Estimating the prevalence of neurosurgical interventions in adults with spina bifida using the Health Facts data set: implications for transition planning and the development of adult clinics.

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.3171/2021.10.PEDS21293


OBJECTIVE: As the care of patients with spina bifida continues to evolve, life expectancy is increasing, leading to a critical need for transition planning from pediatric-based to adult-based care. The burden of neurosurgical care for adults with spina bifida remains unknown. In this study, the authors sought to use a large national data set to estimate the prevalence of neurosurgical interventions in adults with spina bifida.

METHODS: This study utilized Health Facts, which is a de-identified proprietary data set abstracted from all Cerner electronic health records. It includes 69 million unique patients with > 500 million encounters in 580 centers. Validation, technical exclusions, and data filters were applied to obtain an appropriate cohort of patients. The ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes for all types of spinal dysraphism, as well as the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes for hydrocephalus procedures, spinal cord untethering, and Chiari decompression, were queried and records were retrieved. Demographic variables along with differences in age groups and temporal trends were analyzed.

RESULTS: Overall, 24,764 unique patients with ≥ 1 encounter with a spinal dysraphism diagnosis between 2000 and 2017 were identified. The pediatric cohort included 11,123 patients with 60,027 separate encounters, and the adult cohort included 13,641 patients with 41,618 separate encounters. The proportion of females was higher in the adult (62.9%) than in the pediatric (51.4%) cohort. Annual encounters were stable from 2 to 18 years of age, but then decreased by approximately half with a precipitous drop after age 21 years. The sex distribution of adults and children who underwent procedures was similar (54.6% female adults vs 52.4% female children). Surgical interventions in adults were common. Between 2013 and 2017, there were 4913 procedures for hydrocephalus, with 2435 (49.6%) adult patients. Similarly, 273 (33.3%) of the 819 tethered cord procedures were performed in adults, as were 307 (32.9%) of 933 Chiari decompressions.

CONCLUSIONS: The Health Facts database offered another option for studying care delivery and utilization in patients aging with spina bifida. The median age of this population has now reached early adulthood, and a significant number of neurosurgical procedures were performed in adults. An abrupt drop in the rate of encounters occurred at 21 years of age, possibly reflecting transition issues such as access-to-care problems and lack of coordinated care.

Journal Title

J Neurosurg Pediatr





First Page


Last Page


MeSH Keywords

Adult; Child; Cohort Studies; Female; Humans; Hydrocephalus; Male; Neurosurgical Procedures; Prevalence; Spinal Dysraphism; Young Adult


congenital; intervention; myelomeningocele; spina bifida; transition planning

Library Record