Spine Surgery Rating System Found to Be Reliable

Spine Severity Score is consistent among experts, non-experts, and for same rater at different times

FRIDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- The 15-point Spine Severity Score (SSS) rating system is a reliable tool for experts and non-experts alike to use for the triage of elective spine referrals, according to a study in the August issue of The Spine Journal.

Shelly Lwu, M.D., of the University of Calgary in Canada, and colleagues submitted radiology reports and referral letters on 25 patients seeking elective spine surgery to four spine surgeons (experts) and three administrative assistants (non-experts), who scored the referrals for urgency using the SSS system. The same evaluations were performed again at six weeks or later. The surgeons also scored the referrals using their existing scoring systems.

The researchers found no statistical differences for total SSS scores between experts and non-experts for both Iterations 1 and 2 and a moderately strong relationship between their ratings across iterations, indicating interrater reliability. Also, the mean difference between total SSS ratings by the same expert or non-expert at the first and second iteration was insignificant, indicating intrarater reliability. The researchers also found a moderately strong correlation between SSS and the traditional triage system (surgeons' clinical experience).

"In the face of competing demands on expert time and resources, the strong interrater reliability suggests that there may be utility in delegating the triage efforts by having the administrative assistants initiate this task using the SSS. Using the SSS will make one's triage of elective spine patients much more standardized, systematic, and able to withstand scrutiny when necessary," the authors write.

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