Epidural administration of spinal nerves with the tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitor, etanercept, compared with dexamethasone for treatment of sciatica in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis: a prospective randomized study

Spine (Phila Pa 1976). 2012 Mar 15;37(6):439-44. doi: 10.1097/BRS.0b013e318238af83.


Study design: Prospective randomized trial.

Objective: To examine the effect of the tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) inhibitor, etanercept, on radicular pain by its epidural administration onto spinal nerves in patients with lumbar spinal stenosis.

Summary of background data: TNF-α is thought to play a crucial role in the radicular pain caused by lumbar disc herniation and spinal stenosis. Intravenous infusion of infliximab for sciatica has been examined in 2 studies; however, the results were equivocal.

Methods: Eighty patients with low back and radicular leg pain were investigated. We diagnosed the patients by physical examination, and X-ray and magnetic resonance imaging. In 40 patients, we epidurally administered 2.0 mL of lidocaine and 10 mg of etanercept onto the affected spinal nerve, and 2.0 mL of lidocaine and 3.3 mg of dexamethasone was used in 40 patients. Low back pain, leg pain, and leg numbness were evaluated using a visual analogue scale (VAS) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) score before and for 1 month after epidural administration.

Results: Low back pain, leg pain, and leg numbness in the 2 groups were not significantly different before epidural administration. Epidural administration of etanercept was more effective than dexamethasone for leg pain (3 days, and 1, 2, and 4 weeks: P < 0.05), low back pain (3 days, and 1 and 2 weeks: P < 0.05), and leg numbness (3 days, and 1 and 2 weeks: P < 0.05). No adverse event was observed in either group.

Conclusion: Our results indicate that epidural administration of a TNF-α inhibitor onto the spinal nerve produced pain relief, but no adverse event. TNF-α inhibitors may be useful tools for the treatment of radicular pain caused by spinal stenosis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use*
  • Etanercept
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / administration & dosage
  • Immunoglobulin G / therapeutic use*
  • Injections, Epidural
  • Low Back Pain / drug therapy
  • Low Back Pain / etiology
  • Lumbar Vertebrae*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / administration & dosage
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor / therapeutic use*
  • Sciatica / drug therapy*
  • Sciatica / etiology
  • Spinal Nerves / drug effects*
  • Spinal Stenosis / complications*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Dexamethasone
  • Etanercept