Prevalence of lumbar spinal stenosis in general and clinical populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Eur Spine J. 2020 Sep;29(9):2143-2163. doi: 10.1007/s00586-020-06339-1. Epub 2020 Feb 24.


Purpose: To estimate the prevalence of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) in adults, identified by clinical symptoms and/or radiological criteria.

Methods: Systematic review of the literature. Pooled prevalence estimates by care setting and clinical or radiological diagnostic criteria were calculated and plotted [PROSPERO ID: CRD42018109640].

Results: In total, 41 papers reporting on 55 study samples were included. The overall risk of bias was considered high in two-thirds of the papers. The mean prevalence, based on a clinical diagnosis of LSS in the general population, was 11% (95% CI 4-18%), 25% (95% CI 19-32%) in patients from primary care, 29% (95% CI 22-36%) in patients from secondary care and 39% (95% CI 39-39%) in patients from mixed primary and secondary care. Evaluating the presence of LSS based on radiological diagnosis, the pooled prevalence was 11% (95% CI 5-18%) in the asymptomatic population, 38% (95% CI - 10 to 85%) in the general population, 15% (95% CI 13-18%) in patients from primary care, 32% (95% CI 22-41%) in patients from secondary care and 21% (95% CI 16-26%) in a mixed population from primary and secondary care.

Conclusions: The mean prevalence estimates based on clinical diagnoses vary between 11 and 39%, and the estimates based on radiological diagnoses similarly vary between 11 and 38%. The results are based on studies with high risk of bias, and the pooled prevalence estimates should therefore be interpreted with caution. With an growing elderly population, there is a need for future low risk-of-bias research clarifying clinical and radiological diagnostic criteria of lumbar spinal stenosis. These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.

Keywords: Lumbar spinal stenosis; MRI; Meta-analysis; Neurogenic claudication; Prevalence; Review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care
  • Spinal Stenosis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Spinal Stenosis* / epidemiology