Cervical epidural steroid injections for symptomatic disc herniations

J Spinal Disord Tech. 2006 May;19(3):183-6. doi: 10.1097/01.bsd.0000190558.13248.e1.


Objectives: Cervical disc herniations are a common cause of radicular pain from nerve root impingement and may necessitate surgical decompression to alleviate symptoms. The use of cervical epidural injections has not been studied in detail. The objective of this retrospective study was to examine the efficacy of cervical epidural steroid injections for the treatment of symptomatic herniated cervical discs.

Methods: Patients with herniated cervical discs without myelopathy that had failed conservative management and were otherwise surgical candidates were offered a trial of cervical epidural injections. The results and benefits of the injections were examined as well as the incidence of proceeding to surgical intervention.

Results: Of the 70 treated patients, 44 (63%) had significant relief of their symptoms and did not wish to proceed with surgical treatment. Of the 26 patients who underwent surgical decompression, 92% had successful resolution of their symptoms. The nonsurgical and surgical groups were similar in terms of gender, preinjection symptoms, or number of injections. However, significant differences between the two groups were found with regard to age (P<0.05) and time from initial consultation to initial injection (P<0.05). With an average of 13-month follow-up, 45 (65.3%) patients reported a good/excellent result per Odom criteria. In addition, 53 (75%) would attempt cervical epidural steroid injections again in the future. No complications were noted in our series.

Conclusions: Cervical epidural injections are a reasonable part of the nonoperative treatment of patients with symptomatic cervical disc herniations. The success rates appear to be very similar to prior studies of lumbar epidural injections for symptomatic lumbar disc herniations. It appears that a large percentage of the patients may obtain relief from radicular symptoms and avoid surgery for the follow-up period up to 1 year. In addition, patients older than 50 years and those who received the injections earlier, less than 100 days from diagnosis, seemed to have a more favorable outcome.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Back Pain / epidemiology*
  • Back Pain / prevention & control*
  • Decompression, Surgical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural / statistics & numerical data
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / epidemiology*
  • Intervertebral Disc Displacement / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Steroids / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Steroids