Spinal and extra-spinal tumors mimicking discal herniation

E. Tamir*, Y. Mirovsky, D. Robinson, N. Halperin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Low back pain radiating to a limb is usually caused by lumbar disc herniation. Tumors of the spinal cord or near the sciatic or femoral plexus can cause neural compression and clinical signs similar to those of disc herniation. Such tumors are usually misdiagnosed as discal herniation and appropriate treatment is delayed. We present 4 men who had tumors causing low back pain radiating to the leg: a 70-year-old with metastatic squamous cell carcinoma of the lung, a 20-year-old with aneurysmal bone cyst of the vertebral column, a 52-year-old with retroperitoneal sarcoma and a 32-year-old who also had retroperitoneal sarcoma. Diagnosis and treatment were delayed because the clinical symptoms were ascribed to lumbar disc herniation. The latter 2 patients had CT-scans showing lumbar disc herniation, but similar findings are common among asymptomatic individuals. The differential diagnosis of low back pain radiating to the leg should include tumor when there is a history of cancer, pain not relieved by conservative treatment nor by lying down, pain is increased at night, pain accompanied by weight loss, and when physical examination demonstrates injury to more than 1 nerve root. In these circumstances work-up should include EMG, radioisotope scan and CT of the pelvis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-617, 679
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes


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