Balancing operative efficiency and surgical education: A functional neurosurgery model

Abigail J. Rao, Carli Bullis, Katherine G. Holste, Zoe Teton, Kim J. Burchiel, Ahmed M. Raslan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Attending surgeons have dual obligations to deliver high-quality health care and train residents. In modern healthcare, lean principles are increasingly applied to processes preceding and following surgery. However, surgeons have limited data regarding variability and waste during any given operation. OBJECTIVE: To measure variability and waste during the following key functional neurosurgery procedures: retrosigmoid craniectomy (microvascular decompression [MVD] and internal neurolysis) and deep brain stimulation (DBS). Additionally, we correlate variability with residents’ self-reported readiness for the surgical steps. The aim is to guide surgeons as they balance operative safety and efficiency with training obligations. METHODS: For each operation (retrosigmoid craniectomy and DBS), a standard workflow, segmenting the operation into components, was defined. We observed a representative sample of operations, timing the components, with a focus on variability. To assess perceptions of safety and risk among surgeons of various training levels, a survey was administered. Survey results were correlated with operative variability, attempting to identify areas for increasing value without compromising trainee experience. RESULTS: A sampling of each operation (n = 36) was observed during the study period. For MVD, craniectomy had the highest mean duration and standard deviation, whereas the MVD itself had the lowest mean duration and standard deviation. For DBS, the segments with largest standard deviation in duration were registration and electrode placement. For many steps of both procedures, there was a statistically significant relationship between increasing level of training and increasing perception of safety. CONCLUSION: This proof-of-concept study introduces an educational and process-improvement tool that can be used to aid surgeons in increasing the efficiency of patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)622-631
Number of pages10
JournalOperative Neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


  • Comfort
  • Efficiency
  • Lean process
  • Risk
  • Surgical education
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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