Google Search Queries About Neurosurgical Topics: Are They a Suitable Guide for Neurosurgeons?

World Neurosurg. 2016 Jun;90:179-185. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2016.02.045. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Objective: Google is the most popular search engine, with about 100 billion searches per month. Google Trends is an integrated tool that allows users to obtain Google's search popularity statistics from the last decade. Our aim was to evaluate whether Google Trends is a useful tool to assess the public's interest in specific neurosurgical topics.

Methods: We evaluated Google Trends statistics for the neurosurgical search topic areas "hydrocephalus," "spinal stenosis," "concussion," "vestibular schwannoma," and "cerebral arteriovenous malformation." We compared these with bibliometric data from PubMed and epidemiologic data from the German Federal Monitoring Agency. In addition, we assessed Google users' search behavior for the search terms "glioblastoma" and "meningioma."

Results: Over the last 10 years, there has been an increasing interest in the topic "concussion" from Internet users in general and scientists. "Spinal stenosis," "concussion," and "vestibular schwannoma" are topics that are of special interest in high-income countries (eg, Germany), whereas "hydrocephalus" is a popular topic in low- and middle-income countries. The Google-defined top searches within these topic areas revealed more detail about people's interests (eg, "normal pressure hydrocephalus" or "football concussion" ranked among the most popular search queries within the corresponding topics). There was a similar volume of queries for "glioblastoma" and "meningioma."

Conclusions: Google Trends is a useful source to elicit information about general trends in peoples' health interests and the role of different diseases across the world. The Internet presence of neurosurgical units and surgeons can be guided by online users' interests to achieve high-quality, professional-endorsed patient education.

Keywords: Google trends; Internet; Neurosurgery; Patient guidance; Search queries.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Diseases*
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / statistics & numerical data
  • Consumer Health Information / statistics & numerical data*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Neurosurgeons / education
  • Neurosurgery / education*
  • Neurosurgical Procedures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Search Engine / statistics & numerical data*
  • Utilization Review