All Publications

  • Getting What You Pay For: Impact of Copayments on Physical Therapy and Opioid Initiation, Timing, and Continuation for Newly Diagnosed Low Back Pain. The spine journal : official journal of the North American Spine Society Jin, M. C., Jensen, M., Barros Guinle, M. I., Ren, A., Zhou, Z., Zygourakis, C. C., Desai, A. M., Veeravagu, A., Ratliff, J. K. 2024


    Physical therapy (PT) is an important component of low back pain (LBP) management. Despite established guidelines, heterogeneity in medical management remains common.We sought to understand how copayments impact timing and utilization of PT in newly diagnosed LBP.The IBM Watson Health MarketScan claims database was utilized in a longitudinal setting.Adult patients with LBP.The primary outcomes-of-interest were timing and overall utilization of PT services. Additional outcomes-of-interest included timing of opioid prescribing.Actual and inferred copayments based on non-PCP visit claims were used to evaluate the relationship between PT copayment and incidence of PT initiation. Multivariable regression models were used to evaluate factors influencing PT usage.Overall, 2,467,389 patients were included. PT initiation, among those with at ≥1 PT service during the year after LBP diagnosis (30.6%), occurred at a median of 8 days post-diagnosis (IQR 1-55). Among those with at least one PT encounter, incidence of subsequent PT visits was significantly lower for those with high initial PT copayments. High initial PT copayments, while inversely correlated with PT utilization, were directly correlated with subsequent opioid use (0.77 prescriptions/patient [$0 PT copayment] vs 1.07 prescriptions/patient [$50-74 PT copayment]; 1.15 prescriptions/patient [$75+ PT copayment]). Among patients with known opioid and PT copayments, higher PT copayments were correlated with faster opioid use while higher opioid copayments were correlated with faster PT use (Spearman p < 0.05). For multivariable whole-cohort analyses, incidence of PT initiation among patients with inferred copayments in the 50-75th and 75th-100th percentiles was significantly lower than those below the 50th percentile (HR=0.893 [95%CI 0.887-0.899] and HR=0.905 [95%CI 0.899-0.912], respectively).Higher PT copayments correlated with reduced PT utilization; higher PT copayments and lower opioid copayments were independent contributors to delayed PT initiation and higher opioid use. In patients covered by plans charging high PT copayments, opioid use was significantly higher. Co-pays may impact long-term adherence to PT.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.spinee.2024.01.008

    View details for PubMedID 38262499

  • Label-Free Optical Technologies for Middle-Ear Diseases Bioengineering Zhou, Z., Pandey, R., Valdez, T. A. 2024; 11 (2)
  • Remote Telemonitoring with a Human Touch: a Promising Addition to Post-discharge Care for Surgical Patients. World journal of surgery Zhou, Z., Kin, C. 2023

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00268-023-07232-w

    View details for PubMedID 37932501

  • Opioid usage in lumbar disc herniation patients with nonsurgical, early, and late surgical treatments. World neurosurgery Zhou, Z., Jin, M. C., Jensen, M. R., Barros Guinle, M. I., Ren, A., Agarwal, A. A., Leaston, J., Ratliff, J. K. 2023


    Assess opioid usage in surgical and non-surgical patients with lumbar disc herniation receiving different treatment approaches and timing.Individuals with newly diagnosed lumbar intervertebral disc without myelopathy were queried from Optum Clinformatics DataMart. Patients were categorized into 3 cohorts: nonsurgical, early surgery, and late surgery. Early surgery cohort patients had surgery within 30-days post-diagnosis; late surgery cohort patients had surgery after 30 days but before 1-year post-diagnosis. The index date was defined as the diagnosis date for nonsurgical patients, and the initial surgery date for surgical patients. The primary outcome was the average daily opioid morphine milligram equivalent (MME) prescribed. Additional outcomes included the percentage of opioid-using patients and cumulative opioid burden.A total of 573,082 patients met inclusion criteria: 533,226 patients received nonsurgical treatments, 22,312 patients received early surgery, and 17,544 patients received late surgery. Both surgical cohorts experienced a "post-surgical hump" of opioid usage, which then sharply declined and gradually plateaued, with daily opioid MME consistently lower in the early as opposed to late surgery cohort. The early surgery cohort also consistently had a lower prevalence of opioid-using patients than the late surgery cohort. Patients receiving nonsurgical demonstrated the highest one-year post-index cumulative opioid burden, and the early surgery cohort consistently had lower cumulative opioid MME than the late surgery cohort.Early surgery in lumbar disc herniation patients is associated with lower long-term average daily MME, incidence of opioid use, and one-year cumulative MME burden compared to nonsurgical and late surgery treatment approaches.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.wneu.2023.02.029

    View details for PubMedID 36775237

  • Health Care Resource Utilization in Management of Opioid-Naive Patients With Newly Diagnosed Neck Pain. JAMA network open Jin, M. C., Jensen, M., Zhou, Z., Rodrigues, A., Ren, A., Barros Guinle, M. I., Veeravagu, A., Zygourakis, C. C., Desai, A. M., Ratliff, J. K. 2022; 5 (7): e2222062


    Importance: Research has uncovered heterogeneity and inefficiencies in the management of idiopathic low back pain, but few studies have examined longitudinal care patterns following newly diagnosed neck pain.Objective: To understand health care utilization in patients with new-onset idiopathic neck pain.Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional study used nationally sourced longitudinal data from the IBM Watson Health MarketScan claims database (2007-2016). Participants included adult patients with newly diagnosed neck pain, no recent opioid use, and at least 1 year of continuous postdiagnosis follow-up. Exclusion criteria included prior or concomitant diagnosis of traumatic cervical disc dislocation, vertebral fractures, myelopathy, and/or cancer. Only patients with at least 1 year of prediagnosis lookback were included. Data analysis was performed from January 2021 to January 2022.Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome of interest was 1-year postdiagnosis health care expenditures, including costs, opioid use, and health care service utilization. Early services were those received within 30 days of diagnosis. Multivariable regression models and regression-adjusted statistics were used.Results: In total, 679 030 patients (310 665 men [45.6%]) met the inclusion criteria, of whom 7858 (1.2%) underwent surgery within 1 year of diagnosis. The mean (SD) age was 44.62 (14.87) years among nonsurgical patients and 49.69 (9.53) years among surgical patients. Adjusting for demographics and comorbidities, 1-year regression-adjusted health care costs were $24 267.55 per surgical patient and $515.69 per nonsurgical patient. Across all health care services, $95 379 949 was accounted for by nonsurgical patients undergoing early imaging who did not receive any additional conservative therapy or epidural steroid injections, for a mean (SD) of $477.53 ($1375.60) per patient and median (IQR) of $120.60 ($20.70-$452.37) per patient. On average, patients not undergoing surgery, physical therapy, chiropractic manipulative therapy, or epidural steroid injection, who underwent either early advanced imaging (magnetic resonance imaging or computed tomography) or both early advanced and radiographic imaging, accumulated significantly elevated health care costs ($850.69 and $1181.67, respectively). Early conservative therapy was independently associated with 24.8% (95% CI, 23.5%-26.2%) lower health care costs.Conclusions and Relevance: In this cross-sectional study, early imaging without subsequent intervention was associated with significantly increased health care spending among patients with newly diagnosed idiopathic neck pain. Early conservative therapy was associated with lower costs, even with increased frequency of therapeutic services, and may have reduced long-term care inefficiency.

    View details for DOI 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.22062

    View details for PubMedID 35816312

  • Species- and site-specific genome editing in complex bacterial communities. Nature microbiology Rubin, B. E., Diamond, S., Cress, B. F., Crits-Christoph, A., Lou, Y. C., Borges, A. L., Shivram, H., He, C., Xu, M., Zhou, Z., Smith, S. J., Rovinsky, R., Smock, D. C., Tang, K., Owens, T. K., Krishnappa, N., Sachdeva, R., Barrangou, R., Deutschbauer, A. M., Banfield, J. F., Doudna, J. A. 2022; 7 (1): 34-47


    Understanding microbial gene functions relies on the application of experimental genetics in cultured microorganisms. However, the vast majority of bacteria and archaea remain uncultured, precluding the application of traditional genetic methods to these organisms and their interactions. Here, we characterize and validate a generalizable strategy for editing the genomes of specific organisms in microbial communities. We apply environmental transformation sequencing (ET-seq), in which nontargeted transposon insertions are mapped and quantified following delivery to a microbial community, to identify genetically tractable constituents. Next, DNA-editing all-in-one RNA-guided CRISPR-Cas transposase (DART) systems for targeted DNA insertion into organisms identified as tractable by ET-seq are used to enable organism- and locus-specific genetic manipulation in a community context. Using a combination of ET-seq and DART in soil and infant gut microbiota, we conduct species- and site-specific edits in several bacteria, measure gene fitness in a nonmodel bacterium and enrich targeted species. These tools enable editing of microbial communities for understanding and control.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41564-021-01014-7

    View details for PubMedID 34873292

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9261505

  • Risk of adenovirus and <i>Cryptosporidium</i> ingestion to sanitation workers in a municipal scale non-sewered sanitation process: a case study from Kigali, Rwanda JOURNAL OF WATER SANITATION AND HYGIENE FOR DEVELOPMENT Sklar, R., Zhou, Z., Ndayisaba, W., Muspratt, A., Fuhrmeister, E. R., Nelson, K., Hammond, S. 2021; 11 (4): 570-578
  • Occupational Exposure to Endotoxin along a Municipal Scale Fecal Sludge Collection and Resource Recovery Process in Kigali, Rwanda. International journal of environmental research and public health Sklar, R., Zhou, Z., Zalay, M., Muspratt, A., Hammond, S. K. 2019; 16 (23)


    Background: Little is known about occupational exposures that occur along fecal sludge collection and resource recovery processes. This study characterizes inhaled endotoxin exposure to workers of a municipal scale fecal sludge-to-fuel processes in Kigali, Rwanda. Methods: Forty-two task-based air samples were collected from workers in five tasks along the fecal sludge collection and resource recovery process. Samples were processed for endotoxin using the limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL) test. To account for exposure variability and compare measured concentrations to established exposure limits, we used Monte Carlo modeling methods to construct distributions representing full eight-hour (8-h) exposures to endotoxin across eight exposure scenarios. Results: Geometric mean (GM) endotoxin concentrations in task-based samples ranged from 11-3700 EU/m3 with exposure concentrations increasing as the dryness of the fecal sludge increased through processing. The thermal dryer task had the highest endotoxin concentrations (GM = 3700 EU/m3) and the inlet task had the lowest (GM = 11 EU/m3). The geometric means (GM) of modeled 8-h exposure concentrations were between 6.7-960 EU/m3 and highest for scenarios which included the thermal dryer task in the exposure scenario. Conclusions: Our data suggest the importance of including worker exposure considerations in the design of nascent fecal sludge management processes. The methods used in this study combine workplace sampling with stochastic modeling and are useful for exposure assessment in resource constrained contexts.

    View details for DOI 10.3390/ijerph16234740

    View details for PubMedID 31783533

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6926866

  • Developing a Green Chemistry Focused General Chemistry Laboratory Curriculum: What Do Students Understand and Value about Green Chemistry? JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL EDUCATION Armstrong, L. B., Rivas, M. C., Zhou, Z., Irie, L. M., Kerstiens, G. A., Robak, M. T., Douskey, M. C., Baranger, A. M. 2019; 96 (11): 2410-2419
  • Novel aggrecan variant, p. Gln2364Pro, causes severe familial nonsyndromic adult short stature and poor growth hormone response in Chinese children. BMC medical genetics Xu, D., Sun, C., Zhou, Z., Wu, B., Yang, L., Chang, Z., Zhang, M., Xi, L., Cheng, R., Ni, J., Luo, F. 2018; 19 (1): 79


    Mutations in the aggrecan (ACAN) gene can cause short stature (with heterogeneous clinical phenotypes), impaired bone maturation, and large variations in response to growth hormone (GH) treatment. For such cases, long-term longitudinal therapy data from China are still scarce. We report that a previously unknown ACAN gene variant reduces adult height and we analyze the GH response in children from an affected large Chinese family.Two children initially diagnosed with idiopathic short stature (ISS) and a third mildly short child from a large Chinese family presented with poor GH response. Genetic etiology was identified by whole exome sequencing and confirmed via Sanger sequencing. Adult heights were analyzed, and the responses to GH treatment of the proband and two affected relatives are summarized and compared to other cases reported in the literature.A novel ACAN gene variant c.7465 T > C (p. Gln2364Pro), predicted to be disease causing, was discovered in the children, without evident syndromic short stature; mild bone abnormity was present in these children, including cervical-vertebral clefts and apophyses in the upper and lower thoracic vertebrae. Among the variant carriers, the average adult male and female heights were reduced by - 5.2 and - 3.9 standard deviation scores (SDS), respectively. After GH treatment of the three children, first-year heights increased from 0.23 to 0.33 SDS (cases in the literature: - 0.5 to 0.8 SDS), and the average yearly height improvement was 0.0 to 0.26 SDS (cases in the literature: - 0.5 to 0.9 SDS).We report a novel pathogenic ACAN variant in a large Chinese family which can cause severe adult nonsyndromic short stature without evident family history of bone disease. The evaluated cases and the reports from the literature reveal a general trend of gradually diminishing yearly height growth (measured in SDS) over the course of GH treatment in variant-carrying children, highlighting the need to develop novel management regimens.

    View details for DOI 10.1186/s12881-018-0591-z

    View details for PubMedID 29769040

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5956957