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Nitin Agarwal, Daniel P. Feghhi, Raghav Gupta, David R. Hansberry, John C. Quinn, Robert F. Heary and Ira M. Goldstein

Object

The Internet has become a widespread source for disseminating health information to large numbers of people. Such is the case for spine surgery as well. Given the complexity of spinal surgeries, an important point to consider is whether these resources are easily read and understood by most Americans. The average national reading grade level has been estimated to be at about the 7th grade. In the present study the authors strove to assess the readability of open spine surgery resources and minimally invasive spine surgery resources to offer suggestions to help improve the readability of patient resources.

Methods

Online patient education resources were downloaded in 2013 from 50 resources representing either traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery. Each resource was assessed using 10 scales from Readability Studio Professional Edition version 2012.1.

Results

Patient education resources representing traditional open back surgery or minimally invasive spine surgery were all found to be written at a level well above the recommended 6th grade level. In general, minimally invasive spine surgery materials were written at a higher grade level.

Conclusions

The readability of patient education resources from spine surgery websites exceeds the average reading ability of an American adult. Revisions may be warranted to increase quality and patient comprehension of these resources to effectively reach a greater patient population.