European Spine Journal

, Volume 27, Issue 8, pp 1734–1743 | Cite as

F-waves of peroneal and tibial nerves in the differential diagnosis and follow-up evaluation of L5 and S1 radiculopathies

  • Chaojun Zheng
  • Jingjuan Liang
  • Cong Nie
  • Yu Zhu
  • Feizhou Lu
  • Jianyuan Jiang
Original Article



To investigate F-wave as a method to identify a specific root lesion of L5 or S1 and to quantitatively evaluate the severity and progression of motor root lesions in lumbosacral radiculopathies (LR).


Both peroneal and tibial F-waves were performed bilaterally in 142 patients with unilateral L5 or S1 radiculopathies and 37 controls along with Medical Research Council (MRC) evaluation, and soleus H-reflexes were tested bilaterally in 78 of these 142 cases. Both F-wave and MRC were re-evaluated approximately 1 year after initial examination in 65 patients.


Abnormal peroneal F-waves were found in 34 patients with L5 radiculopathy (34/67, 50.7%) along with normal tibial F-waves and soleus H-reflexes in all tested cases. By contrast, 27 patients with S1 radiculopathy presented abnormal tibial F-waves (27/76, 36.0%) along with normal peroneal F-waves in all 76 cases and abnormal soleus H-reflexes in 38 of 47 (80.9%) cases. There were significant differences in involved side F-duration among different MRC scales in both radiculopathy groups (P < 0.05). Follow-up analysis demonstrated slow progression of both F-wave abnormalities and muscle weakness in patients undergoing conservative treatment (P < 0.05).


Comparisons of F-waves between the same nerve on both sides and between peroneal and tibial nerves in the same leg may clearly increase the validity of F-waves for evaluating a specific motor root lesion of L5 or S1. Furthermore, a quantitative comparison of F-waves may provide additional information on the severity of individual root lesions and their progression even in the early stages of disease.

Graphical abstract

These slides can be retrieved under Electronic Supplementary Material.


F-wave Differential diagnosis Quantitative assessment Lumbosacral radiculopathy 



Financial support from Shanghai City Health System of the Second Batch of Important Diseases Combined Project (2014ZYJ0008), Research project of Shanghai Health Planning Committee (201540236) and Scientific Research project supported by Huashan Hospital, Fudan University (2016QD074) is gratefully acknowledged.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have potential conflicts of interest to be disclosed. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing of this paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 6 (PPTX 597 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Orthopedics, Huashan HospitalFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.Department of Physical Medicine and RehabilitationUpstate Medical University, State University of New York at SyracuseSyracuseUSA
  3. 3.Department of Orthopedics, The Fifth People’s HospitalFudan UniversityShanghaiChina

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