Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery: Analyzing Internet-based Education Material

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Abstract

Study Design:

This is a cross-sectional study.

Objective:

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the content of information available on the Internet regarding minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS).

Summary of Background Data:

Patients look to the Internet for quick and accessible information on orthopedic procedures to help guide their personal decision making process regarding the care they receive. However, the quality of internet-based orthopedic education material varies significantly with respect to accuracy and readability.

Materials and Methods:

The top 50 results were generated from each of 3 search engines (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing) using the search term “minimally invasive spine surgery.” Results were categorized by authorship type and evaluated for their description of key factors such as procedural benefits, risks, and techniques. Comparisons between search engines and between authorship types were done using the Freeman-Halton extension for the Fisher exact test. The content of websites certified by Health on the Net Foundation (HONcode) was compared with those not HONcode certified.

Results:

Of the 150 websites and videos, only 26% were authored by a hospital or university, whereas 50% were by a private physician or clinic. Most resources presented some benefits of MISS (84%, 126/150), but only 17% presented risks of the procedure (26/150). Almost half of all resources described the technique of MISS, but only 27% had thorough descriptions that included visual representations while 26% failed to describe the procedure. Only 12 results were HONcode certified, and 10 (83%) of these were authored by a medical industry company.

Conclusions:

Internet-based resources on MISS provide inconsistent content and tend to emphasize benefits of MISS over risks.

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