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Eur Spine J. 2012 Jul;21(7):1241-9. doi: 10.1007/s00586-011-2057-2. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Development of an assessment schedule for patients with low back-associated leg pain in primary care: a Delphi consensus study.

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  • 1Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Primary Care Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG, UK.



The objectives of this study were to develop consensus on (i) the content of a clinical assessment for adults presenting to primary care with low back and leg pain, and (ii) the most important items for diagnosing spinal nerve root involvement.


Existing literature and expert knowledge was used to compile a list of items pertaining to clinical history questions and examination tests employed in the assessment of patients with low back pain with suspected spinal nerve involvement. A Delphi consensus method was employed to rate the importance of items for clinical assessment and for diagnosis in two web-based rounds. A multidisciplinary group of 42, including GPs, physiotherapists, osteopaths, rheumatologists, spinal orthopaedic surgeons and chiropractors took part. Items were included in the final assessment when over 70% of participants rated them as important.


Thirty-four items were included in the clinical assessment, and 15 items for diagnosis. History items included pain distribution in the leg, pain quality and behaviour, altered sensation, functional limitations and yellow flags, previous history of similar symptoms and outcome of previous treatment/management. Examination items included typical neurological tests including neural tension and 'demonstration of movement that produces symptoms'.


We have developed a clinical assessment schedule for patients with low back pain and leg pain presenting in primary care. History and clinical items considered important for their contribution in the diagnosis of nerve root involvement were also established.

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