Current Issue - January/February 2023 - Vol 26 Issue 1


  1. 2023;26;29-37Training and Credentialing Standards for Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery Techniques: Results of a SurveyBACKGROUND: The controversy continues on how to best become proficient in contemporary minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques (MISST). Postgrad
    Opinion Survey
    Kai-Uwe Lewandrowski, MD, Joao Paul Bergamashi, MD, Albert E Telfeian, MD, PhD, Paulo Sergio Teixeira de Carvalho, MD, PhD, and Jorge Felipe Ramirez Leon, MD.

BACKGROUND: The controversy continues on how to best become proficient in contemporary minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques (MISST). Postgraduate training programs typically lag behind the innovation. Other subspecialty spine care providers often compete with spine surgeons particularly when they do not offer the treatments needed by their patients. The public debate centers around who should be taught and credentialed in providing surgical spine care.

OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this study was to conduct an opinion survey amongst spine care providers regarding the learning curve of MISST and which credentialing standards should be established.

SETTING: Surgeon online opinion survey sent by email, and chat groups in social media networks, including WeChat, WhatsApp, and LinkedIn.

METHODS: Surgeons were asked the following questions: 1) Do you think MISS is harder to learn compared to open surgery? 2) Do you perform MISS? 3) What type of MISS do you perform? 4) If you perform endoscopic surgery, which approach(es)/technique(s) do you employ? 5) In your opinion, where does the innovation take place? 6) Where should MISST be taught? 7) Do you think mastering the MISST learning curve and surgeon skill level affect patient outcomes? 8) Which credentialing criteria do you recommend? Demographic data of responding surgeons, including age, postgraduate training and years from graduation, and practice setting, were also obtained. Descriptive statistics were employed to count the responses and compared to the surgeon’s training using statistical package SPSS Version 27.0 (IBM Corporation, Armonk, NY).

RESULTS: The online survey was viewed by 806 surgeons, started by 487, and completed by 272, yielding a completion rate of 55.9%. Orthopedic surgeons comprised 52.6% (143/272) of respondents, followed by 46.7% (127/272) neurosurgeons, and 0.7% pain management physicians (2/272). On average, respondents had graduated from a postgraduate training program 15.43 ± 10.13 years. Nearly all respondents employed MISST (252/272; 92.8%) and thought that proficiency in MISST affects patients’ outcomes (270/272; 98.2%). Some 54.1% (146/270) opined that MISS is more challenging to learn than traditional open spine surgery. Preferred credentialing criteria were 1) number of MISST cases (87.5%; 238/272), b) skill level (69.9%; 190/272), and c) proficiency assessment (59.9%; 163/272). A case log review (42.3%; 116/272) or an oral examination (26.1%; 71/272) was not favored by surgeons. Surgeons reported academia (43.4%; 116/267) and private practice (41.2%; 110/267) as the centers of innovation. Only 15.4% (41/267) of respondents opined that industry was the main driver over innovation.

LIMITATIONS: Geographical and cultural biases may impact the opinions of responding surgeons.

CONCLUSIONS: Respondents preferred case volume, skill level, and proficiency assessment as credentialing criteria. Surgeons expect academic university programs and specialty societies to provide the necessary training in novel MISST while working with governing boards to update the certification programs.

KEY WORDS: Surgeon opinion survey, minimally invasive spinal surgery, learning curve, credentialing, teaching standards