Artificial neural networks (ANNs) effectively analyze non-linear data sets. The aimed was A review of the relevant published articles that focused on the application of ANNs as a tool for assisting clinical decision-making in neurosurgery. A literature review of all full publications in English biomedical journals (1993–2013) was undertaken. The strategy included a combination of key words ‘artificial neural networks’, ‘prognostic’, ‘brain’, ‘tumor tracking’, ‘head’, ‘tumor’, ‘spine’, ‘classification’ and ‘back pain’ in the title and abstract of the manuscripts using the PubMed search engine. The major findings are summarized, with a focus on the application of ANNs for diagnostic and prognostic purposes. Finally, the future of ANNs in neurosurgery is explored. A total of 1093 citations were identified and screened. In all, 57 citations were found to be relevant. Of these, 50 articles were eligible for inclusion in this review. The synthesis of the data showed several applications of ANN in neurosurgery, including: (1) diagnosis and assessment of disease progression in low back pain, brain tumours and primary epilepsy; (2) enhancing clinically relevant information extraction from radiographic images, intracranial pressure processing, low back pain and real-time tumour tracking; (3) outcome prediction in epilepsy, brain metastases, lumbar spinal stenosis, lumbar disc herniation, childhood hydrocephalus, trauma mortality, and the occurrence of symptomatic cerebral vasospasm in patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage; (4) the use in the biomechanical assessments of spinal disease. ANNs can be effectively employed for diagnosis, prognosis and outcome prediction in neurosurgery.
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