Introduction Stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy can cause leg and/or low back pain similar to that caused by lumbar spinal stenosis. However, the thoracic spine may occasionally be overlooked in patients with leg and/or low back pain. An accurate understanding of the prevalence of stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy and its associated factors is necessary.
Methods In this prevalence study, we reviewed whole-spine MRI scans of patients who visited the pain clinic complaining of leg and/or low back pain between 2010 and 2019. We analyzed the overall prevalence and prevalence according to the age group, sex, grade of lumbar disc degeneration, and thoracic level. In addition, we identified factors independently associated with stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy occurrence.
Results Among 1896 patients, the overall prevalence of stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy was 9.8% (185/1896), with the highest prevalence observed in the ≥80-year-old age group among all age groups (15.9%, 14/88). The region with the highest prevalence was the T10/11 level (3.0%, 57/1896). Multivariable logistic regression analysis revealed that when compared with the <50-year-old age group, all other age groups were significantly associated with stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy (p<0.01). In addition, grade 5 of lumbar disc degeneration was significantly associated with stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy (p=0.03).
Conclusions Given the possibility for missed stenotic thoracic ligamentum flavum hypertrophy to potentially result in neurological complications, extending lumbar spine MRI covering the lower thoracic region may be considered for patients over 50 years of age with suspected severe lumbar disc degeneration.
- Diagnostic Techniques and Procedures
- Pain Management
- Back Pain
- Multimodal Imaging
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request.
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HK and Y-DK contributed equally.
Contributors C-SK: data curation; formal analysis; visualization; writing—original draft. HK (guarantor): conceptualization; data curation; formal analysis; investigation; methodology; supervision; writing—review and editing. SK: data curation; formal analysis; writing—review and editing. JHL: data curation; investigation; validation; writing—review and editing. KJ: software; validation; visualization; writing—review and editing. HSL: data curation; investigation; validation; writing—review and editing. Y-DK: conceptualization; data curation; formal analysis; investigation; methodology; supervision; writing—eview and editing.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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