Rikke Krüger Jensen, Tue Secher Jensen, Bart Koes, Jan Hartvigsen

September 2020, Volume 29, Issue 9, pp 2143 - 2163 Review Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06339-1

First Online: 24 February 2020


To estimate the prevalence of degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS) in adults, identified by clinical symptoms and/or radiological criteria.


Systematic review of the literature. Pooled prevalence estimates by care setting and clinical or radiological diagnostic criteria were calculated and plotted [PROSPERO ID: CRD42018109640].


In total, 41 papers reporting on 55 study samples were included. The overall risk of bias was considered high in two-thirds of the papers. The mean prevalence, based on a clinical diagnosis of LSS in the general population, was 11% (95% CI 4–18%), 25% (95% CI 19–32%) in patients from primary care, 29% (95% CI 22–36%) in patients from secondary care and 39% (95% CI 39–39%) in patients from mixed primary and secondary care. Evaluating the presence of LSS based on radiological diagnosis, the pooled prevalence was 11% (95% CI 5–18%) in the asymptomatic population, 38% (95% CI − 10 to 85%) in the general population, 15% (95% CI 13–18%) in patients from primary care, 32% (95% CI 22–41%) in patients from secondary care and 21% (95% CI 16–26%) in a mixed population from primary and secondary care.


The mean prevalence estimates based on clinical diagnoses vary between 11 and 39%, and the estimates based on radiological diagnoses similarly vary between 11 and 38%. The results are based on studies with high risk of bias, and the pooled prevalence estimates should therefore be interpreted with caution. With an growing elderly population, there is a need for future low risk-of-bias research clarifying clinical and radiological diagnostic criteria of lumbar spinal stenosis.

Graphic abstract

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