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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Spinal instability, lacks of precise definition, is still a controversial concept due to lack of regular clinical experience or radiological evaluation.

OBJECTIVE:

To review the definition of lumbar spinal instability (especially degenerative lumbar spinal instability) and the imaging methods of diagnosing lumbar spinal instability.

METHODS:

We retrieved SLIDE SHARE, MEDLIND and NCBI database for literatures published in recent 30 years. Key words were “lumbar instability, traction spurs, ligament, disc space narrowing “ in English. Finally

METHODS:

49 literatures were included.

RESULTS AND CONCLUSION:

Lumbar spinal instability possibly was a reason for low back pain and sciatica, and was a key condition for spinal fusion and decompression. Clinical symptoms and physical signs of lumbar spinal instability did not have specificity, so effective diagnosis and treatment for this disease are controversial. Functional lateral plain films are extensive important method to diagnose lumbar spinal instability. CT provides more exact images for spinal degeneration and intervertebral joint direction. Magnetic resonance is generally considered to be the most precise method for the diagnosis of degenerative changes in the spine, and has been widely applied to diagnose chronic low back pain besides vacuum phenomenon.

Subject headings:

lumbar vertebrae; intervertebral disk; tomography, X-ray computed; magnetic resonance imaging

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