Khean Jin Goha, Waël Khalifab, Philip Anslowb, Tom Cadoux-Hudsonc, Michael Donaghya
Departments of aClinical Neurology, bNeuroradiology, and cNeurosurgery, Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK
Lumbar spinal stenosis is well defined in patho-anatomical terms but its clinical features are heterogeneous. We carried out a comprehensive retrospective review of the clinical features, radiological changes and outcome of 75 patients with radiologically diagnosed lumbar spinal stenosis in order to define its clinical spectrum. The presenting complaints were of weakness, numbness/tingling, radicular pain and neurogenic claudication in almost equal proportions. The commonest symptom was numbness or tingling of the legs. Neurogenic claudication eventually occurred in only 61%. Ninety-three per cent showed abnormalities on neurological examination, but these were generally mild with reduced ankle jerks being commonest. Imaging of the lumbar spine showed that moderate to severe central spinal stenosis correlated with complaints of weakness and abnormal motor power on clinical examination. Patients were reviewed at a mean of 4 years after diagnosis and 65% had undergone surgical decompression; this was not a prospective comparison of different treatment modalities. Overall, a third of patients felt that their symptoms had improved while a quarter felt that they had worsened. More than half had satisfactory neurological function at the time of review. Thirty-nine per cent of those treated surgically, and 25% of those managed conservatively, reported improved symptoms. A poorer functional status at review correlated with complaints of motor weakness and associated comorbid disease. Degenerative lumbar stenosis is a clinically heterogeneous neurological disorder of the lower limbs in the elderly with variable longer-term outcome. A high index of suspicion is required and neuroimaging should be obtained to confirm the diagnosis.
European Neurology 2004;52:242-249.