An evidence-based clinical guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy

Spine J. 2014 Jan;14(1):180-91. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2013.08.003. Epub 2013 Nov 14.


Background context: The objective of the North American Spine Society's (NASS) Evidence-Based Clinical Guideline for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Lumbar Disc Herniation with Radiculopathy is to provide evidence-based recommendations to address key clinical questions surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy. The guideline is intended to reflect contemporary treatment concepts for symptomatic lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy as reflected in the highest quality clinical literature available on this subject as of July 2011. The goals of the guideline recommendations are to assist in delivering optimum efficacious treatment and functional recovery from this spinal disorder.

Purpose: To provide an evidence-based educational tool to assist spine specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy.

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

Methods: This guideline is a product of the Lumbar Disc Herniation with Radiculopathy Work Group of NASS' Evidence-Based Guideline Development Committee. The work group consisted of multidisciplinary spine care specialists trained in the principles of evidence-based analysis. 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. The relevant literature was then independently rated 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 developed via work group discussion, and grades were assigned to the recommendations using standardized grades of recommendation. In the absence of Level 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: Twenty-nine clinical questions were formulated and addressed, and the answers are summarized in this article. The respective recommendations were graded by strength of the supporting literature, which was stratified by levels of evidence.

Conclusions: The clinical guideline has been created using the techniques of evidence-based medicine and best available evidence to aid practitioners in the care of patients with symptomatic lumbar disc herniation with radiculopathy. The entire guideline document, including the evidentiary tables, suggestions for future research, and all the references, is available electronically on the NASS Web site at and will remain updated on a timely schedule.

Keywords: Guideline; Lumbar disc herniation; Radiculopathy.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Diskectomy
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / complications
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / diagnosis*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / drug therapy
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / surgery*
  • Radiculopathy / diagnosis*
  • Radiculopathy / drug therapy
  • Radiculopathy / etiology
  • Radiculopathy / surgery*
  • Recovery of Function
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Glucocorticoids