Author(s): Manchikanti L, Candido KD, Singh V, Gharibo CG, Boswell MV,
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Abstract On April 23, 2014, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a letter of warning that injection of corticosteroids into the epidural space of the spine may result in rare, but serious adverse events, including "loss of vision, stroke, paralysis, and death." The advisory also advocated that patients should discuss the benefits and risks of epidural corticosteroid injections with their health care professionals, along with the benefits and risks associated with other possible treatments. In addition, the FDA stated that the effectiveness and safety of the corticosteroids for epidural use have not been established, and the FDA has not approved corticosteroids for such use. To raise awareness of the risks of epidural corticosteroid injections in the medical community, the FDA's Safe Use Initiative convened a panel of experts including pain management experts to help define the techniques for such injections with the aim of reducing preventable harm. The panel was unable to reach an agreement on 20 proposed items related to technical aspects of performing epidural injections. Subsequently, the FDA issued the above referenced warning and a notice that a panel will be convened in November 2014. This review assesses the inaccuracies of the warning and critically analyzes the available literature. The literature has been assessed in reference to alternate techniques and an understanding of the risk factors when performing transforaminal epidural injections in the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar regions, ultimately resulting in improved safety. The results of this review show the efficacy of epidural injections, with or without steroids, in a multitude of spinal ailments utilizing caudal, cervical, thoracic, and lumbar interlaminar approaches as well as lumbar transforaminal epidural injections . The evidence also shows the superiority of steroids in managing lumbar disc herniation utilizing caudal and lumbar interlaminar approaches without any significant difference as compared to transforaminal approaches, either with local anesthetic alone or local anesthetic and steroids combined. In conclusion, the authors request that the FDA modify the warning based on the evidence.
This article was published in Pain Physician
and referenced in Journal of Spine