January 29th, 2019 , The Spine Journal

Comparison of the history and physical examination for hip osteoarthritis and lumbar spinal stenosis (Abstract)

Authors: Rainville J, Bono JV, Laxer EB, Kim DH, Lavelle JM, Indahl A, Borenstein DG, Hig AJ, Katz JN


Leg pain associated with walking is sometimes incorrectly attributed to hip osteoarthritis (OA) or lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS).


This study compared physicians’ values of signs and symptoms for diagnosing and differentiating hip OA and LSS to their clinical utility.


Musculoskeletal physicians were surveyed with online questionnaires. Patients were recruited from hip and spine specialty practices.


Seventy-seven hip OA and 79 LSS patients.


Signs and symptoms of hip OA and LSS.


Fifty-one of 66 invited musculoskeletal physicians completed online surveys about the values of 83 signs and symptoms for diagnosing hip OA and LSS. Of these, the most valued 32 symptoms and 13 physical examination items were applied to patients with symptomatic hip OA or LSS. Positive likelihood ratios (+LR) were calculated for each items’ ability to differentiate hip OA from LSS, with a +LR>2 set as indicating usefulness for favoring either diagnosis. Positive LRs were compared with surveyed physicians’ values for each test.


All symptoms were reported by some patients with each diagnosis. Only 11 of 32 physician-valued symptoms were useful for discriminating hip OA from LSS. Eight symptoms favored hip OA over LSS: groin pain (+LR=4.9); knee pain (+LR=2.2); pain that decreased with continued walking (+LR=3.9); pain that occurs immediately with walking (+LR=2.4); pain that occurs immediately with standing (+LR=2.1); pain getting in/out of a car (+LR=3.3); pain with dressing the symptomatic leg (+LR=3.1); and difficulty reaching the foot of the symptomatic leg while dressing (+LR=2.3). Three symptoms favored LSS over hip OA: pain below the knee (+LR=2.3); leg tingling and/or numbness (+LR=2.7); and some pain in both legs (+LR=2.5). Notable symptoms that did not discriminate hip OA from LSS included: pain is less while pushing a shopping cart (+LR=1.0); back pain (+LR=1.1); weakness and/or heaviness of leg (+LR=1.1); buttocks pain (+LR=1.2); poor balance or unsteadiness (+LR=1.2); pain that increased with weight-bearing on the painful leg (+LR=1.3), and step to gait on stairs (+LR=1.7). Consistent with physicians’ expectations, 7 of 13 physical examination items strongly favored hip OA over LSS: limited weight-bearing on painful leg when standing (+LR=10); observed limp (+LR=9); and painful and restricted range-of-motion with any of five hipmaneuvers (+LR range 21-99). Four of five tested neurological deficits (+LR range 3-8) favored the diagnosis of LSS over hip OA.


There is substantial crossover of symptoms between hip OA and LSS, with some physician-valued symptoms useful for differentiating these disorders whereas others were not. Physicians recognize the value of the examination of gait, the hip, and lower extremity neurological function for differentiating hip OA from LSS. These tests should be routinely performed on all patients for which either diagnosis is considered. Awareness of these findings might reduce diagnostic errors.

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