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Leah Y. Carreon, Steven D. Glassman, Zoher Ghogawala, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Matthew J. McGirt and Anthony L. Asher


Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) has become the most commonly used fusion technique for lumbar degenerative disorders. This suggests an expectation of better clinical outcomes with this technique, but this has not been validated consistently. How surgical variables and choice of health utility measures drive the cost-effectiveness of TLIF relative to posterolateral fusion (PSF) has not been established. The authors used health utility values derived from Short Form-6D (SF-6D) and EQ-5D and different cost-effectiveness thresholds to evaluate the relative cost-effectiveness of TLIF compared with PSF.


From the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N2QOD), 101 patients with spondylolisthesis who underwent PSF were propensity matched to patients who underwent TLIF. Health-related quality of life measures and perioperative parameters were compared. Because health utility values derived from the SF-6D and EQ-5D questionnaires have been shown to vary in patients with low-back pain, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) were derived from both measures. On the basis of these matched cases, a sensitivity analysis for the relative cost per QALY of TLIF versus PSF was performed in a series of cost-assumption models.


Operative time, blood loss, hospital stay, and 30-day and 90-day readmission rates were similar for the TLIF and PSF groups. Both TLIF and PSF significantly improved back and leg pain, Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores, and EQ-5D and SF-6D scores at 3 and 12 months postoperatively. At 12 months postoperatively, patients who had undergone TLIF had greater improvements in mean ODI scores (30.4 vs 21.1, p = 0.001) and mean SF-6D scores (0.16 vs 0.11, p = 0.001) but similar improvements in mean EQ-5D scores (0.25 vs 0.22, p = 0.415) as patients treated with PSF. At a cost per QALY threshold of $100,000 and using SF-6D–based QALYs, the authors found that TLIF would be cost-prohibitive compared with PSF at a surgical cost of $4830 above that of PSF. However, with EQ-5D–based QALYs, TLIF would become cost-prohibitive at an increased surgical cost of $2960 relative to that of PSF. With the 2014 US per capita gross domestic product of $53,042 as a more stringent cost-effectiveness threshold, TLIF would become cost-prohibitive at surgical costs $2562 above that of PSF with SF-6D–based QALYs or at a surgical cost exceeding that of PSF by $1570 with EQ-5D–derived QALYs.


As with all cost-effectiveness studies, cost per QALY depended on the measure of health utility selected, durability of the intervention, readmission rates, and the accuracy of the cost assumptions.

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Anthony L. Asher, Matthew J. McGirt 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.

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Oral Presentations

2010 AANS Annual Meeting Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 1–5, 2010