BACKGROUND: Cervical spinal stenosis is a common disease that results in considerable morbidity and disability. There are multiple modalities of treatments, including surgical interventions and multiple interventional techniques including epidural injections. The literature on the effectiveness of cervical epidural steroids is sporadic. Emerging evidence for cervical interlaminar epidurals for various conditions in the cervical spine is positive; however, the effect of fluoroscopic epidural injections in cervical spinal stenosis has not been studied.
STUDY DESIGN: A randomized, double-blind, active control trial.
SETTING: A private interventional pain management practice, a specialty referral center in the United States.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effectiveness of cervical interlaminar epidural injections with local anesthetic with or without steroids in the management of chronic neck pain with upper extremity pain in patients with cervical central spinal stenosis.
METHODS: Patients with cervical central spinal stenosis were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups: injection of local anesthetic only or local anesthetic mixed with non-particulate betamethasone. Sixty patients were included in this analysis. Randomization was performed by computer-generated random allocation sequence by simple randomization.
OUTCOMES ASSESSMENT: Multiple outcome measures were utilized including the Numeric Rating Scale (NRS), the Neck Disability Index (NDI), employment status, and opioid intake with assessment at 3, 6, and 12 months post-treatment. Significant pain relief or functional status was defined as a 50% or more reduction of NRS or NDI scores.
RESULTS: Significant pain relief was seen in 73% in Group I and 70% in Group II, in Group II showing both significat pain releif and functional status improvements. Group I’s average relief per procedures was 11.3 ± 5.8 weeks; for Group II it was 8.6 ± 3.6 weeks, whereas after initial 2 procedures, average relief was 13.7 ± 8.7 weeks in Group I, and 13.6 ± 4.7 weeks in Group II. In the successful group, the average total relief in a one-year period was 42.2 ± 14.7 weeks in Group I and 34.3 ± 13.4 weeks in Group II, with 76% in Group I and 77% in Group II.
LIMITATIONS: Study limitations include the lack of a placebo group and that this is a preliminary report of only 60 patients, 30 in each group.
CONCLUSION: Patients who have chronic function-limiting pain that is secondary to cervical central stenosis might receive relief with cervical interlaminar epidurals of local anesthetic, whether with or without steroids.