Disparities in the Geographic Distribution of Neurosurgeons in the United States: A Geospatial Analysis

World Neurosurg. 2021 Jul:151:e146-e155. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2021.03.152. Epub 2021 Apr 5.


Objective: Large disparities in access to neurosurgical care are known, but there are limited data on whether geographic distribution of the neurosurgery workforce potentially plays a role in these disparities. The goal of this study was to identify the geographic distribution of neurosurgeons in the United States and to study the association of the per capita workforce distribution with socioeconomic characteristics of the population.

Methods: The number of practicing neurosurgeons in the United States in 2016 was obtained from the 2017-2018 American Medical Association Masterfile contained within the Area Health Resource File. The association of the number of neurosurgeons per 100,000 population with socioeconomic characteristics was assessed through linear regression analysis at Hospital Referral Region (HRR) level.

Results: The median number of neurosurgeons per capita across all HRRs was 1.47 neurosurgeons per 100,000 population (interquartile range, 1.02-2.27). Bivariable analysis showed that greater supply of neurosurgeons was positively associated with regional levels of college education, median income, and median age. The number of neurosurgeons per capita at the HRR level was negatively associated with unemployment, poverty, and percent uninsured.

Conclusions: Regions characterized by low socioeconomic status have fewer neurosurgeons per capita in the United States. Low income, low number of college graduates, and high unemployment rate are associated with fewer numbers of neurosurgeons per capita. Further research is needed to determine if these geographic workforce disparities contribute to poor access to quality neurosurgical care.

Keywords: Geographic disparities; Neurosurgeon; Socioeconomic status.

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Geography
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Medically Uninsured / statistics & numerical data
  • Neurosurgeons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Poverty
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Unemployment / statistics & numerical data
  • United States
  • Workforce