4 years ago

Dural sac cross-sectional area and morphological grade show significant associations with patient-rated outcome of surgery for lumbar central spinal stenosis



Lumbar central spinal stenosis (LSS) is one of the most common reasons for spine surgery in the elderly patient. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) represents the gold standard for the assessment of LSS and can be used to obtain quantitative measures of the dural sac cross-sectional area (DCSA) or qualitative measures (morphological grades A–D) of the rootlet/cerebrospinal fluid ratio. This study investigated the intercorrelation between these two MRI evaluation methods and explored their respective relationships with the patient baseline clinical status and outcome 12 months after surgery.


This was a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data from 157 patients (88 male, 69 female; age 72 ± 7 years) who were undergoing first-time surgery for LSS. Patients with foraminal or isolated lateral stenosis were excluded. The Core Outcome Measures Index (COMI) was completed before and 12 months after surgery. Preoperative T2 axial MRIs were blinded and independently evaluated for DCSA and morphological grade. Spearman rank correlation coefficients described the relationship between the two MRI measures of stenosis severity and between each of these and the COMI baseline and change-scores (pre to 12 months’ postop). Multiple logistic regression analysis (controlling for baseline COMI, age, gender, number of operated levels, health insurance status) was used to analyse the influence of stenosis severity on the achievement of the minimum clinically important change (MCIC) score for COMI and on global treatment outcome (GTO).


There was a correlation of ρ = −0.69 (p < 0.001) between DCSA and morphological grade. There was no significant correlation between COMI baseline scores and either DCSA or morphological grades (p > 0.85). However, logistic regression revealed significant (p < 0.05) associations between stenosis ratings and 12-month outcome, whereby patients with more severe stenosis (as measured using either of the methods) benefited more from the surgery. Patients with a DCSA <75 mm2 or morphological grade D had a 4–13-fold greater odds of achieving the MCIC for COMI or a “good” GTO, compared with patients in the least severe categories of stenosis.


Postoperative outcome was clearly related to the degree of preoperative radiological LSS. The two MRI methods appeared to deliver similar information, as given by the relatively strong correlation between them and their comparable performance in relation to baseline and 12-month outcomes. However, the qualitative morphological grading can be performed in an instant, without measurement tools, and does not deliver less clinically useful information than the more complex and time-consuming measures; as such, it may represent the preferred method in the clinical routine for assessing the extent of radiological stenosis and the likelihood of a positive outcome after decompression.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00586-017-5280-7

DOI: 10.1007/s00586-017-5280-7

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