Lumbar spinal stenosis: syndrome, diagnostics and treatment

Eberhard Siebert, Harald Prüss, Randolf Klingebiel, Vieri Failli, Karl M Einhäupl, Jan M Schwab
Nature Reviews. Neurology 2009, 5 (7): 392-403
Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) comprises narrowing of the spinal canal with subsequent neural compression, and is frequently associated with symptoms of neurogenic claudication. To establish a diagnosis of LSS, clinical history, physical examination results and radiological changes all need to be considered. Patients who exhibit mild to moderate symptoms of LSS should undergo multimodal conservative treatment, such as patient education, pain medication, delordosing physiotherapy and epidural injections. In patients with severe symptoms, surgery is indicated if conservative treatment proves ineffective after 3-6 months. Clinically relevant motor deficits or symptoms of cauda equina syndrome remain absolute indications for surgery. The first randomized, prospective studies have provided class I-II evidence that supports a more rapid and profound decline of LSS symptoms after decompressive surgery than with conservative therapy. In the absence of a valid paraclinical diagnostic marker, however, more evidence-based data are needed to identify those patients for whom the benefit of surgery would outweigh the risk of developing complications. In this Review, we briefly survey the underlying pathophysiology and clinical appearance of LSS, and explore the available diagnostic and therapeutic options, with particular emphasis on neuroradiological findings and outcome predictors.

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