Myelomeningocele information on the internet is accessible and of variable quality, and requires a high reading level

J Urol. 2007 Mar;177(3):1138-42. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2006.10.019.


Purpose: We assessed the accessibility, readability and quality of myelomeningocele information on the Internet.

Materials and methods: We entered the term "spina bifida" into the Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Network search engines, and stored the first 100 links from each Web site. A total of 164 unique Web sites remained for analysis, of which 159 were classified as relevant. Relevant Web sites were considered to have relevant content if more than 50% of the text was directly relevant to the disease, and to have relevant educational content if more than 50% of the text was aimed at relaying educational information. Readability was assessed using the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level scale. The quality of the 159 Web sites with relevant content was assessed using American Public Health Association Criteria for Assessing Health Information on the Internet. Six criteria were assessed, namely credibility, content, links, design, interactivity and caveats. Web sites were analyzed by 2 separate medical doctors, with each reviewer blinded to the findings of the other. A weighted kappa statistic was used to calculate interrater reliability.

Results: Of 159 relevant sites 146 (91.8%) had relevant content and 122 (76.7%) had relevant educational content. The average Flesch-Kincaid reading level was 10.9 (range 6 to 12). Quality was assessed on a 3-point scale, with 1 denoting poor quality, 2 fair and 3 good. Average scores were 1.92 for credibility, 1.88 for content, 2.29 for links, 2.53 for design, 1.99 for interactivity and 2.90 for caveats. The weighted kappa statistic for interrater reliability was 0.83.

Conclusions: Myelomeningocele information on the Internet is relatively accessible, requires a high reading level for comprehension and is of variable quality.

MeSH terms

  • Access to Information
  • Comprehension
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination*
  • Internet*
  • Meningomyelocele*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Quality Control