Joint Commission launches new advanced certification program in spine surgery

More than 1.2 million spinal operations are performed in the U.S. annually, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.* Moreover, degenerative spine disease has become one of the most prevalent and costly issues to manage, leading to operations such as spinal fusion and decompression or discectomy.*

In an effort to continue to expand its offerings to address and improve the quality and safety of the vast spectrum of health care settings and services, The Joint Commission has launched a new advanced certification program in spine surgery.

Going into effect on July 1, the Advanced Certification for Spine Surgery (ACSS) was created in collaboration with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). The certification program is available for hospitals, critical access hospitals, and ambulatory surgery centers that perform spine procedures, including those facilities that are Joint Commission-accredited, accredited by another organization, or nonaccredited.*

More in-depth accreditation

The Joint Commission, at present, certifies more than 100 spine health care institutions through its Disease-Specific Care (DSC) Certification program. But the new ACSS program goes beyond the core DSC standards to provide a more in-depth assessment of an institution’s spine surgery program.

The new ACSS program includes the following aspects:

  • On-site intraoperative observations by Joint Commission reviewers
  • Consistent communication and effective collaboration between all health care providers involved in the care of the patient, from the initial spine surgery consultation through the follow-up visit with the spine surgeon after patient discharge
  • Demonstrated application of and compliance with clinical practice guidelines, which may include the guidelines and recommendations published by the AAOS, American Society of Anesthesiologists, National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, and North American Spine Society
  • Data collection for clinical performance measures through the American Spine Registry, a collaborative effort of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and AAOS

The new advanced certification program was developed with the help of a spine surgery technical advisory panel composed of clinical experts with specific knowledge of this type of care, including clinical leadership from the American Spine Registry. The standards incorporate the latest research, best practices, and federal regulations to improve quality and safety for spine surgery patients.

This ACSS program will address the various domains related to spine surgery, such as the following:

  • Program structure
  • Delivery of care
  • Care coordination
  • Performance measurement

The Joint Commission has adopted four standardized measures from the American Spine Registry. Data collection for these measures must commence four months before the initial certification review for organizations seeking certification. Data collection is ongoing after that for all ACSS-certified organizations. The measures are as follows:

  • ACSS-01: Surgical Site Infection Rates
  • ACSS-02: New Neurological Deficits
  • ACSS-03: Unplanned Return Visit to the Operating Room
  • ACSS-04: Preoperative and Postoperative Patient-Reported Outcomes

To learn more about the ACSS program, The Joint Commission has created a web page that includes the following materials:*

  • A review process guide
  • Prepublication requirements
  • A comparison chart of core and advanced certification in spine surgery
  • Surgical site infection resources

Learn more about the ACSS program here.


The thoughts and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Dr. Jacobs and do not necessarily reflect those of The Joint Commission or the American College of Surgeons.

*The Joint Commission. Advanced certification in spine surgery. Available at: Accessed June 3, 2021.

The Joint Commission. Joint Commission Online. New: Advanced certification in spine surgery available in July. February 24, 2021. Available at: Accessed June 3, 2021.

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