Verbiest syndrome

Verbiest’s syndrome is also called Neurogenic intermittent claudication. This disease is based on a narrowing that has developed in the spinal canal, causing the nerve roots to become pinched. This causes symptoms that are very similar to those of a hernia. Yet this is not a hernia. Complaints mainly consist of a burning, tired and painful feeling in the legs and muscle weakness. Verbiest syndrome is not always easy to treat.

Verbiest syndrome

This disease is named after the neurologist Verbiest. This disease is very similar to a hernia, and is therefore sometimes confused with it. The disease is based on a narrowing of the spinal canal. Other names for Verbiest syndrome are Neurogenic intermittent claudication and spinal stenosis.


The disease can be congenital. It is often not immediately clear at birth that the baby has Verbiest syndrome. Sometimes no symptoms occur at all, meaning the disease remains unnoticed for a very long time. The first complaints may arise later in life. An accident can also be the cause, for example a fall on the back. Old age and osteoarthritis also play a role. Sometimes Verbiest’s syndrome occurs after back surgery.


The spinal canal is narrowed, this mainly occurs low in the back. But the upper back or neck can also be affected. Because the spinal canal is narrowed for some reason, the nerve roots can become pinched. This causes symptoms that closely resemble a hernia. There may be pain in the legs or an alienated feeling in the legs. Cramps or a tired feeling also occur. There may be weakness in the muscles and sometimes difficulty with bowel movements or urination. It is remarkable that the complaints decrease when you bend forward. With a hollow back, the complaints actually worsen. Walking will become more difficult. The complaints will continue to increase. Ultimately, certain movements are no longer possible. In other cases, the complaints remain stable at a certain point. The complaints worsen with walking and do not immediately decrease when standing still. In addition, complaints may also occur that are not directly caused by Verbiest syndrome, but are caused by the underlying cause. For example, a fall may cause more damage with additional complaints, and osteoarthritis will mainly cause stiffness.


First the doctor will have to make a diagnosis. Physical examination only reveals symptoms when provoked. It is striking that certain reflexes are weakened. Verbiest’s syndrome can be diagnosed by an MRI scan or a CT scan. An X-ray can also be taken using contract fluid. A hernia must be ruled out. If the complaints are not serious and do not increase, the doctor may decide to prescribe painkillers. This is mainly chosen for elderly people, where this disease occurs more often as a result of wear and tear and old age. Treatment by a physiotherapist is recommended. The treatment mainly focuses on movement to keep the muscles flexible and the spine stable.
If complaints persist or if complaints continue to worsen, surgery is necessary. During surgery, half a vertebral arch can be removed, creating more space in the spinal canal. Sometimes an entire vertebral arch must be removed in case of a severe narrowing. In many cases, the patient is able to walk again after the procedure. All complaints always disappear. A decrease in complaints is common. In some cases there is no improvement. It must then be determined whether a new operation is useful or whether painkillers and physiotherapy should be used. This will also depend on the age of the patient. Surgery is a greater risk in the elderly.

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