Characterization of the incidence and risk factors for the development of lumbar radiculopathy

J Spinal Disord Tech. 2012 May;25(3):163-7. doi: 10.1097/BSD.0b013e3182146e55.


Study design: Epidemiological study of a prospectively collected database.

Objectives: This investigation sought to evaluate the incidence of symptomatic lumbar radiculopathy, and identify risk factors for its development, among individuals serving in the United States military over a 10-year period.

Summary of background data: Risk factors for the development of lumbar radiculopathy are poorly understood and the incidence of this disorder has not been characterized earlier for a young, high-demand population.

Methods: The Defense Medical Epidemiology Database was queried for the years 2000 to 2009 using the International Classification of Diseases ninth revision code for lumbar radiculopathy (724.4). Overall incidence was determined and multivariate Poisson regression analysis was carried out to identify the influence of risk factors such as age, sex, race, military rank, and branch of service on the development of this condition.

Results: In this population, the overall incidence of lumbar radiculopathy was 4.86 per 1000 person-years. Multivariate Poisson regression analysis showed that female sex, white race, senior positions within the rank structure, and service in the Army, Navy, or Air Force increased the risk of developing lumbar radiculopathy. Servicemembers of 30 years and older were found to have >3 times the risk of developing lumbar radiculopathy when compared with individuals <20.

Conclusions: The incidence of lumbar radiculopathy in this young, racially diverse, and physically active population is higher than many other degenerative conditions. In this study female sex and white race increased the risk of developing lumbar radiculopathy. However, increasing age seems to be one of the most significant independent factors for developing this disorder.

Level of evidence: Level II, prognostic study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lumbar Vertebrae
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiculopathy / epidemiology*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult