Lumbar spinal stenosis diagnosis

Lumbar spinal stenosis diagnosis

Diagnosing lumbar spinal stenosis or herniated intervertebral disc is usually helpful only in potential surgical candidates 1).

Boden et al., performed magnetic resonance imaging on sixty-seven individuals who had never had low back pain, sciatica, or neurogenic claudication. The scans were interpreted independently by three neuro-radiologists who had no knowledge about the presence or absence of clinical symptoms in the subjects. About one-third of the subjects were found to have a substantial abnormality. Of those who were less than sixty years old, 20 per cent had a herniated nucleus pulposus and one had spinal stenosis. In the group that was sixty years old or older, the findings were abnormal on about 57 per cent of the scans: 36 per cent of the subjects had a herniated nucleus pulposus and 21 per cent had spinal stenosis. There was degeneration or bulging of a disc at at least one lumbar level in 35 per cent of the subjects between twenty and thirty-nine years old and in all but one of the sixty to eighty-year-old subjects. In view of these findings in asymptomatic subjects, they concluded that abnormalities on magnetic resonance images must be strictly correlated with age and any clinical signs and symptoms before operative treatment is contemplated 2).


Results of a survey suggested that there are no broadly accepted quantitative criteria and only partially accepted qualitative criteria for the diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis. The latter include disk protrusion, lack of perineural intraforaminal fat, hypertrophic facet joint degeneration, absent fluid around the cauda equine, and hypertrophy of the ligamentum flavum 3).

There is still no widely accepted diagnostic or classification criteria for the diagnosis of Lumbar spinal canal stenosis LSS and as a consequence studies use widely differing eligibility criteria that limit the generalizability of reported findings 4).

There are no universally accepted radiographic definitions for the diagnosis of central, lateral recess and foraminal stenosis.


Most studies of Lumbar central canal spinal stenosis diagnosis (LCCSS) rely on criteria published by Verbiest et al. 5). He defined relative spinal stenosis as a diameter between 10 and 12 mm whereas absolute stenosis was a diameter less than 10 mm. This method has been criticized for ignoring the trefoil shape of the LSS and the intrusion of ligamentum flavum and disc material in degenerative stenosis 6).

Magnetic resonance imaging

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is most commonly used for the clinical assessment of degenerative LCCSS. LCCSS is a quantitative diagnosis that is made when the measurement of an individual is outside the range of normal. Thus, the criteria for LCCSS should be compared from an analysis of a normative distribution of measurements 7) 8)

In a meta-analysis, CT and MRI were found to have similar accuracy for the assessment of central stenosis 9).

By using a combination of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) of the lumbar spine, it is possible to distinguish between spinal stenosis caused by bone compression and specific soft tissue epidural intraspinal lesions that cause localized spinal canal stenosis and neural compression. Examples include facet cysts and yellow ligament hypertrophy 10).

Because imaging findings of lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) may not be associated with symptoms, clinical classification criteria based on patient symptoms and physical examination findings are needed 11).

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has replaced myelography, now considered an old-fashioned technique. In selected cases with multilevel lumbar spinal stenosis, functional myelography revealed the highest precision in reaching a correct diagnosis. It resulted in a change in the surgical approach in every fifth patient in comparison with the MRI and proved most helpful, especially in elderly patients 12).

Cross sectional area

Narrowing of the lumbar dural sac cross sectional area (DSCSA) and spinal canal cross-sectional area (SCCSA) have been considered major causes of lumbar central canal spinal stenosis (LCCSS). DSCSA and SCCSA were previously correlated with subjective walking distance before claudication occurs, aging, and disc degeneration. DSCSA and SCCSA have been ideal morphological parameters for evaluating LCCSS.

To evaluate lumbar central canal spinal stenosis (LCCSS) patients, pain specialists should more carefully investigate the dural sac cross-sectional area (DSCSA) than spinal canal cross-sectional area (SCCSA) 13).

Schonstrom et al. showed that neurogenic claudication due to LSS was better defined by the cross-sectional area (CSA) of the dural sac, but that the CSA of the lumbar vertebral canal was unrelated to that of the dural sac 14). From in vitro 15) and in situ 16) studies, the authors postulated that constrictions above the critical size 70 to 80 mm2 would be unlikely to cause symptoms and signs of cauda encroachment. Subsequently, conflicting results have been published concerning the relationship between symptom severity and dural CSA. Even after axial loading, no statistically significant correlations were found in some studies 17). However, in another study, the use of the minimal CSA of the dural sac in central stenosis was found to be correlated with neurogenic claudication assessed measuring the maximum tolerated walking distance 18).

Electrodiagnostic studies

Patients with symptoms, physical examination and imaging findings consistent with LSS do not require additional testing. Although there is little evidence in the literature, electrodiagnostic evaluation is used in some patients with symptoms and findings that are equivocal or conflicting with imaging results and in whom procedures are being considered. Electrodiagnostic criteria for stenosis have been proposed:(47) mini-paraspinal mapping with a one side score > 4 (sensitivity 30%, specificity 100%), fibrillation potential in limb muscles (sensibility 33%, specificity 88%), absence of tibial H-wave (sensitivity 36%, specificity 92%). Better sensitivity was found for a composite limb and paraspinal fibrillation score (sensitivity 48%, specificity 88%) 19).

Diagnostic Screening

Jensen et al. developed a self-administered diagnostic screening questionnaire for lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) consisting of items with high content validity and to investigate the diagnostic value of the questionnaire and the items.

The screening questionnaire was developed based on items from the existing literature describing key symptoms of LSS. The screening questionnaire (index test) was to be tested in a cohort of patients with persistent lumbar and/or leg pain recruited from a Danish publicly funded outpatient secondary care spine clinic with clinicians performing the reference test. However, to avoid unnecessary collection of data if the screening questionnaire proved to be of limited value, a case-control design was incorporated into the cohort design including an interim analysis. Additional cases for the case-control study were recruited at two Danish publicly funded spine surgery departments. Prevalence, sensitivity, specificity and diagnostic odds ratio (OR) were calculated for each individual item, and AUC (area under the curve) was calculated to examine the performance of the full questionnaire.

A 13-item Danish questionnaire was developed and tested in 153 cases and 230 controls. The interim analysis was not in favour of continuing the cohort study, and therefore, only results from the case-control study are reported. There was a positive association for all items except the presence of back pain. However, the association was only moderate with ORs up to 3.3. When testing the performance of the whole questionnaire, an AUC of 0.72 was reached with a specificity of 20% for a fixed sensitivity of 95%.

The items were associated with LSS and therefore have some potential to identify LSS patients. However, the association was not strong enough to provide sufficient accuracy for a diagnostic tool. Additional dimensions of symptoms of LSS need identification to obtain a reliable questionnaire for screening purposes 20).

References

1)

Deyo RA, Bigos SJ, Maravilla KR. Diagnostic imaging procedures for the lumbar spine. Ann Intern Med. 1989 Dec 1;111(11):865-7. Review. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med 1989 Dec 15;111(12):1050. PubMed PMID: 2530926.
2)

Boden SD, Davis DO, Dina TS, Patronas NJ, Wiesel SW. Abnormal magnetic-resonance scans of the lumbar spine in asymptomatic subjects. A prospective investigation. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 1990 Mar;72(3):403-8. PubMed PMID: 2312537.
3)

Mamisch N, Brumann M, Hodler J, Held U, Brunner F, Steurer J; Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Outcome Study Working Group Zurich. Radiologic criteria for the diagnosis of spinal stenosis: results of a Delphi survey. Radiology. 2012 Jul;264(1):174-9. doi: 10.1148/radiol.12111930. Epub 2012 May 1. PubMed PMID: 22550311.
4)

Genevay S, Atlas SJ, Katz JN. Variation in eligibility criteria from studies of radiculopathy due to a herniated disc and of neurogenic claudication due to lumbar spinal stenosis: a structured literature review. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2010 Apr 1;35(7):803-11. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e3181bc9454. Review. PubMed PMID: 20228710; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2854829.
5)

Verbiest H. Pathomorphologic aspects of developmental lumbar stenosis. Orthop Clin North Am. 1975 Jan;6(1):177-96. PubMed PMID: 1113966.
6)

Eisenstein S. The trefoil configuration of the lumbar vertebral canal. A study of South African skeletal material. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1980 Feb;62-B(1):73-7. PubMed PMID: 7351439.
7)

Chatha DS, Schweitzer ME. MRI criteria of developmental lumbar spinal stenosis revisited. Bull NYU Hosp Jt Dis 2011;69:303–7.
8)

Premchandran D, Saralaya VV, Mahale A. Predicting lumbar central canal stenosis—a magnetic resonance imaging study. J Clin Diagn Res 2014;8:RC01–4.
9)

Kent DL, Haynor DR, Larson EB, Deyo RA. Diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis in adults: a metaanalysis of the accuracy of CT, MR, and myelography. AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1992 May;158(5):1135-44. PubMed PMID: 1533084.
10)

Jacobson RE, Granville M, Hatgis DO J. Targeted Intraspinal Radiofrequency Ablation for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. Cureus. 2017 Mar 10;9(3):e1090. doi: 10.7759/cureus.1090. PubMed PMID: 28413736; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5388364.
11)

Genevay S, Courvoisier DS, Konstantinou K, Kovacs FM, Marty M, Rainville J, Norberg M, Kaux JF, Cha TD, Katz JN, Atlas SJ. Clinical classification criteria for neurogenic claudication caused by lumbar spinal stenosis. The N-CLASS criteria. Spine J. 2017 Oct 12. pii: S1529-9430(17)31052-5. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2017.10.003. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29031994.
12)

Morgalla M, Frantz S, Dezena RA, Pereira CU, Tatagiba M. Diagnosis of Lumbar Spinal Stenosis with Functional Myelography. J Neurol Surg A Cent Eur Neurosurg. 2018 Jan 18. doi: 10.1055/s-0037-1618563. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 29346832.
13)

Lim YS, Mun JU, Seo MS, Sang BH, Bang YS, Kang KN, Koh JW, Kim YU. Dural sac area is a more sensitive parameter for evaluating lumbar spinal stenosis than spinal canal area: A retrospective study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2017 Dec;96(49):e9087. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000009087. PubMed PMID: 29245329; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5728944.
14)

Schonstrom NS, Bolender NF, Spengler DM. The pathomorphology of spinal stenosis as seen on CT scans of the lumbar spine. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1985 Nov;10(9):806-11. PubMed PMID: 4089655.
15)

Schönström N, Bolender NF, Spengler DM, Hansson TH. Pressure changes within the cauda equina following constriction of the dural sac. An in vitro experimental study. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1984 Sep;9(6):604-7. PubMed PMID: 6495030.
16)

Schönström N, Hansson T. Pressure changes following constriction of the cauda equina. An experimental study in situ. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 1988 Apr;13(4):385-8. PubMed PMID: 3406845.
17)

Lohman CM, Tallroth K, Kettunen JA, Lindgren KA. Comparison of radiologic signs and clinical symptoms of spinal stenosis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2006 Jul 15;31(16):1834-40. PubMed PMID: 16845360.
18)

Ogikubo O, Forsberg L, Hansson T. The relationship between the cross-sectional area of the cauda equina and the preoperative symptoms in central lumbar spinal stenosis. Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2007 Jun 1;32(13):1423-8; discussion 1429. PubMed PMID: 17545910.
19)

Genevay S, Atlas SJ. Lumbar spinal stenosis. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Apr;24(2):253-65. doi: 10.1016/j.berh.2009.11.001. Review. PubMed PMID: 20227646; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2841052.
20)

Jensen RK, Lauridsen HH, Andresen ADK, Mieritz RM, Schiøttz-Christensen B, Vach W. Diagnostic Screening for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis. Clin Epidemiol. 2020;12:891-905. Published 2020 Aug 19. doi:10.2147/CLEP.S263646

Tandem spinal stenosis

Tandem spinal stenosis

Tandem spinal stenosis (TSS) is a degenerative spinal condition characterized by spinal canal narrowing at 2 or more distinct spinal levels. It is an aging-related condition that is likely to increase as the population ages, but which remains poorly described in the literature.

It is a common condition present in up to 60% of patients with spinal stenosis. This disorder, however, is often overlooked, which can lead to serious complications. Identification of tandem spinal stenosis is paramount as a first step in management and, although there is still no preferred intervention, both staged and simultaneous procedures have been shown to be effective. Surgeons may utilize a single, staged, or combined approach to decompression, always addressing cervical myelopathy as a priority 1).

The purpose of a study of van Eck et al. was to develop a simple and clinically useful morphological classification system for congenital lumbar spinal stenosis using sagittal MRI, allowing clinicians to recognize patterns of lumbar congenital stenosis quickly and be able to screen these patients for tandem cervical stenosis.

Forty-four subjects with an MRI of both the cervical and lumbar spine were included. On the lumbar spine MRI, the sagittal canal morphology was classified as one of three types: Type I normal, Type II partially narrow, Type III globally narrow. For the cervical spine, the Torg-Pavlov ratio on X-ray and the cervical spinal canal width on MRI were measured. Kruskal-Wallis analysis was done to determine if there was a relationship between the sagittal morphology of the lumbar spinal canal and the presence of cervical spinal stenosis.

Subjects with a type III globally narrow lumbar spinal canal had a significantly lower cervical Torg-Pavlov ratio and smaller cervical spinal canal width than those with a type I normal lumbar spinal canal.

A type III lumbar spinal canal is a globally narrow canal characterized by a lack of spinal fluid around the conus. This was defined as “functional lumbar spinal stenosis” and is associated with an increased incidence of tandem cervical spinal stenosis 2).


Pennington et al. sought to determine the impact of primary lumbar decompression on quality of life (QOL) outcomes in patients with symptomatic TSS.

They retrospectively reviewed 803 patients with clinical and radiographic evidence of TSS treated between 2008 and 2014 with a minimum 2-year follow-up. The records of patients with clinical and radiographic evidence of concurrent cervical and lumbar stenosis were reviewed. Prospectively gathered QOL data, including the Pain Disability Questionnaire (PDQ), Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9), EuroQOL-5 Dimensions (EQ-5D), and Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) for low back pain, were assessed at the 6-month, 1-year, and 2-year follow-ups.

Of 803 identified patients (mean age 66.2 years; 46.9% male), 19.6% underwent lumbar decompression only, 14.1% underwent cervical + lumbar decompression, and 66.4% underwent conservative management only. Baseline VAS scores were similar across all groups, but patients undergoing conservative management had better baseline QOL scores on all other measures. Both surgical cohorts experienced significant improvements in the VAS, PDQ, and EQ-5D at all time points; patients in the cervical + lumbar cohort also had significant improvement in the PHQ-9. Conservatively managed patients showed no significant improvement in QOL scores at any follow-up interval.

Lumbar decompression with or without cervical decompression improves low back pain and QOL outcomes in patients with TSS. The decision to prioritize lumbar decompression is therefore unlikely to adversely affect long-term quality-of-life improvements 3).


Cervical spine surgery with or without follow-up lumbar spine surgery significantly improves neck pain in patients with TSS. In contrast, cervical spine surgery in these patients does not improve lumbar symptoms. Lumbar spine surgery also did not improve low back pain or quality of life. Future prospective studies are necessary to examine the impact of lumbar decompression alone on cervical spine symptoms in patients with TSS4).

References

1)

Overley SC, Kim JS, Gogel BA, Merrill RK, Hecht AC. Tandem Spinal Stenosis: A Systematic Review. JBJS Rev. 2017 Sep;5(9):e2. doi: 10.2106/JBJS.RVW.17.00007. Review. PubMed PMID: 28872572.
2)

van Eck CF, Spina Iii NT, Lee JY. A novel MRI classification system for congenital functional lumbar spinal stenosis predicts the risk for tandem cervical spinal stenosis. Eur Spine J. 2017 Feb;26(2):368-373. doi: 10.1007/s00586-016-4657-3. Epub 2016 Jun 20. PubMed PMID: 27323965.
3)

Pennington Z, Alentado VJ, Lubelski D, Alvin MD, Levin JM, Benzel EC, Mroz TE. Quality of life changes after lumbar decompression in patients with tandem spinal stenosis. Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2019 Jul 26;184:105455. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2019.105455. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31376775.
4)

Alvin MD, Alentado VJ, Lubelski D, Benzel EC, Mroz TE. Cervical spine surgery for tandem spinal stenosis: The impact on low back pain. Clin Neurol Neurosurg. 2018 Mar;166:50-53. doi: 10.1016/j.clineuro.2018.01.024. PubMed PMID: 29408772.

Lumbar spinal stenosis risk factors

Lumbar spinal stenosis risk factors

Risk factors for the disease include some comorbidities such as obesity or smoking, daily habits such as an active lifestyle, but also genetic factors that are not completely elucidated yet 1).

Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is frequently observed in obese patients and the elderly especially due to the aging of the spine.

Increased Spinal inclination angle (SIA) and Body Mass Index BMI might be the most relevant risk factors for LSS 2).

DM and low ankle-brachial index values (ABI)s are significantly associated with sLSS in patients with moderate radiographic stenosis. Neither factor is associated with sLSS in patients with severe stenosis. Notably, the effects of intrinsic factors on symptomology may be masked when anatomic stenosis is severe 3).


Kitab et al., performed a re-analysis of data from their previously reported prospective MRI-based study, stratifying data from the 709 cases into 3 age categories of equal size (instead of the original < 60 vs ≥ 60 years). Relative lumbar spinal canal dimensions, as well as radiological degenerative variables from L1 to S1, were analyzed across age groups in a multivariate mode. The total degenerative scale score (TDSS) for each lumbar segment from L1 to S1 was calculated for each patient. The relationships between age and qualitative stenosis grades, TDSS, disc degeneration, and facet degeneration were analyzed using Pearson’s product-moment correlation and multiple regression.

Multivariate analysis of TDSS and spinal canal dimensions revealed highly significant differences across the 3 age groups at L2-3 and L3-4 and a weaker, but still significant, association with changes at L5-S1. Age helped to explain only 9.6% and 12.2% of the variance in TDSS at L1-2 and L2-3, respectively, with a moderate positive correlation, and 7.8%, 1.2%, and 1.9% of the variance in TDSS at L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1, respectively, with weak positive correlation. Age explained 24%, 26%, and 18.4% of the variance in lumbar intervertebral disc (LID) degeneration at L1-2, L2-3, and L3-4, respectively, while it explained only 6.2% and 7.2% of the variance of LID degeneration at L4-5 and L5-S1, respectively. Age explained only 2.5%, 4.0%, 1.2%, 0.8%, and 0.8% of the variance in facet degeneration at L1-2, L2-3, L3-4, L4-5, and L5-S1, respectively.

Age at presentation correlated weakly with degeneration variables and spinal canal morphometries in LSS segments. Age correlated with upper lumbar segment (L1-4) degeneration more than with lower segment (L4-S1) degeneration. The actual chronological age of the patients did not significantly correlate with the extent of degenerative pathology of the lumbar spinal stenosis segments. These study results lend support for a developmental contribution to LSS 4).

References

1)

Bagley C, MacAllister M, Dosselman L, Moreno J, Aoun S, El Ahmadieh T. Current concepts and recent advances in understanding and managing lumbar spine stenosis. F1000Res. 2019 Jan 31;8. pii: F1000 Faculty Rev-137. doi: 10.12688/f1000research.16082.1. eCollection 2019. Review. PubMed PMID: 30774933; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6357993.
2)

Hirano K, Imagama S, Hasegawa Y, Muramoto A, Ishiguro N. Impact of spinal imbalance and BMI on lumbar spinal canal stenosis determined by a diagnostic support tool: cohort study in community‑living people. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2013 Nov;133(11):1477-82. doi: 10.1007/s00402-013-1832-4. PubMed PMID: 23959069.
3)

Maeda T, Hashizume H, Yoshimura N, Oka H, Ishimoto Y, Nagata K, Takami M, Tsutsui S, Iwasaki H, Minamide A, Nakagawa Y, Yukawa Y, Muraki S, Tanaka S, Yamada H, Yoshida M. Factors associated with lumbar spinal stenosis in a large-scale, population-based cohort: The Wakayama Spine Study. PLoS One. 2018 Jul 18;13(7):e0200208. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200208. eCollection 2018. PubMed PMID: 30020970; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6051614.
4)

Kitab S, Habboub G, Abdulkareem SB, Alimidhatti MB, Benzel E. Redefining lumbar spinal stenosis as a developmental syndrome: does age matter? J Neurosurg Spine. 2019 May 17:1-9. doi: 10.3171/2019.2.SPINE181383. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 31100722.
WhatsApp WhatsApp us
%d bloggers like this: