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J Neurosurg Spine. 2005 Feb;2(2):99-115.

Sciatica of nondisc origin and piriformis syndrome: diagnosis by magnetic resonance neurography and interventional magnetic resonance imaging with outcome study of resulting treatment.

Author information

  • 1Institute for Spinal Disorders, Cedars Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, California, USA. afiller@nervemed.com

Abstract

OBJECT:

Because lumbar magnetic resonance (MR) imaging fails to identify a treatable cause of chronic sciatica in nearly 1 million patients annually, the authors conducted MR neurography and interventional MR imaging in 239 consecutive patients with sciatica in whom standard diagnosis and treatment failed to effect improvement.

METHODS:

After performing MR neurography and interventional MR imaging, the final rediagnoses included the following: piriformis syndrome (67.8%), distal foraminal nerve root entrapment (6%), ischial tunnel syndrome (4.7%), discogenic pain with referred leg pain (3.4%), pudendal nerve entrapment with referred pain (3%), distal sciatic entrapment (2.1%), sciatic tumor (1.7%), lumbosacral plexus entrapment (1.3%), unappreciated lateral disc herniation (1.3%), nerve root injury due to spinal surgery (1.3%), inadequate spinal nerve root decompression (0.8%), lumbar stenosis (0.8%), sacroiliac joint inflammation (0.8%), lumbosacral plexus tumor (0.4%), sacral fracture (0.4%), and no diagnosis (4.2%). Open MR-guided Marcaine injection into the piriformis muscle produced the following results: no response (15.7%), relief of greater than 8 months (14.9%), relief lasting 2 to 4 months with continuing relief after second injection (7.5%), relief for 2 to 4 months with subsequent recurrence (36.6%), and relief for 1 to 14 days with full recurrence (25.4%). Piriformis surgery (62 operations; 3-cm incision, transgluteal approach, 55% outpatient; 40% with local or epidural anesthesia) resulted in excellent outcome in 58.5%, good outcome in 22.6%, limited benefit in 13.2%, no benefit in 3.8%, and worsened symptoms in 1.9%.

CONCLUSIONS:

This Class A quality evaluation of MR neurography's diagnostic efficacy revealed that piriformis muscle asymmetry and sciatic nerve hyperintensity at the sciatic notch exhibited a 93% specificity and 64% sensitivity in distinguishing patients with piriformis syndrome from those without who had similar symptoms (p < 0.01). Evaluation of the nerve beyond the proximal foramen provided eight additional diagnostic categories affecting 96% of these patients. More than 80% of the population good or excellent functional outcome was achieved.

Comment in

  • Piriformis syndrome. [J Neurosurg Spine. 2006]
  • Piriformis syndrome. [J Neurosurg Spine. 2006]
PMID:
15739520
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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