Tandem spinal stenosis (TSS) is defined as the concomitant occurrence of stenosis in at least two or more distinct regions (cervical, thoracic, or lumbar) of the spine and may present with a constellation of signs and symptoms. It has four subtypes, including cervico-lumbar, cervico-thoracic, thoraco-lumbar, and cervico-thoraco-lumbar TSS. The prevalence of TSS varies depending on the different subtypes and cohorts.
The main aetiologies of TSS are spinal degenerative changes and heterotopic ossification, and patients with developmental spinal stenosis, ligament ossification, and spinal stenosis at any region are at an increased risk of developing TSS.
The diagnosis of TSS is challenging. The clinical presentation of TSS could be complex, concealed, or severe, and these features may be confusing to clinicians, resulting in an incomplete or delayed diagnosis. Additionally, a consolidated diagnostic criterion for TSS is urgently required to improve consistency across studies and form a basis for establishing treatment guidelines.
The optimal treatment option for TSS is still under debate; areas of controversies include choice of the decompression range, choice between simultaneous or staged surgical patterns, and the order of the surgeries.
The present study reviews publications on TSS, consolidates current awareness on prevalence, aetiologies, potential risk factors, diagnostic dilemmas and criteria, and surgical strategies based on TSS subtypes. This is the first review to include thoracic spinal stenosis as a candidate disorder in TSS and aims at providing the readers with a comprehensive overview of TSS.