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The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 103-B, Issue 9 | Pages 1442 - 1448
1 Sep 2021
McDonnell JM Evans SR McCarthy L Temperley H Waters C Ahern D Cunniffe G Morris S Synnott K Birch N Butler JS

In recent years, machine learning (ML) and artificial neural networks (ANNs), a particular subset of ML, have been adopted by various areas of healthcare. A number of diagnostic and prognostic algorithms have been designed and implemented across a range of orthopaedic sub-specialties to date, with many positive results. However, the methodology of many of these studies is flawed, and few compare the use of ML with the current approach in clinical practice. Spinal surgery has advanced rapidly over the past three decades, particularly in the areas of implant technology, advanced surgical techniques, biologics, and enhanced recovery protocols. It is therefore regarded an innovative field. Inevitably, spinal surgeons will wish to incorporate ML into their practice should models prove effective in diagnostic or prognostic terms. The purpose of this article is to review published studies that describe the application of neural networks to spinal surgery and which actively compare ANN models to contemporary clinical standards allowing evaluation of their efficacy, accuracy, and relatability. It also explores some of the limitations of the technology, which act to constrain the widespread adoption of neural networks for diagnostic and prognostic use in spinal care. Finally, it describes the necessary considerations should institutions wish to incorporate ANNs into their practices. In doing so, the aim of this review is to provide a practical approach for spinal surgeons to understand the relevant aspects of neural networks.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2021;103-B(9):1442–1448.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 102-B, Issue 5 | Pages 550 - 555
1 May 2020
Birch N Todd NV

The cost of clinical negligence in the UK has continued to rise despite no increase in claims numbers from 2016 to 2019. In the US, medical malpractice claim rates have fallen each year since 2001 and the payout rate has stabilized. In Germany, malpractice claim rates for spinal surgery fell yearly from 2012 to 2017, despite the number of spinal operations increasing. In Australia, public healthcare claim rates were largely static from 2008 to 2013, but private claims rose marginally. The cost of claims rose during the period. UK and Australian trends are therefore out of alignment with other international comparisons. Many of the claims in orthopaedics occur as a result of “failure to warn”, i.e. lack of adequately documented and appropriate consent. The UK and USA have similar rates (26% and 24% respectively), but in Germany the rate is 14% and in Australia only 2%. This paper considers the drivers for the increased cost of clinical negligence claims in the UK compared to the USA, Germany and Australia, from a spinal and orthopaedic point of view, with a focus on “failure to warn” and lack of compliance with the principles established in February 2015 in the Supreme Court in the case of Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board. The article provides a description of the prevailing medicolegal situation in the UK and also calculates, from publicly available data, the cost to the public purse of the failure to comply with the principles established. It shows that compliance with the Montgomery principles would have an immediate and lasting positive impact on the sums paid by NHS Resolution to settle negligence cases in a way that has already been established in the USA.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(5):550–555.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 102-B, Issue 5 | Pages 568 - 572
1 May 2020
McDonnell JM Ahern DP Ó Doinn T Gibbons D Rodrigues KN Birch N Butler JS

Continuous technical improvement in spinal surgical procedures, with the aim of enhancing patient outcomes, can be assisted by the deployment of advanced technologies including navigation, intraoperative CT imaging, and surgical robots. The latest generation of robotic surgical systems allows the simultaneous application of a range of digital features that provide the surgeon with an improved view of the surgical field, often through a narrow portal.

There is emerging evidence that procedure-related complications and intraoperative blood loss can be reduced if the new technologies are used by appropriately trained surgeons. Acceptance of the role of surgical robots has increased in recent years among a number of surgical specialities including general surgery, neurosurgery, and orthopaedic surgeons performing major joint arthroplasty. However, ethical challenges have emerged with the rollout of these innovations, such as ensuring surgeon competence in the use of surgical robotics and avoiding financial conflicts of interest. Therefore, it is essential that trainees aspiring to become spinal surgeons as well as established spinal specialists should develop the necessary skills to use robotic technology safely and effectively and understand the ethical framework within which the technology is introduced.

Traditional and more recently developed platforms exist to aid skill acquisition and surgical training which are described.

The aim of this narrative review is to describe the role of surgical robotics in spinal surgery, describe measures of proficiency, and present the range of training platforms that institutions can use to ensure they employ confident spine surgeons adequately prepared for the era of robotic spinal surgery.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(5):568–572.

Bone & Joint 360
Vol. 8, Issue 1 | Pages 3 - 7
1 Feb 2019
Eames N Golash A Birch N

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 99-B, Issue 6 | Pages 708 - 713
1 Jun 2017
Rushton PRP Siddique I Crawford R Birch N Gibson MJ Hutton MJ

The MAGnetic Expansion Control (MAGEC) system is used increasingly in the management of early-onset scoliosis. Good results have been published, but there have been recent reports identifying implant failures that may be associated with significant metallosis surrounding the implants. This article aims to present the current knowledge regarding the performance of this implant, and the potential implications and strategies that may be employed to identify and limit any problems.

We urge surgeons to apply caution to patient and construct selection; engage in prospective patient registration using a spine registry; ensure close clinical monitoring until growth has ceased; and send all explanted MAGEC rods for independent analysis.

The MAGEC system may be a good instrumentation system for the treatment of early-onset scoliosis. However, it is innovative and like all new technology, especially when deployed in a paediatric population, robust systems to assess long-term outcome are required to ensure that patient safety is maintained.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2017;99-B:708–13.

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 98-B, Issue 1 | Pages 3 - 5
1 Jan 2016
Birch N

The Bone & Joint Journal
Vol. 97-B, Issue 7 | Pages 871 - 874
1 Jul 2015
Breakwell LM Cole AA Birch N Heywood C

The effective capture of outcome measures in the healthcare setting can be traced back to Florence Nightingale’s investigation of the in-patient mortality of soldiers wounded in the Crimean war in the 1850s.

Only relatively recently has the formalised collection of outcomes data into Registries been recognised as valuable in itself.

With the advent of surgeon league tables and a move towards value based health care, individuals are being driven to collect, store and interpret data.

Following the success of the National Joint Registry, the British Association of Spine Surgeons instituted the British Spine Registry. Since its launch in 2012, over 650 users representing the whole surgical team have registered and during this time, more than 27 000 patients have been entered onto the database.

There has been significant publicity regarding the collection of outcome measures after surgery, including patient-reported scores. Over 12 000 forms have been directly entered by patients themselves, with many more entered by the surgical teams.

Questions abound: who should have access to the data produced by the Registry and how should they use it? How should the results be reported and in what forum?

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2015;97-B:871–4.

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 76-B, Issue 1 | Pages 165 - 166
1 Jan 1994
Birch N Ribbans W Goldman E Lee C

The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery British Volume
Vol. 75-B, Issue 4 | Pages 650 - 652
1 Jul 1993
Birch N Sly C Brooks S Powles D

We report a prospective, randomised, controlled trial of the effect of either a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (diclofenac sodium) or physiotherapy on the recovery of knee function after arthroscopy. At 42 days after surgery there was no significant benefit from either form of postoperative treatment compared with the control group. Complications attributable to the anti-inflammatory drug occurred in 9.6% of the patients so treated. Neither the routine administration of a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory agent nor routine physiotherapy is justified after arthroscopy of the knee.