Items in AFP with MESH term: Intervertebral Disk Displacement
Recognizing Spinal Cord Emergencies - Article
ABSTRACT: Physicians who work in primary care settings and emergency departments frequently evaluate patients with neck and back pain. Spinal cord emergencies are uncommon, but injury must be recognized early so that the diagnosis can be quickly confirmed and treatment can be instituted to possibly prevent permanent loss of function. The differential diagnosis includes spinal cord compression secondary to vertebral fracture or space-occupying lesion, spinal infection or abscess, vascular or hematologic damage, severe disc herniation and spinal stenosis. The most important information in the assessment of a possible spinal cord emergency comes from the history and the clinical evaluation. Physicians must look for "red flags"--key historical and clinical clues that increase the likelihood of a serious underlying disorder. In considering diagnostic tests, physicians should apply the principles outlined in an algorithm for the evaluation of low back pain prepared by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (formerly the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research). Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging can clearly define anatomy, but these studies are costly and have a high false-positive rate. Referral of high-risk patients to a neurologist or spine specialist may be indicated.
ABSTRACT: Acute lumbar disk herniations are the most common cause of sciatica. After excluding emergent causes, such as cauda equina syndrome, epidural abscess, fracture, or malignancy, a six-week trial of conservative management is indicated. Patients should be advised to stay active. If symptoms persist after six weeks, or if there is worsening neurologic function, imaging and invasive procedures may be considered. Most patients with lumbar disk herniations improve over six weeks. Because there is no difference in outcomes between surgical and conservative treatment after two years, patient preference and the severity of the disability from the pain should be considered when choosing treatment modalities. If a disk herniation is identified that correlates with physical findings, surgical diskectomy may improve symptoms more quickly than continued conservative management. Epidural steroid injections can also provide short-term relief.
ABSTRACT: Degeneration of the intervertebral disc from a combination of factors can result in herniation, particularly at the L4-5 and L5-S1 levels. The presence of pain, radiculopathy and other symptoms depends on the site and degree of herniation. A detailed history and careful physical examination, supplemented if necessary by magnetic resonance imaging, can differentiate a herniated lumbar disc from low back strain and other possible causes of similar symptoms. Most patients recover within four weeks of symptom onset. Many treatment modalities have been suggested for lumbar disc herniation, but studies often provide conflicting results. Initial screening for serious pathology and monitoring for the development of significant complications (such as neurologic defects, cauda equina syndrome or refractory pain) are essential in the management of lumbar disc herniation.