John Hutchins, Hanna Hebelka, Kerstin Lagerstrand, Helena Brisby

March 2022, pp 1 - 12 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-022-07147-5

First Online: 28 March 2022


Foraminal stenosis is commonly investigated with radiological methods in patients with radiating pain in extremities. However, there is a lack of consensus regarding the methodology to assess compression of the nerve roots. This systematic review was performed to identify validated classification systems for foraminal stenosis in the lumbar and cervical spine based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


A systematic search was conducted according to the PRISMA guidelines. The search included Cochrane, Embase, Medline and PubMed databases going back 30 years and up to September 2021. Three categories of words were used in different variations; foraminal stenosis, MRI and scoring. For inclusion, at least one word from each category had to be present. Articles suggesting classification systems or reporting on their validation were selected for inclusion.


A total of 823 articles were identified and all abstracts were reviewed. Subsequently, a full-text review of 64 articles was performed and finally 14 articles were included. A total of three validated classification systems were found for the cervical and lumbar spine. The remaining 11 articles reported on validation or suggested modifications of the classification systems.


The three classification systems demonstrated moderate to good reliability and have all been shown feasible in the clinical setting. There is however a need for further studies testing the validity of these classifications in relation to both clinical findings and to surgical outcome data.

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