Among the multiple causes of chronic low back pain, axial and discogenic pain are common. Various modalities of treatments are utilized in managing discogenic and axial low back pain including epidural injections. However, there is a paucity of evidence regarding the effectiveness, indications, and medical necessity of any treatment modality utilized for managing axial or discogenic pain, including epidural injections. In an interventional pain management practice in the US, a randomized, double-blind, active control trial was conducted. The objective was to assess the effectiveness of lumbar interlaminar epidural injections of local anesthetic with or without steroids for managing chronic low back pain of discogenic origin. However, disc herniation, radiculitis, facet joint pain, or sacroiliac joint pain were excluded. Two groups of patients were studied, with 60 patients in each group receiving either local anesthetic only or local anesthetic mixed with non-particulate betamethasone. Primary outcome measures included the pain relief-assessed by numeric rating scale of pain and functional status assessed by the, Oswestry Disability Index, Secondary outcome measurements included employment status, and opioid intake. Significant improvement or success was defined as at least a 50% decrease in pain and disability. Significant improvement was seen in 77% of the patients in Group I and 67% of the patients in Group II. In the successful groups (those with at least 3 weeks of relief with the first two procedures), the improvement was 84% in Group I and 71% in Group II. For those with chronic function-limiting low back pain refractory to conservative management, it is concluded that lumbar interlaminar epidural injections of local anesthetic with or without steroids may be an effective modality for managing chronic axial or discogenic pain. This treatment appears to be effective for those who have had facet joints as well as sacroiliac joints eliminated as the pain source.
Keywords: NCT00681447; axial or discogenic pain; controlled comparative local anesthetic blocks; local anesthetic; lumbar disc herniation; lumbar interlaminar epidural injections; steroids.