BACKGROUND: Low back pain after either post lumbar surgery syndrome or spinal stenosis in the absence of surgery is a vexing problem. Post lumbar surgery syndrome can occur in any age group, while low back and radicular pain from spinal stenosis is a disease of aging. As the population ages, the incidence of symptomatic spinal stenosis will increase. There are currently limited treatment options for either group. Further surgery is not uniformly effective in relieving pain after previous surgery. While therapies are being developed to treat pain due to spinal stenosis, no therapy other than adhesiolysis will treat pain due to scarring.
Adhesiolysis was developed as a means of removing epidural scarring leading directly or indirectly to compression, inflammation, swelling, or a decreased nutritional supply of nerve roots. Adhesiolysis utilizes a number of modalities in the effort to break up epidural scarring, including the use of a wire-bound catheter for mechanical adhesiolysis, placement of the catheter in the ventro-lateral aspect of the epidural space at the site of the exiting nerve root, and the use of high volumes of injectate, including local anesthetics and saline, either hypertonic or isotonic, along with steroids.
STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review of percutaneous adhesiolysis in the treatment of refractory low back and leg pain due to post lumbar surgery syndrome or spinal stenosis.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effectiveness of percutaneous adhesiolysis in the treatment of refractory low back and leg pain due to post lumbar surgery syndrome or spinal stenosis. The severity of risks and adverse advents associated with percutaneous adhesiolysis were also evaluated.
METHODS: The available literature on percutaneous adhesiolysis for the treatment of refractory low back and leg pain due to post lumbar surgery syndrome or spinal stenosis was reviewed. The quality assessment and clinical relevance criteria utilized were the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group criteria as utilized for interventional techniques for randomized trials and the criteria developed by the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale criteria for observational studies.
The level of evidence was classified as good, fair, and limited (or poor) based on the quality of evidence developed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).
Data sources included relevant literature identified through searches of PubMed and EMBASE from 1966 to June 2012, and manual searches of the bibliographies of known primary and review articles.
OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was pain relief of at least 6 months. Secondary outcome measures were improvement in functional status, change in psychological status, return to work, and reduction in opioid use or interventions.
RESULTS: For this systematic review, 15 studies were identified and selected for review. Of these, 5 randomized controlled trials and 2 observational studies met the inclusion criteria.
Applying the USPSTF criteria, these studies indicate that there is fair evidence that percutaneous adhesiolysis is effective in relieving low back and/or leg pain caused by post lumbar surgery syndrome and that there is fair evidence that percutaneous adhesiolysis is effective in relieving low back and/or leg pain caused by spinal stenosis.
The incidence of complications from percutaneous adhesiolysis is low and the complications are generally minimal and self-limited. The procedure should be considered to be low risk for serious adverse events when performed by well-trained physicians.
LIMITATIONS: The limitations of this systematic review include the paucity of literature.
CONCLUSION: In summary, there is fair evidence that percutaneous adhesiolysis is effective in relieving low back and/or leg pain due to post lumbar surgery syndrome or spinal stenosis.