Educational impact of early COVID-19 operating room restrictions on neurosurgery resident training in the United States: A multicenter study

Justin K. Zhang, Armando del Valle, Sven Ivankovic, Niel Patel, Georgios Alexopoulos, Maheen Khan, Sulaman Durrani, Mayur Patel, Najib El Tecle, Nanthiya Sujijantarat, Amanda V. Jenson, Samer G. Zammar, Kristin Huntoon, Carlos R. Goulart, Brandon M. Wilkinson, Sujit Bhimireddy, Gavin W. Britz, Michael DiLuna, Daniel M. Prevedello, Dzung H. DinhTobias A. Mattei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused unprecedented suspensions of neurosurgical elective surgeries, a large proportion of which involve spine procedures. The goal of this study is to report granular data on the impact of early COVID-19 pandemic operating room restrictions upon neurosurgical case volume in academic institutions, with attention to its secondary impact upon neurosurgery resident training. This is the first multicenter quantitative study examining these early effects upon neurosurgery residents caseloads. Methods: A retrospective review of neurosurgical caseloads among seven residency programs between March 2019 and April 2020 was conducted. Cases were grouped by ACGME Neurosurgery Case Categories, subspecialty, and urgency (elective vs. emergent). Residents caseloads were stratified into junior (PGY1-3) and senior (PGY4-7) levels. Descriptive statistics are reported for individual programs and pooled across institutions. Results: When pooling across programs, the 2019 monthly mean (SD) case volume was 214 (123) cases compared to 217 (129) in January 2020, 210 (115) in February 2020, 157 (81), in March 2020 and 82 (39) cases April 2020. There was a 60% reduction in caseload between April 2019 (207 [101]) and April 2020 (82 [39]). Adult spine cases were impacted the most in the pooled analysis, with a 66% decrease in the mean number of cases between March 2020 and April 2020. Both junior and senior residents experienced a similar steady decrease in caseloads, with the largest decreases occurring between March and April 2020 (48% downtrend). Conclusions: Results from our multicenter study reveal considerable decreases in caseloads in the neurosurgical specialty with elective adult spine cases experiencing the most severe decline. Both junior and senior neurosurgical residents experienced dramatic decreases in case volumes during this period. With the steep decline in elective spine cases, it is possible that fellowship directors may see a disproportionate increase in spine fellowships in the coming years. In the face of the emerging Delta and Omicron variants, programs should pay attention toward identifying institution-specific deficiencies and developing plans to mitigate the negative educational effects secondary to such caseloads reduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number100104
Pages (from-to)100104
JournalNorth American Spine Society Journal
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Case volume
  • Coronavirus
  • Multicenter
  • Neurosurgery training
  • Residency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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