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Anthony L. Asher, Matthew J. McGirt and Zoher Ghogawala

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Praveen V. Mummaneni, Robert G. Whitmore, Jill N. Curran, John E. Ziewacz, Rishi Wadhwa, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Anthony L. Asher, Robert F. Heary, Joseph S. Cheng, R. John Hurlbert, Andrea F. Douglas, Justin S. Smith, Neil R. Malhotra, Stephen J. Dante, Subu N. Magge, Michael G. Kaiser, Khalid M. Abbed, Daniel K. Resnick and Zoher Ghogawala


There is significant practice variation and uncertainty as to the value of surgical treatments for lumbar spine disorders. The authors' aim was to establish a multicenter registry to assess the efficacy and costs of common lumbar spinal procedures by using prospectively collected outcomes.


An observational prospective cohort study was completed at 13 academic and community sites. Patients undergoing single-level fusion for spondylolisthesis or single-level lumbar discectomy were included. The 36-Item Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) data were obtained preoperatively and at 1, 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively. Power analysis estimated a sample size of 160 patients: lumbar disc (125 patients) and lumbar listhesis (35 patients). The quality-adjusted life year (QALY) data were calculated using 6-dimension utility index scores. Direct costs and complication costs were estimated using Medicare reimbursement values from 2011, and indirect costs were estimated using the human capital approach with the 2011 US national wage index. Total costs equaled $14,980 for lumbar discectomy and $43,852 for surgery for lumbar spondylolisthesis.


There were 198 patients enrolled over 1 year. The mean age was 46 years (49% female) for lumbar discectomy (n = 148) and 58.1 years (60% female) for lumbar spondylolisthesis (n = 50). Ten patients with disc herniation (6.8%) and 1 with listhesis (2%) required repeat operation at 1 year. The overall 1-year follow-up rate was 88%. At 30 days, both lumbar discectomy and single-level fusion procedures were associated with significant improvements in ODI, visual analog scale, and SF-36 scores (p = 0.0002), which persisted at the 1-year evaluation (p < 0.0001). By 1 year, more than 80% of patients in each cohort who were working preoperatively had returned to work. Lumbar discectomy was associated with a gain of 0.225 QALYs over the 1-year study period ($66,578/QALY gained). Lumbar spinal fusion for Grade I listhesis was associated with a gain of 0.195 QALYs over the 1-year study period ($224,420/QALY gained).


This national spine registry demonstrated successful collection of high-quality outcomes data for spinal procedures in actual practice. These data are useful for demonstrating return to work and cost-effectiveness following surgical treatment of single-level lumbar disc herniation or spondylolisthesis. One-year cost per QALY was obtained, and this cost per QALY is expected to improve further by 2 years. This work sets the stage for real-world analysis of the value of health interventions.

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Edward C. Benzel and Zoher Ghogawala

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Nathan R. Selden, Zoher Ghogawala, Robert E. Harbaugh, Zachary N. Litvack, Matthew J. McGirt and Anthony L. Asher

Outcomes-directed approaches to quality improvement have been adopted by diverse industries and are increasingly the focus of government-mandated reforms to health care education and delivery. The authors identify and review current reform initiatives originating from agencies regulating and funding graduate medical education and health care delivery. These reforms use outcomes-based methodologies and incorporate principles of lifelong learning and patient centeredness.

Important new initiatives include the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education Milestones; the pending adoption by the American Board of Neurological Surgery of new requirements for Maintenance of Certification that are in part outcomes based; initiation by health care systems and consortia of public reporting of patient outcomes data; institution by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services of requirements for comparative effectiveness research and the physician quality reporting system; and linking of health care reimbursement in part to patient outcomes data and quality measures. Opportunities exist to coordinate and unify patient outcomes measurement throughout neurosurgical training and practice, enabling effective patient-centered improvements in care delivery as well as efficient compliance with regulatory mandates. Coordination will likely require the development of a new science of practice based in the daily clinical environment and utilizing clinical data registries. A generation of outcomes science and quality experts within neurosurgery should be trained to facilitate attainment of these goals.

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Anthony L. Asher, Paul C. McCormick, Nathan R. Selden, Zoher Ghogawala and Matthew J. McGirt

Patient care data will soon inform all areas of health care decision making and will define clinical performance. Organized neurosurgery believes that prospective, systematic tracking of practice patterns and patient outcomes will allow neurosurgeons to improve the quality and efficiency and, ultimately, the value of care. In support of this mission, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, in cooperation with a broad coalition of other neurosurgical societies including the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, Society of Neurological Surgeons, and American Board of Neurological Surgery, created the NeuroPoint Alliance (NPA), a not-for-profit corporation, in 2008. The NPA coordinates a variety of national projects involving the acquisition, analysis, and reporting of clinical data from neurosurgical practice using online technologies. It was designed to meet the health care quality and related research needs of individual neurosurgeons and neurosurgical practices, national organizations, health care plans, biomedical industry, and government agencies. To meet the growing need for tools to measure and promote high-quality care, NPA collaborated with several national stakeholders to create an unprecedented program: the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N2QOD). This resource will allow any US neurosurgeon, practice group, or hospital system to contribute to and access aggregate quality and outcomes data through a centralized, nationally coordinated clinical registry. This paper describes the practical and scientific justifications for a national neurosurgical registry; the conceptualization, design, development, and implementation of the N2QOD; and the likely role of prospective, cooperative clinical data collection systems in evolving systems of neurosurgical training, continuing education, research, public reporting, and maintenance of certification.