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YouTube as a Source of Information for Neurosurgery

Original author: Samuel N, Alotaibi NM, Lozano AM. (2017) (DOI: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.05.111)


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Proofreading intern

November 01, 2022


Social Media is an important part of our daily lives; statistically, it has been so for the last two centuries. We have evolved from the invention of the telegraph in 1844 (where messages were transmitted physically through a wire) to scrolling and double tapping on hand-sized metal slabs in 2022. Yes, social media has more than evolved; it has grown, upgraded, and has become an element of society that society cannot function without. Of course, there are ups and downs, as well as pros and cons to every aspect of social media however, the feature that will be discussed today will be examined from the standpoint of healthcare and a positive perspective.

A video-sharing platform that has boomed and flourished in the last decade; a ‘social media,’ which has kept everyone’s attention rapt with its adaptability and global appeal- YouTube. As mentioned, it is a video-sharing platform nevertheless, I would like to take the liberty of naming it a search engine in connection with today’s paper by Nardin Samuel et al- YouTube as a Source of Information for Neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery, known to lay people as brain surgery is the medical specialty concerned with the surgical treatment of various disorders that affects any part of the brain, the peripheral nervous system, and the spinal cord. Neurosurgery is also one of the leading healthcare topics discussed worldwide today and YouTube bridges the gap between healthcare professionals and patients with its fast-paced on-the-go information.  To name a few, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and the Journal of Neurosurgery Publishing Group are among the top organizations that use online videos as instruments to broadcast surgical information and education and consequently enhance learning.

Of course, when one combines the giant online engine that is YouTube with a massive field like health care, we get a huge output of videos to analyze. A systematic analysis of this content (that has not been researched before), needs to be performed to understand what are the characteristics of the videos that attract neurosurgeons, academicians, and patients so that one can harness social media and use it more effectively.


The video categorization and analysis were divided into the following steps:

  1. First, a comprehensive search was performed with the terms- neurosurgery, neurological surgery, brain surgery, or spine surgery. Data that was collected pertained to the following metrics- date of upload, number of likes, dislikes, comments, shares, and country or region of upload or origin.

  2. Secondly, these descriptive statistics were calculated and it was found that the results were not normally distributed as one was dealing with social media here. Hence, the metrics were reported using medians and IQR values through which results were produced using Excel.

  3. Thirdly, using methodologies of qualitative data analysis like axial coding and open coding the videos were classified.

  4. Lastly, ethical considerations were maintained by the authors as only videos that were available to the public on the platform (YouTube) were taken into the study.


A net of 713 videos (after the removal of duplicates) formed the basis of the study. These 713 videos, were divided into systematic categories such as educational videos, promotional videos, patient experience, surgical procedures and overviews; others and irrelevant to clinical neurosurgery.


As online communications continue to evolve and upgrade, we find platforms like YouTube becoming a major source of information. However, by taking content related to healthcare and especially neurosurgery, the authors aimed to assess how much of this information is reliable and accurate. By monitoring, measuring, and analyzing the content that is uploaded and absorbed by the users, we can harness this tool to consequently improve patient-oriented communication and circulate knowledge related to neurosurgery effectively and efficiently.

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