Television medical dramas enjoy great popularity among the general public, and can be a source of information and misinformation about medical disorders. Nervous system disorders have always received attention in popular media, yet no studies have been performed to analyze their depiction and accuracy, to our knowledge.
To investigate the representation of neurological and neurosurgical diseases in Grey’s Anatomy, one of most popular and longest running primetime medical melodramas in American television.
We performed a quantitative and qualitative content analysis of depictions of nervous system disorders in all 18 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy, in addition to investigating the medical accuracy and the global quality of the portrayed medical content.
A total of 285 depictions were identified in 314 out of 400 episodes (78.5%) of Grey’s Anatomy. Most of portrayed characters were males (59.2%), Caucasians (72.6%), and adults (76.4%), with a mean age of 32.6 ± 19.7 years for those mentioned. Most of the portrayals were of acute nature (65.5%), with neurosurgical diseases constituting the majority; 85.6%, while 31.6% depicted neurological diseases, and 19.3% had both. The most common clinical presentations were altered level of consciousness (16.5%) and seizures (14.4%). Traumatic brain injury was the most common portrayed diagnosis (39.3%), followed by brain tumors (13.7%), stroke (8.4%), and spinal injury (8.1%). Management was surgical for the majority of cases (79.6%), while only 17.9% received pharmacotherapy. The prognosis of portrayed cases was generally favorable, as 79.5% showed good/full recovery, while mortality rate was 18.6%. Forty cases (14.0%) were depictions of rare to very rare diseases. As regards to medical accuracy, 74.3% of depictions were deemed accurate within reason, with a mean GQS score of 4.38 ± 1.4. Four clinical trials involving the nervous system have been depicted throughout the show.
Neurosurgical and neurological diseases were portrayed in most episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, with a good quality of its scientific content within reason. This study demonstrated that Grey’s Anatomy had a good amount of medical information that could be able to improve the public perception of the specialty. However, there is still a room for significant improvement to acknowledge certain inaccuracies and misrepresentations in future episodes.

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