Background: Chronic low back pain without disc herniation is common. Various modalities of treatments are utilized in managing this condition, including epidural injections. However, there is continued debate on the effectiveness, indications, and medical necessity of any treatment modality utilized for managing axial or discogenic pain, including epidural injections.
Methods: A randomized, double-blind, actively controlled trial was conducted. The objective was to evaluate the ability to assess the effectiveness of caudal epidural injections of local anesthetic with or without steroids for managing chronic low back pain not caused by disc herniation, radiculitis, facet joints, or sacroiliac joints. A total of 120 patients were randomized to two groups; one group did not receive steroids (group 1) and the other group did (group 2). There were 60 patients in each group. The primary outcome measure was at least 50% improvement in Numeric Rating Scale and Oswestry Disability Index. Secondary outcome measures were employment status and opioid intake. These measures were assessed at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months after treatment.
Results: Significant pain relief and functional status improvement (primary outcome) defined as a 50% or more reduction in scores from baseline, were observed in 54% of patients in group 1 and 60% of patients in group 2 at 24 months. In contrast, 84% of patients in group 1 and 73% in group 2 saw significant pain relief and functional status improvement in the successful groups at 24 months.
Conclusion: Caudal epidural injections of local anesthetic with or without steroids are effective in patients with chronic axial low back pain of discogenic origin without facet joint pain, disc herniation, and/or radiculitis.
Keywords: caudal epidural injections; chronic axial low back pain; disc herniation; discogenic pain.