Degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis: an evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis

William C Watters, Jamie Baisden, Thomas J Gilbert, Scott Kreiner, Daniel K Resnick, Christopher M Bono, Gary Ghiselli, Michael H Heggeness, Daniel J Mazanec, Conor O'Neill, Charles A Reitman, William O Shaffer, Jeffrey T Summers, John F Toton et al.
Spine Journal: Official Journal of the North American Spine Society 2008, 8 (2): 305-10

BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The objective of the North American Spine Society (NASS) evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (DLSS) is to provide evidence-based recommendations to address key clinical questions surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of DLSS. The guideline is intended to reflect contemporary treatment concepts for symptomatic DLSS as reflected in the highest quality clinical literature available on this subject as of April 2006. The goals of the guideline recommendations are to assist in delivering optimum, efficacious treatment, and functional recovery from this spinal disorder.

PURPOSE: To provide an evidence-based tool that assists practitioners in improving the quality and efficiency of care delivered to patients with DLSS.

STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: Evidence-based clinical guideline.

METHODS: This report is from the Spinal Stenosis Work Group of the NASS Clinical Guidelines Committee. The work group comprised medical, diagnostic, interventional, and surgical spinal care specialists, all of whom were trained in the principles of evidence-based analysis. In the development of this guideline, the work group arrived at a consensus definition of a working diagnosis of lumbar spinal stenosis by use of a modification of the nominal group technique. Each member of the group formatted a series of clinical questions to be addressed by the group and the final list of questions agreed on by the group is the subject of this report. A literature search addressing each question and using a specific literature search protocol was performed on English language references found in MEDLINE, EMBASE (Drugs and Pharmacology), and four additional, evidence-based, databases. The relevant literature to answer each clinical question was then independently rated by at least two reviewers using the NASS-adopted standardized levels of evidence. An evidentiary table was created for each of the questions. Any discrepancies in evidence levels among the initial raters were resolved by at least two additional members' review of the reference and independent rating. Final grades of recommendation for the answer to each clinical question were arrived at in face-to-face meetings among members of the work group using the NASS-adopted standardized grades of recommendation. When Levels I to IV evidence was insufficient to support a recommendation to answer a specific clinical question, expert consensus was arrived at by the work group through the modified nominal group technique and is clearly identified as such in the guideline.

RESULTS: Eighteen clinical questions were asked, addressing issues of prognosis, diagnosis, and treatment of DLSS. The answers to these 18 clinical questions are summarized in this document along with their respective levels of evidence and grades of recommendation in support of these answers.

CONCLUSIONS: A clinical guideline for DLSS has been created using the techniques of evidence-based medicine and using the best available evidence as a tool to aid both practitioners and patients involved with the care of this disease. The entire guideline document including the evidentiary tables, suggestions for future research, and all references is available electronically at the NASS Web site ( and will remain updated on a timely schedule.

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