Surgery for Degenerative Lumbar Scoliosis: The Development of Appropriateness Criteria

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Study Design.

The RAND/UCLA Appropriateness Method is a well-established means of developing criteria for assessing the appropriateness of surgery in specific subpopulations. It involves a systematic review of the literature and ratings by a multidisciplinary panel of national experts.


To evaluate the appropriateness of surgical interventions for degenerative lumbar scoliosis (DLS), including identifying clinical characteristics that influence when surgery is inappropriate, appropriate, or necessary, and which procedures are preferable.

Summary of Background Data.

DLS presents with diverse clinical symptoms and radiographic findings. Variability exists in both nonoperative and operative management. The appropriateness of surgery, and of specific surgical procedures, has not been defined for this important pathology of the aging spine.


We selected a panel of 11 experts, including surgical specialists from multiple disciplines. Next, we systematically reviewed relevant literature. Finally, in a three-round, modified-Delphi process, panelists rated the appropriateness and necessity of five different surgical procedures (dependent variables) on a nine-point scale for 260 different clinical scenarios that stratified patients according to age, medical comorbidities, symptoms, signs, and radiographic variables (independent variables).


The 59 eligible studies identified via the systematic review were generally small or used weak designs. Panelists judged that surgery was generally appropriate for patients with at least moderate symptoms and larger or progressive deformities, moderate spinal or foraminal stenosis, or sagittal plane imbalance. Surgery was generally inappropriate for mild symptoms and smaller stable deformities, without sagittal imbalance or moderate stenosis, particularly among patients with advanced age and multiple comorbidities. For patients with larger or progressive deformities, imbalance, or severe multilevel stenosis, more extensive fusion and deformity correction procedures were generally preferred.


Defining the appropriateness of surgery for patients with DLS will be useful to improve evidence-based clinical decision making as well as the consistency and quality of care for patients with DLS.


Level of Evidence: 3

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