- 2016;19;293-298What Is the Role of Epidural Steroid Injections in Lumbar Spinal Disease with Moderate Disability?
Jae Ho Choi, MD, Jae-Young Hong, MD, PhD, Seung-Woo Suh, MD, PhD, Jae-Hyuk Yang, MD, Si-Young Park, MD, PhD, Jung-Ho Park, MD, PhD, and Sung-Jun Hong, MD.
Epidural steroid injections have been gaining popularity as an alternative to surgical treatment of radicular pain with associated spinal derangement. To determine the effectiveness and indications of lumbar epidural steroid injections in patients with or without surgery, we performed a prospective observational study.
We gathered data from 262 degenerative short-segment spinal disease patients (affected at one or 2 levels) with greater than 12 weeks of medication-resistant radicular pain without neurological deficits but with moderate disability (visual analog scale < 6.5; Oswestry Disability Index < 35). All patients received initial fluoroscopically guided transforaminal epidural steroid injections of the affected vertebral level(s) corresponding to their symptoms. Those with inadequate responses or who wanted subsequently surgery underwent decompression surgery. Clinical and demographic characteristics were assessed to compare the differences between the groups.
RESULTS: Of the 262 patients who received epidural steroid injections, 204 did not have operations for up to one year. However, 58 patients experienced inadequate relief of pain or wanted operations and therefore underwent surgery. At baseline, the 2 groups had similar mean disability indices and pain scores, as well as gender ratios, ages, and durations of symptoms (P > 0.05). In the patients who underwent surgery, the mean disability and pain scores were not significantly decreased after injection compared to those in the injection-alone group, although the scores for the injection plus surgery patients decreased significantly after surgery (P < 0.05). In contrast, patients who underwent epidural steroid injection alone experienced a significant decrease in disability and pain after injection, and that persisted up to one year of follow-up (P < 0.05).
Epidural steroid injection can decrease the pain and disability in the majority of a moderate disability group for up to one year, although a significant number of patients underwent surgery regardless of injection. We recommend epidural steroid injection as a first-line treatment in patients with moderate disability that can be converted to surgery without significant delay.
Key words: Epidural steroid injection, spinal surgery, lumbar spinal disease, lumbar radiculopathy, lumbar radicular pain