Consensus on a Standardised Treatment Pathway Algorithm for Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: an International Delphi Study

Christine M. Comer (Corresponding Author), Carlo Ammendolia, Battie Michele, André Bussières, Jeremy Fairbank, Andrew Haig, Markus Melloh, Anthony Redmond, Michael Schneider, Christopher Standaert, Christy Tomkins-Lane, Esther Williamson, Yu Lok Wong

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) is a common degenerative spinal condition in older adults associated with disability, diminished quality of life, and substantial healthcare costs. Individual symptoms and needs vary. With sparse and sometimes inconsistent evidence to guide clinical decision-making, variable clinical care may lead to unsatisfactory patient outcomes and inefficient use of healthcare resources.

Methods: A three-phase modified Delphi study comprising four consensus rounds was conducted on behalf of the International Taskforce for the Diagnosis and Management of LSS to develop a treatment algorithm based on multi-professional international expert consensus. Participants with expertise in the assessment and management of people with LSS were invited using an international distribution process used for two previous Delphi studies led by the Taskforce. Separate treatment pathways for patients with different symptom types and severity were developed and incorporated into a proposed treatment algorithm through consensus rounds 1 to 3. Agreement with the proposed algorithm was evaluated in the final consensus round.

Results: The final algorithm combines stratified and stepped approaches. When indicated, immediate investigation and surgery is advocated. Otherwise, a stepped approach is suggested when self-directed care is unsatisfactory. This starts with tailored rehabilitation, then more complex multidisciplinary care, investigations and surgery options if needed. Treatment options in each step depend on clinical phenotype and symptom severity. Treatment response guides pathway entrance and exit points. Of 397 study participants, 86% rated their agreement ≥ 4 for the proposed algorithm on a 0-6 scale, of which 22% completely agreed. Only 7% disagreed. Over 70% of participants felt that the algorithm would be useful for clinicians in public healthcare (both primary care and specialist settings) and in private healthcare settings, and that a simplified version would help patients in shared decision-making.

Conclusions: International and multi-professional agreement was achieved for a proposed LSS treatment algorithm developed through expert consensus. The algorithm advocates different pathway options depending on clinical indications. It is not intended as a treatment protocol and will require evaluation against current care for clinical and cost-effectiveness. It may, however, serve as a clinical guide until evidence is sufficient to inform a fully stratified care model.
Original languageEnglish
Article number550
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2022


  • Algorithm
  • Clinical practice guideline
  • Consensus
  • Delphi technique
  • Experts
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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