Author(s): Boswell MV, Hansen HC, Trescot AM, Hirsch JA
Epidural injections with or without steroids are used extensively in the management of chronic spinal pain. However, evidence is contradictory with continuing debate about the value of epidural steroid injections in chronic spinal syndromes. The objective of this systematic review is to determine the effectiveness of epidural injections in the treatment of chronic spinal pain. Data sources include relevant literature identified through searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE (Jan 1966- Mar 2003), manual searches of bibliographies of known primary and review articles, and abstracts from scientific meetings. Both randomized and non-randomized studies were included in the review based on the criteria established by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). Studies were excluded from the analysis if they were simply review or descriptive and failed to meet minimum criteria. The results showed that there was strong evidence to indicate effectiveness of transforaminal epidural injections in managing lumbar nerve root pain. Further, evidence was moderate for caudal epidural injections in managing lumbar radicular pain. The evidence in management of chronic neck pain, chronic low back pain, cervical radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, and post laminectomy syndrome was limited or inconclusive. In conclusion, the evidence of effectiveness of transforaminal epidural injections in managing lumbar nerve root pain was strong, whereas, effectiveness of caudal epidural injections in managing lumbar radiculopathy was moderate, while there was limited or inconclusive evidence of effectiveness of epidural injections in managing chronic spinal pain without radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, post lumbar laminectomy syndrome, and cervical radiculopathy.