Technological innovation in neurosurgery: a quantitative study

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  • 1 The Hamlyn Centre, Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College London; and
  • | 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, United Kingdom
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OBJECT

Technological innovation within health care may be defined as the introduction of a new technology that initiates a change in clinical practice. Neurosurgery is a particularly technology-intensive surgical discipline, and new technologies have preceded many of the major advances in operative neurosurgical techniques. The aim of the present study was to quantitatively evaluate technological innovation in neurosurgery using patents and peer-reviewed publications as metrics of technology development and clinical translation, respectively.

METHODS

The authors searched a patent database for articles published between 1960 and 2010 using the Boolean search term “neurosurgeon OR neurosurgical OR neurosurgery.” The top 50 performing patent codes were then grouped into technology clusters. Patent and publication growth curves were then generated for these technology clusters. A top-performing technology cluster was then selected as an exemplar for a more detailed analysis of individual patents.

RESULTS

In all, 11,672 patents and 208,203 publications related to neurosurgery were identified. The top-performing technology clusters during these 50 years were image-guidance devices, clinical neurophysiology devices, neuromodulation devices, operating microscopes, and endoscopes. In relation to image-guidance and neuromodulation devices, the authors found a highly correlated rapid rise in the numbers of patents and publications, which suggests that these are areas of technology expansion. An in-depth analysis of neuromodulation-device patents revealed that the majority of well-performing patents were related to deep brain stimulation.

CONCLUSIONS

Patent and publication data may be used to quantitatively evaluate technological innovation in neurosurgery.

ABBREVIATION

DBS = deep brain stimulation; MEP = motor evoked potential; SSEP = somatosensory evoked potential.

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