Systematic review of therapeutic lumbar transforaminal epidural steroid injections

Ricardo M Buenaventura, Sukdeb Datta, Salahadin Abdi, Howard S Smith
Pain Physician 2009, 12 (1): 233-51

BACKGROUND: Epidural injection of corticosteroids is one of the most commonly used interventions in managing chronic spinal pain. The transforaminal route to the lumbar epidural space for steroid injection has gained rapid and widespread acceptance for the treatment of lumbar and leg pain. However, there are few well-designed randomized, controlled studies to determine the effectiveness of epidural injections. The role and value of transforaminal lumbar epidural steroid injections is still questioned.

STUDY DESIGN: A systematic review of transforaminal epidural injection therapy for low back and lower extremity pain.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the effect of transforaminal lumbar epidural steroid injections in managing lumbar (low-back) and sciatica (leg) pain.

METHODS: The available literature of lumbar transforaminal epidural injections in managing chronic low back and lower extremity pain was reviewed. The quality assessment and clinical relevance criteria utilized were the Cochrane Musculoskeletal Review Group criteria as utilized for interventional techniques for randomized trials and the criteria developed by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) criteria for observational studies. The level of evidence was classified as Level I, II, or III based on the quality of evidence developed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Data sources included relevant literature of the English language identified through searches of PubMed and EMBASE from 1966 to November 2008, and manual searches of the bibliographies of known primary and review articles.

OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome measure was pain relief (short-term relief = up to 6 months and long-term > 6 months). Secondary outcome measures were improvement in functional status, psychological status, return to work, and reduction in opioid intake.

RESULTS: The indicated evidence is Level II-1 for short-term relief and Level II-2 for long-term relief in managing chronic low back and lower extremity pain.

LIMITATIONS: The limitations of this systematic review include the paucity of literature.

CONCLUSION: The indicated evidence for transforaminal lumbar epidural steroid injections is Level II-1 for short-term relief and Level II-2 for long-term improvement in the management of lumbar nerve root and low back pain.

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