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Kimon Bekelis, Matthew J. McGirt, Scott L. Parker, Christopher M. Holland, Jason Davies, Clinton J. Devin, Tyler Atkins, Jack Knightly, Rachel Groman, Irene Zyung and Anthony L. Asher

Quality measurement and public reporting are intended to facilitate targeted outcome improvement, practice-based learning, shared decision making, and effective resource utilization. However, regulatory implementation has created a complex network of reporting requirements for physicians and medical practices. These include Medicare’s Physician Quality Reporting System, Electronic Health Records Meaningful Use, and Value-Based Payment Modifier programs. The common denominator of all these initiatives is that to avoid penalties, physicians must meet “generic” quality standards that, in the case of neurosurgery and many other specialties, are not pertinent to everyday clinical practice and hold specialists accountable for care decisions outside of their direct control.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recently authorized alternative quality reporting mechanisms for the Physician Quality Reporting System, which allow registries to become subspecialty-reporting mechanisms under the Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) program. These programs further give subspecialties latitude to develop measures of health care quality that are relevant to the care provided. As such, these programs amplify the power of clinical registries by allowing more accurate assessment of practice patterns, patient experiences, and overall health care value. Neurosurgery has been at the forefront of these developments, leveraging the experience of the National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database to create one of the first specialty-specific QCDRs.

Recent legislative reform has continued to change this landscape and has fueled optimism that registries (including QCDRs) and other specialty-driven quality measures will be a prominent feature of federal and private sector quality improvement initiatives. These physician- and patient-driven methods will allow neurosurgery to underscore the value of interventions, contribute to the development of sustainable health care solutions, and actively participate in meaningful quality initiatives for the benefit of the patients served.

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Scott L. Parker, Matthew J. McGirt, Kimon Bekelis, Christopher M. Holland, Jason Davies, Clinton J. Devin, Tyler Atkins, Jack Knightly, Rachel Groman, Irene Zyung and Anthony L. Asher

Meaningful quality measurement and public reporting have the potential to facilitate targeted outcome improvement, practice-based learning, shared decision making, and effective resource utilization. Recent developments in national quality reporting programs, such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR) reporting option, have enhanced the ability of specialty groups to develop relevant quality measures of the care they deliver. QCDRs will complete the collection and submission of Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) quality measures data on behalf of individual eligible professionals. The National Neurosurgery Quality and Outcomes Database (N2QOD) offers 21 non-PQRS measures, initially focused on spine procedures, which are the first specialty-specific measures for neurosurgery. Securing QCDR status for N2QOD is a tremendously important accomplishment for our specialty. This program will ensure that data collected through our registries and used for PQRS is meaningful for neurosurgeons, related spine care practitioners, their patients, and other stakeholders. The 2015 N2QOD QCDR is further evidence of neurosurgery’s commitment to substantively advancing the health care quality paradigm. The following manuscript outlines the measures now approved for use in the 2015 N2QOD QCDR. Measure specifications (measure type and descriptions, related measures, if any, as well as relevant National Quality Strategy domain[s]) along with rationale are provided for each measure.

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Salah G. Aoun, Valery Peinado Reyes, Tarek Y. El Ahmadieh, Matthew Davies, Ankur R. Patel, Vin Shen Ban, Aaron Plitt, Najib E. El Tecle, Jessica R. Moreno, Jack Raisanen and Carlos A. Bagley


Axial low-back pain is a disease of epidemic proportions that exerts a heavy global toll on the active workforce and results in more than half a trillion dollars in annual costs. Stem cell injections are being increasingly advertised as a restorative solution for various degenerative diseases and are becoming more affordable and attainable by the public. There have been multiple reports in the media of these injections being easily available abroad outside of clinical trials, but scientific evidence supporting them remains scarce. The authors present a case of a serious complication after a stem cell injection for back pain and provide a systematic review of the literature of the efficacy of this treatment as well as the associated risks and complications.


A systematic review of the literature was performed using the PubMed, Google Scholar, and Scopus online electronic databases to identify articles reporting stem cell injections for axial back pain in accordance with the PRISMA guidelines. The primary focus was on outcomes and complications. A case of glial hyperplasia of the roots of the cauda equina directly related to stem cell injections performed abroad is also reported.


The authors identified 14 publications (including a total of 147 patients) that met the search criteria. Three of the articles presented data for the same patient population with different durations of follow-up and were thus analyzed as a single study, reducing the total number of studies to 12. In these 12 studies, follow-up periods ranged from 6 months to 6 years, with 50% having a follow-up period of 1 year or less. Most studies reported favorable outcomes, although 36% used subjective measures. There was a tendency for pain relief to wane after 6 months to 2 years, with patients seeking a surgical solution. Only 1 study was a randomized controlled trial (RCT).


There are still insufficient data to support stem cell injections for back pain. Additional RCTs with long-term follow-up are necessary before statements can be made regarding the efficacy and safety.