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N Engl J Med. 2013 Mar 14;368(11):999-1007. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1209250.

Magnetic resonance imaging in follow-up assessment of sciatica.

Author information

1
Department of Neurosurgery, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is frequently performed during follow-up in patients with known lumbar-disk herniation and persistent symptoms of sciatica. The association between findings on MRI and clinical outcome is controversial.

METHODS:

We studied 283 patients in a randomized trial comparing surgery and prolonged conservative care for sciatica and lumbar-disk herniation. Patients underwent MRI at baseline and after 1 year. We used a 4-point scale to assess disk herniation on MRI, ranging from 1 for "definitely present" to 4 for "definitely absent." A favorable clinical outcome was defined as complete or nearly complete disappearance of symptoms at 1 year. We compared proportions of patients with a favorable outcome among those with a definite absence of disk herniation and those with a definite, probable, or possible presence of disk herniation at 1 year. The area under the receiver-operating-characteristic (ROC) curve was used to assess the prognostic accuracy of the 4-point scores regarding a favorable or unfavorable outcome, with 1 indicating perfect discriminatory value and 0.5 or less indicating no discriminatory value.

RESULTS:

At 1 year, 84% of the patients reported having a favorable outcome. Disk herniation was visible in 35% with a favorable outcome and in 33% with an unfavorable outcome (P=0.70). A favorable outcome was reported in 85% of patients with disk herniation and 83% without disk herniation (P=0.70). MRI assessment of disk herniation did not distinguish between patients with a favorable outcome and those with an unfavorable outcome (area under ROC curve, 0.48).

CONCLUSIONS:

MRI performed at 1-year follow-up in patients who had been treated for sciatica and lumbar-disk herniation did not distinguish between those with a favorable outcome and those with an unfavorable outcome. (Funded by the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development and the Hoelen Foundation; Controlled Clinical Trials number, ISRCTN26872154.).

PMID:
23484826
DOI:
10.1056/NEJMoa1209250
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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