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Zane Schnurman and Douglas Kondziolka

OBJECT

Patients, practitioners, payers, and regulators are advocating for reform in how medical advances are evaluated. Because surgery does not adhere to a standardized developmental pathway, how the medical community accepts a procedure remains unclear. The authors developed a new model, using publication data and patterns, that quantifies this process. Using this technique, the authors identified common archetypes and influences on neurosurgical progress from idea inception to acceptance.

METHODS

Seven neurosurgical procedures developed in the past 15–25 years were used as developmental case studies (endovascular coil, deep brain stimulation, vagus nerve stimulation, 1,3-bis(2-chloroethyl)-l-nitrosourea wafer, and 3 radiosurgery procedures), and the literature on each topic was evaluated. A new metric the authors termed “progressive scholarly acceptance” (PSA) was used as an end point for community acceptance. PSA was reached when the number of investigations that refine or improve a procedure eclipsed the total number of reports assessing initial efficacy. Report characteristics, including the number of patients studied, study design, and number of authoring groups from the first report to the point of PSA, were assessed.

RESULTS

Publication data implicated factors that had an outsized influence on acceptance. First, procedural accessibility to investigators was found to influence the number of reports, number of patients studied, and number of authoring groups contributing. Barriers to accessibility included target disease rarity, regulatory restrictions, and cost. Second, the ease or difficulty in applying a randomized controlled trial had an impact on study design. Based on these 2 factors, 3 developmental archetypes were characterized to generally describe the development of surgery.

CONCLUSIONS

Common surgical development archetypes can be described based on factors that impact investigative methods, data accumulation, and ultimate acceptance by society. The approach and proposed terminologies in this report could inform future procedural development as well as any attempts to regulate surgical innovation.

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Zane Schnurman and Douglas Kondziolka

Understanding how the relevant medical community accepts new therapies is vital to patients, physicians, and society. Increasingly, focus is placed on how medical innovations are evaluated. But recognizing when a treatment has become accepted practice—essentially, acceptance by the scientific community—remains a challenge and a barrierto investigating treatment development. This report aims to demonstrate the theory, method, and limitations of a model for measuring a new metric that the authors term “progressive scholarly acceptance.”

A model was developed to identify when the scientific community has accepted an innovation, by observing when researchers have moved beyond the initial study of efficacy.

This model could enable further investigations into the methods and influences of treatment development.

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Zane Schnurman, Michael L. Smith and Douglas Kondziolka

OBJECTIVE

Off-label therapies are widely used in clinical practice by spinal surgeons. Some patients and practitioners have advocated for increased regulation of their use, and payers have increasingly questioned reimbursment for off-label therapies. In this study, the authors applied a model that quantifies publication data to analyze the developmental process from initial on-label use to off-label innovation, using as an example recombinant human bone morphogenetic protein 2 (rhBMP-2) because of its wide off-label use.

METHODS

As a case study of off-label innovation, the developmental patterns of rhBMP-2 from FDA-approved use for anterior lumbar interbody fusion to several of its off-label uses, including posterolateral lumbar fusion, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion, and posterior lumbar interbody fusion/transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion, were evaluated using the “progressive scholarly acceptance” (PSA) model. In this model, PSA is used as an end point indicating acceptance of a therapy or procedure by the relevant scientific community and is reached when the total number of peer-reviewed studies devoted to refinement or improvement of a therapy surpasses the total number assessing initial efficacy. Report characteristics, including the number of patients studied and study design, were assessed in addition to the time to and pattern of community acceptance, and results compared with previous developmental study findings. Disclosures and reported conflicts of interest for all articles were reviewed, and these data were also used in the analysis.

RESULTS

Publication data indicated that the acceptance of rhBMP-2 off-label therapies occurred more rapidly and with less evidence than previously studied on-label therapies. Additionally, the community appeared to respond more robustly (by rapidly changing publication patterns) to reports of adverse events than to new questions of efficacy.

CONCLUSIONS

The development of off-label therapies, including the influence of investigative methods, regulation, and changing perspectives, can be characterized on the basis of publication patterns. The approach and findings in this report could inform future off-label development of therapies and procedures as well as attempts to regulate off-label use.

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Zane Schnurman, John G. Golfinos, J. Thomas Roland Jr. and Douglas Kondziolka

OBJECTIVE

It is common for a medical disorder to be managed or researched by individuals who work within different specialties. It is known that both neurosurgeons and neurotologists manage vestibular schwannoma (VS) patients. While overlap in specialty focus has the potential to stimulate multidisciplinary collaboration and innovative thinking, there is a risk of specialties forming closed-communication loops, called knowledge silos, which may inhibit knowledge diffusion. This study quantitatively assessed knowledge sharing between neurosurgery and otolaryngology on the subject of VS.

METHODS

A broad Web of Science search was used to download details for 4439 articles related to VS through 2016. The publishing journal’s specialty and the authors’ specialties (based on author department) were determined for available articles. All 114,647 of the article references were categorized by journal specialty. The prevalence of several VS topics was assessed using keyword searches of titles.

RESULTS

For articles written by neurosurgeons, 44.0% of citations were from neurosurgery journal articles and 23.4% were from otolaryngology journals. The citations of otolaryngology authors included 11.6% neurosurgery journals and 56.5% otolaryngology journals. Both author specialty and journal specialty led to more citations of the same specialty, though author specialty had the largest effect. Comparing the specialties’ literature, several VS topics had significantly different levels of coverage, including radiosurgery and hearing topics. Despite the availability of the Internet, there has been no change in the proportions of references for either specialty since 1997 (the year PubMed became publicly available).

CONCLUSIONS

Partial knowledge silos are observed between neurosurgery and otolaryngology on the topic of VS, based on the peer-reviewed literature. The increase in access provided by the Internet and searchable online databases has not decreased specialty reference bias. These findings offer lessons to improve cross-specialty collaboration, physician learning, and consensus building.

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Zane Schnurman, John G. Golfinos, David Epstein, David R. Friedmann, J. Thomas Roland Jr. and Douglas Kondziolka

OBJECTIVE

Given rising scrutiny of healthcare expenditures, understanding intervention costs is increasingly important. This study aimed to compare and characterize costs for vestibular schwannoma (VS) management with microsurgery and radiosurgery to inform practice decisions and appraise cost reduction strategies.

METHODS

In conjunction with medical records, internal hospital financial data were used to evaluate costs. Total cost was divided into index costs (costs from arrival through discharge for initial intervention) and follow-up costs (through 36 months) for 317 patients with unilateral VSs undergoing initial management between June 2011 and December 2015. A retrospective matched cohort based on tumor size with 176 patients (88 undergoing each intervention) was created to objectively compare costs between microsurgery and radiosurgery. The full sample of 203 patients treated with resection and 114 patients who underwent radiosurgery was used to evaluate a broad range of outcomes and identify cost contributors within each intervention group.

RESULTS

Within the matched cohort, average index costs were significantly higher for microsurgery (100% by definition, because costs are presented as a percentage of the average index cost for the matched microsurgery group; 95% CI 93–107) compared to radiosurgery (38%, 95% CI 38–39). Microsurgery had higher average follow-up costs (1.6% per month, 95% CI 0.8%–2.4%) compared to radiosurgery (0.5% per month, 95% CI 0.4%–0.7%), largely due to costs incurred in the initial months after resection. A major contributor to total cost and cost variability for both resection and radiosurgery was the need for additional interventions in the follow-up period, which were necessary due to complications or persistent functional deficits. Although tumor size was not associated with increased total costs for radiosurgery, linear regression analysis demonstrated that, for patients who underwent microsurgery, each centimeter increase in tumor maximum diameter resulted in an estimated increase in total cost of 50.2% of the average index cost of microsurgery (95% CI 34.6%–65.7%) (p < 0.001, R2 = 0.17). There were no cost differences associated with the proportion of inpatient days in the ICU or with specific surgical approach for patients who underwent resection.

CONCLUSIONS

This study is the largest assessment to date based on internal cost data comparing VS management with microsurgery and radiosurgery. Both index and follow-up costs are significantly higher when tumors were managed with resection compared to radiosurgery. Larger tumors were associated with increased resection costs, highlighting the incremental costs associated with observation as the initial management.

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Zane Schnurman, Aya Nakamura, Michelle W. McQuinn, John G. Golfinos, J. Thomas Roland Jr. and Douglas Kondziolka

OBJECTIVE

There remains a large discrepancy among surgeons in expectations of vestibular schwannoma (VS) growth. The anticipated growth rate of a VS and its potential clinical impact are important factors when deciding whether to observe the lesion over time or to intervene. Previous studies of VS natural growth remain limited, mostly confined to linear measurements, often without high-resolution, thin-sequence imaging. The present study comprehensively assessed natural tumor growth rates using volumetric measurements.

METHODS

Between 2012 and 2018, 212 treatment-naïve patients diagnosed with a unilateral VS were evaluated. A total of 699 MR images were assessed, with a range of 2–11 MR images per patient. All MR images preceded any intervention, with patients subsequently being observed through completion of data analysis (36%) or treated with stereotactic radiosurgery (32%) or microsurgical resection (32%). To determine precise tumor volumes, the tumor area was outlined on every slice, and the products of the area and slice thickness were summed (99% of scans were ≤ 1-mm slice thickness). A multilevel model with random effects was used to assess the mean volume change over time. Each tumor was categorized as one of the following: growing (volume increase by more than 20% per year), fast growing (volume increase by more than 100% per year), stable (volume change between 20% decrease and 20% increase per year), and shrinking (volume decrease by more than 20% per year).

RESULTS

The mean VS volumetric growth rate was 33.5% per year (95% CI 26.9%–40.5%, p < 0.001). When assessing the frequencies of individual tumor annual growth rates, 66% demonstrated growth (30% fast growing), 33% were stable, and 1% exhibited shrinking over an average interval of 25 months. Larger tumors were associated with increased absolute growth, but there was no relationship between tumor size and proportional growth rate. There was also no relationship between patient age and tumor growth rate.

CONCLUSIONS

This study comprehensively assessed VS volumetric growth rates using high-resolution images and was conducted in a large and diverse patient sample. The majority of the tumors exhibited growth, with about one-third growing at a rate of 100% per year. These findings may contribute to a consensus understanding of tumor behavior and inform clinical decisions regarding whether to intervene or observe.