Zachary Huschi, Laura Neuburger, Syed Uzair Ahmed, Yanzhao Cheng, Daryl R. Fourney

November 2021, Volume 30, Issue 11, pp 3289 - 3296 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-021-06919-9

First Online: 18 July 2021


Surgical indications for lumbar spinal stenosis are controversial, but most agree that leg dominant pain is a better predictor of success after decompression surgery. The objective of this study is to analyze the ability of the Nerve Root Sedimentation Sign (SedSign) on MRI to differentiate leg dominant symptoms from non-specific low back pain.


This was a retrospective review of 367 consecutive patients presenting with back and/or leg pain. Baseline clinical characteristics included Oswestry disability index (ODI), visual analog pain scores, EuroQol Group 5-Dimension Self-Report (EQ5D) and Saskatchewan Spine Pathway Classification (SSPc). Inter- and intra-rater reliability for SedSign was 73% and 91%, respectively (3 examiners).


SedSign was positive in 111 (30.2%) and negative in 256 (69.8%) patients. On univariate analysis, a positive SedSign was correlated with age, male sex, several ODI components, EQ5D mobility, cross-sectional area (CSA) of stenosis, antero-posterior diameter of stenosis, and SSPc pattern 4 (intermittent leg dominant pain). On multivariate analysis, SedSign was associated with age, male sex, CSA stenosis and ODI walking distance. Patients with a positive SedSign were more likely to be offered surgery after referral (OR 2.65). The sensitivity and specificity for detecting all types of leg dominant pain were 37.4 and 82.8, respectively (ppv 77.5%, npv 43.8%).


Patients with a positive SedSign were more likely to be offered surgery, in particular non-instrumented decompression. The SedSign has high specificity for leg dominant pain, but the sensitivity is poor. As such, its use in triaging appropriate surgical referrals is limited.

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