Reliability of preoperative MRI findings in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2022, 23 (1), 1-9. 10.1186/s12891-021-04949-4
Background Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is an important tool in preoperative evaluation of patients with lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). Reported reliability of various MRI findings in LSS varies from fair to excellent. There are inconsistencies in the evaluated parameters and the methodology of the studies. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the reliability of the preoperative MRI findings in patients with LSS between musculoskeletal radiologists and orthopaedic spine surgeons, using established evaluation methods and imaging data from a prospective trial. Methods Consecutive lumbar MRI examinations of candidates for surgical treatment of LSS from the Norwegian Spinal Stenosis and Degenerative Spondylolisthesis (NORDSTEN) study were independently evaluated by two musculoskeletal radiologists and two orthopaedic spine surgeons. The observers had a range of experience between six and 13 years and rated five categorical parameters (foraminal and central canal stenosis, facet joint osteoarthritis, redundant nerve roots and intraspinal synovial cysts) and one continuous parameter (dural sac cross-sectional area). All parameters were re-rated after 6 weeks by all the observers. Inter- and intraobserver agreement was assessed by Gwet’s agreement coefficient (AC1) for categorical parameters and Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC) for the dural sac cross-sectional area. Results MRI examinations of 102 patients (mean age 66 ± 8 years, 53 men) were evaluated. The overall interobserver agreement was substantial or almost perfect for all categorical parameters (AC1 range 0.67 to 0.98), except for facet joint osteoarthritis, where the agreement was moderate (AC1 0.39). For the dural sac cross-sectional area, the overall interobserver agreement was good or excellent (ICC range 0.86 to 0.96). The intraobserver agreement was substantial or almost perfect/ excellent for all parameters (AC1 range 0.63 to 1.0 and ICC range 0.93 to 1.0). Conclusions There is high inter- and intraobserver agreement between radiologists and spine surgeons for preoperative MRI findings of LSS. However, the interobserver agreement is not optimal for evaluation of facet joint osteoarthritis.