Tandem Spinal Stenosis: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Background:

Tandem spinal stenosis refers to spinal canal diameter narrowing in at least 2 distinct regions of the spine, most commonly the lumbar and cervical regions. This entity can be an asymptomatic radiographic finding, or it can present with severe myelopathy and lower-extremity symptoms. Tandem spinal stenosis may impact surgeon decision-making when planning either cervical or lumbar spine surgery, and there is currently no consensus in the literature regarding the treatment algorithm for operative intervention.

Methods:

A MEDLINE literature search was performed using PubMed, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and Embase from January 1980 to February 2015 using Medical Subject Heading queries for the terms “tandem spinal stenosis,” “cervical stenosis AND lumbar stenosis,” and “concomitant spinal stenosis.” We included studies involving adult patients, tandem spinal stenosis of the cervical and lumbar regions, and a minimum of 5 patients. Articles that did not discuss spinal disorders or only explored disorders at a single spinal region were excluded.

Results:

The initial database review resulted in 234 articles. After abstracts were reviewed, only 17 articles that met inclusion criteria were identified: 2 cadaveric studies, 5 clinical studies of patients with radiographic tandem spinal stenosis, and 10 clinical studies of patients with symptomatic tandem spinal stenosis.

Conclusions:

Tandem spinal stenosis is a common condition present in up to 60% of patients with spinal stenosis. This disorder, however, is often overlooked, which can lead to serious complications. Identification of tandem spinal stenosis is paramount as a first step in management and, although there is still no preferred intervention, both staged and simultaneous procedures have been shown to be effective. Surgeons may utilize a single, staged, or combined approach to decompression, always addressing cervical myelopathy as a priority.

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