An evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (update)

Spine J. 2013 Jul;13(7):734-43. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2012.11.059.


Background context: The evidence-based clinical guideline on the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis by the North American Spine Society (NASS) provides evidence-based recommendations to address key clinical questions surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis. The guideline is intended to reflect contemporary treatment concepts for symptomatic degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis as reflected in the highest quality clinical literature available on this subject as of July 2010. The goals of the guideline recommendations are to assist in delivering optimum efficacious treatment and functional recovery from this spinal disorder.

Purpose: Provide an evidence-based educational tool to assist spine care providers in improving quality and efficiency of care delivered to patients with degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis.

Study design: Systematic review and evidence-based clinical guideline.

Methods: This report is from the Degenerative Lumbar Spinal Stenosis Work Group of the NASS's Evidence-Based Clinical Guideline Development Committee. The work group consisted of multidisciplinary spine care specialists trained in the principles of evidence-based analysis. The original guideline, published in 2006, was carefully reviewed. A literature search addressing each question and using a specific search protocol was performed on English language references found in MEDLINE, EMBASE (Drugs and Pharmacology), and four additional, evidence-based, databases to identify articles published since the search performed for the original guideline. The relevant literature was then independently rated by a minimum of three physician reviewers using the NASS-adopted standardized levels of evidence. An evidentiary table was created for each of the questions. Final recommendations to answer each clinical question were arrived at via work group discussion, and grades were assigned to the recommendations using standardized grades of recommendation. In the absence of Levels I to IV evidence, work group consensus statements have been developed using a modified nominal group technique, and these statements are clearly identified as such in the guideline.

Results: Sixteen key clinical questions were assessed, addressing issues of natural history, diagnosis, and treatment of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis. The answers are summarized in this document. The respective recommendations were graded by the strength of the supporting literature that was stratified by levels of evidence.

Conclusions: A clinical guideline for degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis has been updated using the techniques of evidence-based medicine and using the best available clinical evidence to aid both practitioners and patients involved with the care of this condition. The entire guideline document, including the evidentiary tables, suggestions for future research, and all references, will be available electronically at the NASS Web site ( and will remain updated on a timely schedule.

Keywords: Degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis; Diagnosis; Imaging; Medical/interventional treatment; Natural history.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery*
  • Spinal Stenosis / diagnosis*
  • Spinal Stenosis / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome