Defining the minimum clinically important difference for grade I degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis: Insights from the Quality Outcomes Database

Anthony L. Asher, Panagiotis Kerezoudis, Praveen V. Mummaneni, Erica F. Bisson, Steven D. Glassman, Kevin T. Foley, Jonathan Slotkin, Eric A. Potts, Mark E. Shaffrey, Christopher I. Shaffrey, Domagoj Coric, John J. Knightly, Paul Park, Kai Ming Fu, Clinton J. Devin, Kristin R. Archer, Silky Chotai, Andrew K. Chan, Michael S. Virk, Mohamad Bydon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE Patient-reported outcomes (PROs) play a pivotal role in defining the value of surgical interventions for spinal disease. The concept of minimum clinically important difference (MCID) is considered the new standard for determining the effectiveness of a given treatment and describing patient satisfaction in response to that treatment. The purpose of this study was to determine the MCID associated with surgical treatment for degenerative lumbar spondylolisthesis. METHODS The authors queried the Quality Outcomes Database registry from July 2014 through December 2015 for patients who underwent posterior lumbar surgery for grade I degenerative spondylolisthesis. Recorded PROs included scores on the Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), EQ-5D, and numeric rating scale (NRS) for leg pain (NRS-LP) and back pain (NRS-BP). Anchor-based (using the North American Spine Society satisfaction scale) and distribution-based (half a standard deviation, small Cohen's effect size, standard error of measurement, and minimum detectable change [MDC]) methods were used to calculate the MCID for each PRO. RESULTS A total of 441 patients (80 who underwent laminectomies alone and 361 who underwent fusion procedures) from 11 participating sites were included in the analysis. The changes in functional outcome scores between baseline and the 1-year postoperative evaluation were as follows: 23.5 ± 17.4 points for ODI, 0.24 ± 0.23 for EQ-5D, 4.1 ± 3.5 for NRS-LP, and 3.7 ± 3.2 for NRS-BP. The different calculation methods generated a range of MCID values for each PRO: 3.3-26.5 points for ODI, 0.04-0.3 points for EQ-5D, 0.6-4.5 points for NRS-LP, and 0.5-4.2 points for NRS-BP. The MDC approach appeared to be the most appropriate for calculating MCID because it provided a threshold greater than the measurement error and was closest to the average change difference between the satisfied and not-satisfied patients. On subgroup analysis, the MCID thresholds for laminectomy-alone patients were comparable to those for the patients who underwent arthrodesis as well as for the entire cohort. CONCLUSIONS The MCID for PROs was highly variable depending on the calculation technique. The MDC seems to be a statistically and clinically sound method for defining the appropriate MCID value for patients with grade I degenera-tive lumbar spondylolisthesis. Based on this method, the MCID values are 14.3 points for ODI, 0.2 points for EQ-5D, 1.7 points for NRS-LP, and 1.6 points for NRS-BP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE2
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • Lumbar
  • MCID
  • Minimum clinically important difference
  • Patient-reported outcomes
  • Quality Outcomes Database
  • Quality of life
  • Spondylolisthesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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