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Spine J. 2018 Jan;18(1):179-189. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2017.08.241. Epub 2017 Aug 31.

Value of physical tests in diagnosing cervical radiculopathy: a systematic review.

Author information

1
Fysio-Experts, Rijndijk 137, 2394 AG Hazerswoude, The Netherlands. Electronic address: erikthoomes@gmail.com.
2
Department of Neurosurgery, Leiden University Medical Centre, Albinusdreef 2, 2333 ZA Leiden, The Netherlands.
3
Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre, Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, Keele, Newcastle ST5 5BG, Staffordshire, United Kingdom.
4
Centre of Precision Rehabilitation for Spinal Pain (CPR Spine), School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT UK, United Kingdom.
5
Department of General Practice, Erasmus Medical Centre University, PO Box 2040, 3000 CA Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
6
Fysio-Experts, Rijndijk 137, 2394 AG Hazerswoude, The Netherlands.
7
Maasstad Hospital, Department of Neurosurgery, Maasstadweg 21, 3079 DZ Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
8
Department of Human Movement Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam Movement Sciences, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND CONTEXT:

In clinical practice, the diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy is based on information from the patient's history, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging. Various physical tests may be performed, but their diagnostic accuracy is unknown.

PURPOSE:

This study aimed to summarize and update the evidence on diagnostic performance of tests carried out during a physical examination for the diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy.

STUDY DESIGN:

A review of the accuracy of diagnostic tests was carried out.

STUDY SAMPLE:

The study sample comprised diagnostic studies comparing results of tests performed during a physical examination in diagnosing cervical radiculopathy with a reference standard of imaging or surgical findings.

OUTCOME MEASURES:

Sensitivity, specificity, likelihood ratios are presented, together with pooled results for sensitivity and specificity.

METHODS:

A literature search up to March 2016 was performed in CENTRAL, PubMed (MEDLINE), Embase, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Google Scholar. The methodological quality of studies was assessed using the QUADAS-2.

RESULTS:

Five diagnostic accuracy studies were identified. Only Spurling's test was evaluated in more than one study, showing high specificity ranging from 0.89 to 1.00 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.59-1.00); sensitivity varied from 0.38 to 0.97 (95% CI: 0.21-0.99). No studies were found that assessed the diagnostic accuracy of widely used neurological tests such as key muscle strength, tendon reflexes, and sensory impairments.

CONCLUSIONS:

There is limited evidence for accuracy of physical examination tests for the diagnosis of cervical radiculopathy. When consistent with patient history, clinicians may use a combination of Spurling's, axial traction, and an Arm Squeeze test to increase the likelihood of a cervical radiculopathy, whereas a combined results of four negative neurodynamics tests and an Arm Squeeze test could be used to rule out the disorder.

KEYWORDS:

Arm squeeze test; Cervical radiculopathy; Diagnostic accuracy; Neurodynamic testing; Shoulder physical examination; Spurling

PMID:
28838857
DOI:
10.1016/j.spinee.2017.08.241
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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