Purpose: To test whether the localization of worsening of pain during coughing, sneezing and straining matters in the assessment of lumbosacral nerve root compression or disc herniation on MRI. Methods: Recently the diagnostic accuracy of history items to assess disc herniation or nerve root compression on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was investigated. A total of 395 adult patients with severe sciatica of 6–12 weeks duration were included in this study. The question regarding the influence of coughing, sneezing and straining on the intensity of pain could be answered on a 4 point scale: no worsening of pain, worsening of back pain, worsening of leg pain, worsening of back and leg pain. Diagnostic odds ratio’s (DORs) were calculated for the various dichotomization options. Results: The DOR changed into significant values when the answer option was more narrowed to worsening of leg pain. The highest DOR was observed for the answer option ‘worsening of leg pain’ with a DOR of 2.28 (95 % CI 1.28–4.04) for the presence of nerve root compression and a DOR of 2.50 (95 % CI 1.27–4.90) for the presence of a herniated disc on MRI. Conclusions: Worsening of leg pain during coughing, sneezing or straining has a significant diagnostic value for the presence of nerve root compression and disc herniation on MRI in patients with sciatica. This study also highlights the importance of the formulation of answer options in history taking.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Diagnosis, Intervertebral disc displacement, Medical history taking, Pain, Sciatica, Specificity
Persistent URL dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00586-016-4393-8, hdl.handle.net/1765/85001
Journal European Spine Journal
Citation
Verwoerd, A.J.H, Mens, J.M.A, Barzouhi, A.E, Peul, W.C, Koes, B.W, & Verhagen, A.P. (2016). A diagnostic study in patients with sciatica establishing the importance of localization of worsening of pain during coughing, sneezing and straining to assess nerve root compression on MRI. European Spine Journal, 25(5), 1389–1392. doi:10.1007/s00586-016-4393-8