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A comparison of patient-reported outcome measures after spinal surgery

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Minimal clinically important differences (MCID) in the scores of patient-reported outcome measures allow clinicians to assess the outcome of intervention from the perspective of the patient. There has been significant variation in their absolute values in previous publications and a lack of consistency in their calculation.

The purpose of this study was first, to establish whether these values, following spinal surgery, vary depending on the surgical intervention and their method of calculation and secondly, to assess whether there is any correlation between the two external anchors most frequently used to calculate the MCID.

We carried out a retrospective analysis of prospectively gathered data of adult patients who underwent elective spinal surgery between 1994 and 2009. A total of 244 patients were included. There were 125 men and 119 women with a mean age of 54 years (16 to 84); the mean follow-up was 62 months (6 to 199) The MCID was calculated using three previously published methods.

Our results show that the value of the MCID varies considerably with the operation and its method of calculation. There was good correlation between the two external anchors. The global outcome tool correlated significantly better.

We conclude that consensus needs to be reached on the best method of calculating the MCID. This then needs to be defined for each spinal procedure. Using a blanket value for the MCID for all spinal procedures should be avoided.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2015;97-B:366–71.

Correspondence should be sent to Mr M. S. Patel; e-mail:

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