Determination of minimum clinically important difference in pain, disability, and quality of life after extension of fusion for adjacent-segment disease: Clinical article

Scott L. Parker, Stephen K. Mendenhall, David Shau, Owoicho Adogwa, Joseph S. Cheng, William N. Anderson, Clinton J. Devin, Matthew J. McGirt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Object. Spinal surgical outcome studies rely on patient-reported outcome (PRO) measurements to assess treatment effect. A shortcoming of these questionnaires is that the extent of improvement in their numerical scores lack a direct clinical meaning. As a result, the concept of minimum clinical important difference (MCID) has been used to measure the critical threshold needed to achieve clinically relevant treatment effectiveness. As utilization of spinal fusion has increased over the past decade, so has the incidence of adjacent-segment degeneration following index lumbar fusion, which commonly requires revision laminectomy and extension of fusion. The MCID remains uninvestigated for any PROs in the setting of revision lumbar surgery for adjacent-segment disease (ASD). Methods. In 50 consecutive patients undergoing revision surgery for ASD-associated back and leg pain, PRO measures of back and leg pain on a visual analog scale (BP-VAS and LP-VAS, respectively), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), 12-Item Short Form Health Survey Physical and Mental Component Summaries (SF-12 PCS and MCS, respectively), and EuroQol-5D health survey (EQ-5D) were assessed preoperatively and 2 years postoperatively. The following 4 well-established anchor-based MCID calculation methods were used to calculate MCID: average change; minimum detectable change (MDC); change difference; and receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) analysis for the following 2 separate anchors: health transition item (HTI) of the SF-36 and satisfaction index. Results. All patients were available for 2-year PRO assessment. Two years after surgery, a statistically significant improvement was observed for all PROs (mean changes: BP-VAS score [4.80 ± 3.25], LP-VAS score [3.28 ±3.25], ODI [10.24 ± 13.49], SF-12 PCS [8.69 ± 12.55] and MCS [8.49 ± 11.45] scores, and EQ-5D [0.38 ± 0.45]; all p < 0.001). The 4 MCID calculation methods generated a range of MCID values for each of the PROs (BP-VAS score, 2.3-6.5; LP-VAS score, 1.7-4.3; ODI, 6.8-16.9; SF-12 PCS, 6.1-12.6; SF-12 MCS, 2.4-10.8; and EQ-5D, 0.27-0.54). The area under the ROC curve was consistently greater for the HTI anchor than the satisfaction anchor, suggesting this as a more accurate anchor for MCID. Conclusions. Adjacent-segment disease revision surgery-specific MCID is highly variable based on calculation technique. The MDC approach with HTI anchor appears to be most appropriate for calculation of MCID after revision lumbar fusion for ASD because it provided a threshold above the 95% CI of the unimproved cohort (greater than the measurement error), was closest to the mean change score reported by improved and satisfied patients, and was not significantly affected by choice of anchor. Based on this method, MCID following ASD revision lumbar surgery is 3.8 points for BP-VAS score, 2.4 points for LP-VAS score, 6.8 points for ODI, 8.8 points for SF-12 PCS, 9.3 points for SF-12 MCS, and 0.35 quality-adjusted life-years for EQ-5D.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-67
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Spine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Adjacent-segment disease
  • Fusion
  • Minimum clinically important difference

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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