assistants; and knowledge of specific procedure. Data were then stratified by faculty versus resident (self-) assessment; postgraduate year level; and difficulty of procedure. Descriptive statistics (means and SDs) were calculated, and the results were compared using the Wilcoxon signed-rank test and Student t-test. A p value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.

RESULTS

Six faculty members, 1 fellow, and 8 residents completed evaluations for 299 procedures, including 32 ventriculoperitoneal (VP) shunt revisions, 23 VP shunt placements, 19 endoscopic third ventriculostomies, and 18 craniotomies for tumor resection. There was no significant difference between faculty and resident self-assessment scores overall or in any of the 7 domains scores for each of the involved residents. On self-assessment, senior residents scored themselves significantly higher (p < 0.02) than junior residents overall and in all domains except for “time and motion.” Faculty members scored senior residents significantly higher than junior residents only for the “knowledge of instruments” domain (p = 0.05). When procedure difficulty was considered, senior residents’ scores from faculty members were significantly higher (p = 0.04) than the scores given to junior residents for expert procedures only. Senior residents’ self-evaluation scores were significantly higher than those of junior residents for both expert (p = 0.03) and novice (p = 0.006) procedures.

CONCLUSIONS

OSATS is a feasible and reliable assessment tool for the comprehensive evaluation of neurosurgery resident performance in the operating room. The authors plan to use this tool to assess resident operative skill development and to improve direct resident feedback.

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Daniel Hansen, Aditya Vedantam, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen, and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The emphasis on health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes is increasing, along with an emphasis on evidence-based medicine. However, there is a notable paucity of validated HRQOL instruments for the pediatric population. Furthermore, no standardization or consensus currently exists concerning which HRQOL outcome measures ought to be used in pediatric neurosurgery. The authors wished to identify HRQOL outcomes used in pediatric neurosurgery research over the past 10 years, their frequency, and usage trends.

METHODS

Three top pediatric neurosurgical journals were reviewed for the decade from 2005 to 2014 for clinical studies of pediatric neurosurgical procedures that report HRQOL outcomes. Similar studies in the peer-reviewed journal Pediatrics were also used as a benchmark. Publication year, level of evidence, and HRQOL outcomes were collected for each article.

RESULTS

A total of 31 HRQOL studies were published in the pediatric neurosurgical literature over the study period. By comparison, there were 55 such articles in Pediatrics. The number of publications using HRQOL instruments showed a significant positive trend over time for Pediatrics (B = 0.62, p = 0.02) but did not increase significantly over time for the 3 neurosurgical journals (B = 0.12, p = 0.5). The authors identified a total of 46 different HRQOL instruments used across all journals. Within the neurosurgical journals, the Hydrocephalus Outcome Questionnaire (HOQ) (24%) was the most frequently used, followed by the Health Utilities Index (HUI) (16%), the Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL) (12%), and the 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) (12%). Of the 55 articles identified in Pediatrics, 22 (40%) used a version of the PedsQL. No neurosurgical study reached above Level 4 on the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (OCEBM) system. However, multiple studies from Pediatrics achieved OCEBM Level 3, several were categorized as Level 2, and one reached Level 1.

CONCLUSIONS

The frequency of studies using HRQOL outcomes in pediatric neurosurgical research has not increased over the past 10 years. Within pediatric neurosurgery, high-quality studies and standardization are lacking, as compared with contemporary studies in Pediatrics. In general, although the HOQ, HUI, PedsQL, and SF-36 instruments are emerging as standards in pediatric neurosurgery, even greater standardization across the specialty is needed, along with the design and implementation of more rigorous studies.

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Virendra R. Desai, Jeffrey S. Raskin, Arvind Mohan, JoWinsyl Montojo, Valentina Briceño, Daniel J. Curry, and Sandi Lam

OBJECTIVE

Intrathecal baclofen pumps are generally placed in children for the treatment of spasticity and dystonia. Use of implants in this pediatric population with comorbidities is reported to have a high risk of complications and infections. With the aim of reducing baclofen pump–related infections, a quality improvement project was instituted at the authors’ institution.

METHODS

A workflow paradigm unique to baclofen pump implantation aimed at decreasing implant-related infections was implemented. All baclofen pump operations performed at the authors’ institution between August 2012 and June 2016 were reviewed. An infection prevention protocol was created and implemented in August 2014 based on a literature review and the consensus opinion of the pediatric neurosurgeons in the group. Compliance with the prevention bundle was tracked. Case outcomes before and after implementation of the protocol with a minimum of 3 months of follow-up were retrospectively reviewed. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to assess the association of the steps in the prevention bundle with infection and complication outcomes.

RESULTS

A total of 128 baclofen pump surgeries were performed (64 preprotocol and 64 postprotocol). The patient age range was 3 to 27 years. The overall compliance rate with the infection prevention bundle was 82%. The pre- and postimplementation infection rates were 12.5% and 6.3%, respectively (p = 0.225). The total pre- and postimplementation complication rates were 23.4% and 9.4%, respectively (p = 0.032). The absolute and relative risk reductions for infections were 6.3% (95% CI 3.8%–16.3%) and 50%, respectively; for complications, the absolute and relative risk reductions were 14.1% (95% CI 1.5%–26.7%) and 60%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

The total complication rate following intrathecal baclofen pump surgery was significantly lower after implementation of the quality improvement protocol. This study is an example of using checklist standardization to diminish special cause variability.

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Guillermo Aldave, Daniel Hansen, Steven W. Hwang, Amee Moreno, Valentina Briceño, and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

Tethered cord syndrome is the clinical manifestation of an abnormal stretch on the spinal cord, presumably causing mechanical injury, a compromised blood supply, and altered spinal cord metabolism. Tethered cord release is the standard treatment for tethered cord syndrome. However, direct untethering of the spinal cord carries potential risks, such as new neurological deficits from spinal cord injury, a CSF leak from opening the dura, and retethering of the spinal cord from normal scar formation after surgery. To avoid these risks, the authors applied spinal column shortening to children and transitional adults with primary and secondary tethered cord syndrome and report treatment outcomes. The authors' aim with this study was to determine the safety and efficacy of spinal column shortening for tethered cord syndrome by analyzing their experience with this surgical technique.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographic and procedural data of children and young adults who had undergone spinal column shortening for primary or secondary tethered cord syndrome.

RESULTS

Seven patients with tethered cord syndrome caused by myelomeningocele, lipomyelomeningocele, and transitional spinal lipoma were treated with spinal column shortening. One patient with less than 24 months of follow-up was excluded from further analysis. There were 3 males and 4 females; the average age at the time was surgery was 16 years (range 8–30 years). Clinical presentations for our patients included pain (in 5 patients), weakness (in 4 patients), and bowel/bladder dysfunction (in 4 patients). Spinal column osteotomy was most commonly performed at the L-1 level, with fusion between T-12 and L-2 using a pedicle screw-rod construct. Pedicle subtraction osteotomy was performed in 6 patients, and vertebral column resection was performed in 1 patient. The average follow-up period was 31 months (range 26–37 months). Computed tomography–based radiographic outcomes showed solid fusion and no instrumentation failure in all cases by the most recent follow-up. Five of 7 patients (71%) reported improvement in preoperative symptoms during the follow-up period. The mean differences in initial and most recent Scoliosis Research Society Outcomes Questionnaire and Oswestry Disability Index scores were 0.26 and –13%, respectively; minimum clinically important difference in SRS-22 and ODI were assumed to be 0.4% and –12.8%, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Spinal column shortening seems to represent a safe and efficacious alternative to traditional untethering of the spinal cord for tethered cord syndrome.

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Meng Huang, David D. Gonda, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen, and Andrew Jea

Upper airway obstruction resulting from overflexion of the craniocervical junction after occipitocervical fusion is a rare but potentially life-threatening complication and is associated with morbidity. The authors retrospectively reviewed the medical records and diagnostic images of 2 pediatrie patients who underwent occipitocervical fusion by the Neuro-Spine Program at Texas Children’s Hospital and experienced dyspnea and/or dysphagia from new upper airway obstruction in the postoperative period. Patient demographics, operative data, and preoperative and postoperative occiput-C2 angles were recorded. A review of the literature for similar complications after occipitocervical fusion was performed. A total of 13 cases of prolonged upper airway obstruction after occipitocervical fusion were analyzed. Most of these cases involved adults with rheumatoid arthritis. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, there have been no previous reports of prolonged upper airway obstruction in children after an occipitocervical fusion. Fixation of the neck in increased flexion (−18° to −5°) was a common finding among these adult and pediatrie cases. The authors’ cases involved children with micrognathia and comparatively large tongues, which may predispose the oropharynx to obstruction with even the slightest amount of increased flexion. Close attention to a satisfactory fixation angle (occiput-C2 angle) is necessary to avoid airway obstruction after an occipitocervical fusion. Children with micrognathia are particularly sensitive to changes in flexion at the craniocervical junction after occipitocervical fixation.

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Aditya Vedantam, Daniel Hansen, Valentina Briceño, Amee Moreno, Sheila L. Ryan, and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

The purpose of this study was to describe patterns of transfer, resource utilization, and clinical outcomes associated with the interhospital transfer of pediatric neurosurgical patients.

METHODS

All consecutive, prospectively collected requests for interhospital patient transfer to the pediatric neurosurgical service at Texas Children's Hospital were retrospectively analyzed from October 2013 to September 2014. Demographic patient information, resource utilization, and outcomes were recorded and compared across predefined strata (low [< 5%], moderate [5%–30%], and high [> 30%]) of predicted probability of mortality using the Pediatric Risk of Mortality score.

RESULTS

Requests for pediatric neurosurgical care comprised 400 (3.7%) of a total of 10,833 calls. Of 400 transfer admissions, 96.5%, 2.8%, and 0.8% were in the low, moderate, and high mortality risk groups, respectively. The median age was 54 months, and 45% were female. The median transit time was 125 minutes. The majority of transfers were after-hours (69.8%); nearly a third occurred during the weekend (32.3%). The median intensive care unit stay for 103 patients was 3 days (range 1–269 days). Median length of hospital stay was 2 days (range 1–269 days). Ninety patients (22.5%) were discharged from the emergency room after transfer. Seventy-seven patients (19.3%) required neurosurgical intervention after transfer, with the majority requiring a cranial procedure (66.2%); 87.3% of patients were discharged home.

CONCLUSIONS

This study highlights patient characteristics, resource utilization, and outcomes among pediatric neurosurgical patients. Opportunities for quality improvement were identified in diagnosing and managing isolated skull fractures and neck pain after trauma.

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Aditya Vedantam, Daniel Hansen, Valentina Briceño, Alison Brayton, and Andrew Jea

OBJECTIVE

There is limited literature on patient-reported outcomes (PROs) and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) outcomes in pediatric patients undergoing surgery for craniovertebral junction pathology. The aim of the present study was to assess surgical and quality of life outcomes in children who had undergone occipitocervical or atlantoaxial fusion.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographics, procedural data, and outcomes of 77 consecutive pediatric patients who underwent posterior occipitocervical or atlantoaxial fusion between 2008 and 2015 at Texas Children's Hospital. Outcome measures (collected at last follow-up) included mortality, neurological improvement, complications, Scoliosis Research Society Outcomes Measure–22 (SRS-22) score, SF-36 score, Neck Disability Index (NDI), and Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory (PedsQL). Multivariate linear regression analysis was performed to identify factors affecting PROs and HRQOL scores at follow-up.

RESULTS

The average age in this series was 10.6 ± 4.5 years. The median follow-up was 13.9 months (range 0.5–121.5 months). Sixty-three patients (81.8%) were treated with occipitocervical fusion, and 14 patients (18.1%) were treated with atlantoaxial fusion. The American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade at discharge was unchanged in 73 patients (94.8%). The average PRO metrics at the time of last follow-up were as follows: SRS-22 score, 4.2 ± 0.8; NDI, 3.0 ± 2.6; the parent's PedsQL (ParentPedsQL) score, 69.6 ± 22.7, and child's PedsQL score, 75.5 ± 18.7. Multivariate linear regression analysis revealed that older age at surgery was significantly associated with lower SRS-22 scores at follow-up (B = −0.06, p = 0.03), and the presence of comorbidities was associated with poorer ParentPedsQL scores at follow-up (B = −19.68, p = 0.03).

CONCLUSIONS

This study indicates that occipitocervical and atlantoaxial fusions in children preserve neurological function and are associated with acceptable PROs and ParentPedsQL scores, considering the serious nature and potential for morbidity in this patient population. However, longer follow-up and disease-specific scales are necessary to fully elucidate the impact of occipitocervical and atlantoaxial fusions on children.

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Ben A. Strickland, Christina Sayama, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, Thomas G. Luerssen, and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

In a previous study, the authors reported on their experience with the use of sublaminar polyester bands as part of segmental spinal constructs. However, the risk of neurological complications with sublaminar passage of instrumentation, such as spinal cord injury, limits the use of this technique. The present study reports the novel use of subtransverse process polyester bands in posterior instrumented spinal fusions of the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum or ilium in 4 patients.

METHODS

The authors retrospectively reviewed the demographic and procedural data of patients who had undergone posterior instrumented fusion using subtransverse process polyester bands.

RESULTS

Four patients, ranging in age from 11 to 22 years, underwent posterior instrumented fusion for neuromuscular scoliosis (3 patients) and thoracic hyperkyphosis (1 patient). There were 3 instances of transverse process fracture, with application and tensioning of the polyester band in 1 patient. Importantly, there was no instance of spinal cord injury with subtransverse process passage of the polyester band. The lessons learned from this technique are discussed.

CONCLUSIONS

This study has shown the “Eleghia” technique of passing subtransverse process bands to be a technically straightforward and neurologically safe method of spinal fixation. Pedicle screws, laminar/pedicle/transverse process hooks, and sublaminar metal wires/bands have been incorporated into posterior spinal constructs; they have been widely reported and used in the thoracic and lumbar spines and sacrum or ilium with varying success. This report demonstrates the promising results of hybrid posterior spinal constructs that include the Eleghia technique of passing subtransverse process polyester bands. This technique incorporates technical ease with minimal risk of neurological injury and biomechanical stability.

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John R. W. Kestle

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David D. Gonda, Jared Fridley, Sheila L. Ryan, Valentina Briceño, Sandi K. Lam, MD MBA, Thomas G. Luerssen, and Andrew Jea

OBJECT

Low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs), mainly enoxaparin, offer several advantages over standard anticoagulation therapies such as unfractionated heparin and warfarin, including predictable pharmacokinetics, minimal monitoring, and subcutaneous administration. The purpose of this study was to determine the safety and efficacy of LMWHs in pediatric neurosurgical patients.

METHODS

A retrospective study was performed with patients 18 years old or younger who were admitted to the Pediatric Neurosurgery Service at Texas Children's Hospital and treated with LMWH for either therapeutic or prophylactic purposes between March 1, 2011, and December 30, 2013. Demographic and clinical features and outcomes were recorded.

RESULTS

LMWH was administered for treatment of venous thromboembolic events (VTEs) in 17 children and for prophylaxis in 24 children. Clinical resolution of VTEs occurred in 100% (17 of 17) of patients receiving therapeutic doses of LMWH. No patient receiving prophylactic doses of LMWH developed a new VTE. Major or minor bleeding complications occurred in 18% (3 of 17 children) and 4% (1 of 24 children) of those receiving therapeutic and prophylactic doses, respectively. All 4 patients who experienced hemorrhagic complications had other bleeding risk factors—i.e., coagulopathies and antiplatelet medications.

CONCLUSIONS

LMWH seems to be safe and efficacious for both management and prophylaxis of VTEs in pediatric neurosurgery. However, pediatric practitioners should be aware of higher risk for bleeding complications with increasing doses of LMWH, especially in patients with preexisting bleeding disorders or concurrent use of antiplatelet agents.