Past Issue - November/December 2010 - Vol 13 Issue 6  | Index | Previous | Next | 
2010;13;505-508. Phantom Radiculitis Effectively Treated by Fluoroscopically Guided Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injections
Case Report
Gerard DeGregoris, MD, and Sudhir Diwan, MD
Lower back and extremity pain in the amputee patient can be challenging to classify and treat. Radicular compression in a patient with lower limb amputation may present as or be superimposed upon phantom limb pain, creating diagnostic difficulties. Both patients and physicians classically find it difficult to discern phantom sensation from phantom limb pain and stump pain; radicular compression is often not considered. Many studies have shown back pain to be a significant cause of pain in lower limb amputees, but sciatica has been rarely reported in amputees. We present a case of L4/5 radiculitis in an above-knee amputee presenting as phantom radiculitis. Our patient is a 67 year old gentleman with new onset 10/10 pain in a phantom extremity superimposed upon a 40 year history of previously stable phantom limb pain. MRI showed a central disc herniation at L4/5 with compression of the traversing left L4 nerve root. Two fluoroscopically guided left transforaminal epidural steroid injections at the level of the L4 and L5 spinal nerve roots totally alleviated his new onset pain. At one year post injection, his phantom radiculitis pain was completely gone, though his underlying phantom limb pain remained. Lumbar radiculitis in lower extremity amputee patients may be difficult to differentiate from baseline phantom limb pain. When conservative techniques fail, fluoroscopically guided spinal nerve injection may be valuable in determining the etiology of lower extremity pain. Our experience supports the notion that epidural steroid injections can effectively treat phantom lumbar radiculitis in lower extremity amputees.


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Pain Physician
Gerard DeGregoris
Sudhir Diwan

phantom pain
phantom sensation
phantom radiculitis
disc herniation
epidural steroid injection