Study design: A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial.
Objective: To determine the clinical effectiveness of therapeutic lumbar facet joint nerve blocks with or without steroids in managing chronic low back pain of facet joint origin.
Summary of background data: Lumbar facet joints have been shown as the source of chronic pain in 21% to 41% of low back patients with an average prevalence of 31% utilizing controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks. Intraarticular injections, medial branch blocks, and radiofrequency neurotomy of lumbar facet joint nerves have been described in the alleviation of chronic low back pain of facet joint origin.
Methods: The study included 120 patients with 60 patients in each group with local anesthetic alone or local anesthetic and steroids. The inclusion criteria was based upon a positive response to diagnostic controlled, comparative local anesthetic lumbar facet joint blocks.Outcome measures included the numeric rating scale (NRS), Oswestry Disability Index (ODI), opioid intake, and work status, at baseline, 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months.
Results: Significant improvement with significant pain relief of >or= 50% and functional improvement of >or= 40% were observed in 85% in Group 1, and 90% in Group II, at 2-year follow-up.The patients in the study experienced significant pain relief for 82 to 84 weeks of 104 weeks, requiring approximately 5 to 6 treatments with an average relief of 19 weeks per episode of treatment.
Conclusions: Therapeutic lumbar facet joint nerve blocks, with or without steroids, may provide a management option for chronic function-limiting low back pain of facet joint origin.
Keywords: Chronic low back pain; comparative controlled local anesthetic blocks; facet joint nerve or medial branch blocks; lumbar facet or zygapophysial joint pain; therapeutic lumbar facet joint nerve blocks.