Current Issue - May-June 2016 - Vol 19 Issue 4


  1. 2016;19;255-266Digital Subtraction Angiography Use During Epidural Steroid Injections Does Not Reliably Distinguish Artery from Vein
    Narrative Review
    Ameet Nagpal, MD, George C Chang-Chien, DO, Jonathan A. Benfield, DO, Kenneth D. Candido, MD, Maunak V. Rana, MD, and Maxim Eckmann, MD.

BACKGROUND: Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are among the most common procedures performed in an interventional pain management practice. It is well known that tragic complications may arise from ESIs, most commonly those performed using a transforaminal approach. Digital subtraction angiography (DSA) has been hailed as a fluoroscopic technique that can be used to detect arterial placement of the injection needle, and therefore as a safety measure that can decrease the incidence of catastrophic sequelae of these procedures.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this article was to review existing scientific pain literature to determine if DSA can distinguish arterial vs. venous uptake.

STUDY DESIGN: Narrative review.

METHODS: The current narrative review of DSA in interventional spine was completed with a PUBMED search using the key words: digital subtraction angiography, epidural, fluoroscopy, intravascular injection, paraplegia, and quadriplegia in accordance with Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta- Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines.

RESULTS: After identification of duplicate articles, 383 articles were screened by title, abstract, and/or full article review. Ten of these articles were deemed appropriate, after applying inclusion and exclusion criteria, as they specifically looked at the use of digital subtraction angiography in interventional spine epidural injections. This included 4 case reports, 3 prospective studies, one retrospective analysis, one prospective cohort study, and one meta-analysis.

All of the available studies claiming that DSA was capable of detecting vascular spread are likely accurate, but no significant detection of specifically arterial spread has been reported. The known catastrophic complications related to ESIs are purported to be due to arterial injection of insoluble steroids or local anesthetic and detection of arterial spread of contrast during fluoroscopy would be of obvious benefit to the interventionalist.

LIMITATIONS: Small study size, non-randomized studies between DSA and real time fluoroscopy.

CONCLUSION: Existing studies do not support that DSA can predict arterial spread. In fact, DSA exposes the practitioner and the patient to higher levels of radiation without objective evidence of any safety parameters.

Key words: Digital subtraction angiography, real-time fluoroscopy, transforaminal epidural injection, particulate steroids, cervical radicular artery, lumbar radicular artery, spinal cord injury