Health Literacy in Neurosurgery: A Scoping Review

Nathan A. Shlobin, Jonathan Huang, Sandi Lam*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: Low health literacy is prevalent and associated with suboptimal health outcomes. In neurosurgery, social determinants of health are increasingly recognized as factors underpinning outcomes, as well as access to and use of care. We conducted a scoping review to delineate the scope of existing literature regarding health literacy in the field and facilitate future research. Methods: A scoping review was conducted using the PubMed, Embase, and Scopus databases. Titles and abstracts were screened for relevance. Studies meeting prespecified inclusion criteria underwent full text review. Relevant data were extracted. Results: Of 5056 resultant articles, 57 manuscripts were included. Thirty-seven studies (64.9%) investigated personal health literacy, while the remaining 20 (35.1%) investigated organizational health literacy. Domains of health literacy investigated were science (36, 63.2%), fundamental (20, 35.1%), and civic (1, 1.7%). No studies investigated numeracy. Recall among patients after discussions with neurosurgeons is low. Patient perspectives are often erroneous. Patient informational needs are often unmet. Written patient educational materials are written at a level too complex for the average patients. Videos are mostly of poor quality. Multimodal audiovisual interventions, eBooks, models, and virtual reality are shown to be effective methods for promoting recall. Conclusions: Studies examining health literacy in neurosurgery primarily focus on the topic indirectly, most often via written educational materials and recall after educational interventions. Increasing awareness of health literacy among neurosurgeons, assessing health literacy, and incorporating health literacy-informed counseling approaches are warranted to improve patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-87
Number of pages17
JournalWorld neurosurgery
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Informed consent
  • Neurological surgery
  • Numeracy
  • Patient education
  • Shared decision-making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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