Background context: Greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS) is a regional syndrome characterized by pain and reproducible tenderness in the region of the greater trochanter, buttock or lateral thigh that may mimic the symptoms of lumbar nerve root compression. Despite these known features, the diagnosis of GTPS is often missed, and documentation of its prevalence in an orthopedic spine specialty practice is lacking.
Purpose: To determine the prevalence of the GTPS in patients referred to a tertiary care orthopedic spine referral center for the evaluation of low back pain, and to describe the demographic and clinical characteristics of patients with this syndrome.
Study design/setting: Retrospective analysis.
Patient sample: A total of 247 consecutive patients referred for low back pain from August 1998 through December 2000.
Outcome measures: Clinical response to injection, demographic characteristics, physical examination findings, prevalence of GTPS and preexisting diagnostic evaluations.
Methods: The diagnosis of GTPS was made based on history and physical examination and was confirmed by response to anesthetic corticosteroid injection. Demographic and clinical characteristics of the study group were evaluated. Follow-up data were available at a mean of 8 weeks postinjection (range, 2 to 48 weeks).
Results: The prevalence of GTPS was 20.2% (51 of 252). Mean age (54 years) was the same for patients with (range, 25 to 85 years) and without (range, 17 to 85 years) GTPS. Significantly more women than men had GTPS (p<.03). Of the 51 patients diagnosed with GTPS at initial presentation, 54.9% (28 of 51) had already obtained a magnetic resonance imaging examination (although only 15.7%, ie, 8 of 51, demonstrated objective neurologic findings) and 62.7% (32 of 51) had previously been evaluated by an orthopedist or neurosurgeon; one patient had undergone two lumbar decompressions without clinical improvement before our evaluation.
Conclusions: GTPS accounts for a substantial proportion of patients referred to our center for evaluation of low back pain. Both primary care physicians and specialty surgeons may miss this diagnosis, most common in middle-aged women. Accurate recognition of this problem earlier in the evaluation of patients with low back, buttock or lateral thigh symptoms may dramatically reduce costly patient referrals and diagnostic tests and may prevent unwarranted surgery.