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sciatica

Current Management of Symptomatic Lumbar Disc Herniation

Teaser: 

Parham Rasoulinejad, MD, FRCSC, MSc, 1 Jennifer C. Urquhart, PhD,2 Christopher S. Bailey, MD, FRCSC, MSc, 2

1Orthopaedic Surgeon, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, London Health Sciences Center, and Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, University of Western Ontario, London, ON.
2Research Associate, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, London Health Sciences Center, and Lawson Health Research Institute, London, ON.
3Orthopaedic Surgeon, Division of Orthopaedic Surgery, London Health Sciences Center, and Associate Professor, Dept. of Surgery, University of Western Ontario, London, ON.

CLINICAL TOOLS

Abstract: Lumbar disc herniation is a common cause of low back pain and radiculopathy (sciatica). Diagnosis is initially made based on history and physical examination and ruling out red flags, particularly surgical emergencies such as Cauda Equina Syndrome. A trial of conservative treatment consisting of physical rehabilitation and oral medication is usually successful for back dominant pain. When persistent radiculopathy indicates lumbar discectomy the diagnosis must be confirmed by imaging but, due to very high rates of asymptomatic disc herniation, imaging cannot replace clinical diagnosis. For disabling leg dominant pain discectomy results in faster recovery but has a similar long-term outcomes compared to conservative treatment.
Key Words: lumbar disc herniation, lower back pain, sciatica, radiculopathy.

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Lumbar disc herniation is common and frequently asymptomatic.
Lumbar disc herniation may result in back pain. Much less frequently, when the adjacent nerve root is involved it can cause radiculopathy (sciatica).
Under most circumstances, the symptoms of lumbar disc herniation can be managed conservatively with physical rehabilitation and oral medications.
Red flags and surgical emergencies such as Cauda Equina Syndrome must be considered and should lead to urgent imaging and surgical referral.
Imaging, particularly MRI, has high rates of false positives and should only be used to confirm a diagnosis made based on history and physical examination.
For disabling persistent radiculopathy with good radiological correlation, surgical intervention in the form of a discectomy can be considered.
Lumbar disc herniation (LDH) is common and in most cases asymptomatic. Findings on MRI of lumbar disc herniation are not predictive of future back related disability. MRI findings should be interpreted along with history and physical exam findings to determine the appropriate diagnosis.
LDH can result in back pain and, when the adjacent nerve root is involved, radicular leg pain. The first line of treatment for back dominant pain should be education, lifestyle modification, mechanical therapy and oral medications in the form of acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.
Radicular leg dominant pain may require opioids and/or epidural corticosteroid injections. The majority of patients will improve without further intervention.
For persistent symptoms of sciatica, surgical intervention can be considered. Lumbar discectomy is the most common procedure performed and has good to excellent outcomes.
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Passive Straight Leg Raise Test: Definition, Interpretation, Limitations and Utilization

Passive Straight Leg Raise Test: Definition, Interpretation, Limitations and Utilization

Members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada may claim MAINPRO-M2 Credits for this unaccredited educational program.

www.cfpc.ca/Mainpro_M2
Teaser: 

Dr. Hamilton Hall, MD, FRCSC, is a Professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Toronto. He is the Medical Director, CBI Health Group and Executive Director of the Canadian Spine Society in Toronto, Ontario.
Greg McIntosh, MSc, completed his Masters in Epidemiology from the University of Toronto's Faculty of Medicine. He is currently the Director of Clinical Research for CBI Health Group and research consultant to the Canadian Spine Society.

Abstract
This article highlights the myths and misunderstandings surrounding the straight leg raise (SLR) test for sciatica. Unfortunately, neither intra- nor inter-observer reliability of the passive SLR test has ever been agreed upon. In addition, there is poor consensus about what constitutes a positive SLR test in terms of pain location, leg elevation limitation or clinical significance. Until there are stricter performance standards and uniform agreement, researchers and clinicians should interpret the test with caution. We believe a true positive SLR should be the reproduction or exacerbation of the typical leg dominant pain in the affected limb at any degree of passive elevation. Those with only increased back pain or any leg pain other than that presenting as the chief complaint should be regarded as false positives.
Key Words: low back pain, straight leg raise, sciatica, irritative test.

Managing Leg Dominant Pain

Managing Leg Dominant Pain

Teaser: 

Yoga Raja Rampersaud, MD, FRCSC,1 Julia Alleyne, BHSc(PT), MD, CCFP, Dip. Sport Med MScCH,2 Hamilton Hall, MD, FRCSC,3

1Associate Professor Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Divisions of Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery, University Health Network Medical Director, Back and Neck Specialty Program, Altum Health, Immediate Past President Canadian Spine Society, Toronto, ON.
2Associate Professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Medical Director, Sport CARE, Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, ON.
3Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto; Medical Director, Canadian Back Institute; Executive Director, Canadian Spine Society, Toronto, ON.

CLINICAL TOOLS

Abstract: Leg dominant pain suggests direct nerve root involvement: radicular, not referred symptoms. Constant pain associated with positive neurological findings usually results from an acute disc herniation. Symptoms are the result of mechanical compression but principally reflect an inflammatory response, properly designated sciatica. Intermittent leg dominant pain triggered by activity in extension and relieved by rest in flexion probably represents neurogenic claudication: nerve root ischemia secondary to spinal stenosis. Except for acute cauda equina syndrome, acute sciatica is initially managed with scheduled rest, adequate medication, and time. Non-responsive cases may require surgery. Surgery also shows superior outcomes for disabling neurogenic claudication.
Key Words:leg dominant pain, sciatica, neurogenic claudication, cauda equina syndrome, surgery.

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True spine-generated, leg dominant pain is consistently reproduced by particular spinal movements or positions.
No imaging investigation is required for a patient presenting an unequivocal clinical picture and exhibiting steady predictable improvement.
Of the four back pain syndromes, only neurogenic claudication is consistently best treated by surgery.
In contrast to the back dominant cases, in sciatica there is a definite role for short-acting narcotics or psychotropic drugs for uncontrolled pain.
Criteria for Surgical Referral
Emergency Referral The symptoms of Cauda Equina Syndrome are: - Urinary retention followed by insensible urinary overflow. - Unrecognized fecal incontinence. - Loss or decrease in saddle/perineal sensation. Acute Cauda Equina Syndrome is a surgical emergency.
Consider Elective Referral Failure to respond to a trial of conservative care: - Unbearable constant leg dominant pain. - Worsening nerve irritation tests (SLR or femoral nerve stretch). - Expanding motor, sensory or reflex deficits. - Recurrent disabling sciatica. - Disabling neurogenic claudication.
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