Several recent global traumatic brain injury (TBI) initiatives rely on practice variation in diagnostic and treatment methods to answer effectiveness questions. One of these scientific dilemmas, the surgical management of the traumatic acute subdural hematoma (ASDH) might be variable among countries, among centers within countries, and even among neurosurgeons within a center, and hence be amenable for a comparative effectiveness study. The aim of our questionnaire, therefore, was to explore variations in treatment for ASDH among neurosurgeons in similar centers in a densely populated geographical area. An online questionnaire, involving treatment decisions on six case vignettes of ASDH, was sent to 93 neurosurgeons in The Netherlands and Belgium. Clinical and radiological variables differed per case. Sixty neurosurgeons filled out the questionnaire (response rate 65%). For case vignettes with severe TBI and an ASDH, there was a modest variation in the decision to evacuate the hematoma and a large variation in the decision to combine the evacuation with a decompressive craniectomy. The main reasons for operating were "neurological condition" and "mass effect." For ASDH and mild/moderate TBI, there was large variation in the decision of whether to operate or not, whereas "hematoma size" was the predominant motivation for surgery. Significant inter-center variation for the decision to evacuate the hematoma was observed (p = 0.01). Most pronounced was that 1 out of 7 (14%) neurosurgeons in one region chose a surgical strategy compared with 9 out of 10 (90%) in another region for the same scenario. In conclusion, variation exists in the neurosurgical management of TBI within an otherwise homogeneous setting. This variation supports the methodology of the international Collaborative European NeuroTrauma Effectiveness Research in Traumatic Brain Injury (CENTER-TBI) initiative, and shaped the Dutch Neurotraumatology Quality Registry (Net-QuRe) initiative.
- Treatment variation