Background: Chronic low back with or without lower extremity pain is extremely common, expensive, and disabling. However, all modalities of treatments are directed towards disc herniation which is responsible for a very small proportion of the patients. Thus, chronic low back pain without disc herniation is common. Multiple modalities of treatments are utilized in managing axial or discogenic pain including surgery and epidural injections including surgery, intradiscal therapies, and epidural injections. However, there is continued debate on the effectiveness, indications, and medical necessity of all modalities treatments in managing axial or discogenic pain in the lumbar spine.
Study design: A randomized, double-blind, active control trial.
Setting: A private practice, specialty referral, interventional pain management practice in the United States.
Objectives: To evaluate the ability to assess the effectiveness of lumbar interlaminar epidural injections in managing chronic axial or discogenic low back pain with epidural injections of local anesthetic with or without steroids.
Methods: In this study, a total of 120 patients were randomly allocated to one of the 2 groups receiving either local anesthetic alone or local anesthetic with steroids with 60 patients in each group. The primary outcome measure was at least 50% improvement in the numeric rating scale (NRS) and Oswestry Disability Index (ODI). Outcomes were assessed at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months post treatment.
Results: Significant pain relief and functional status improvement defined as at least 50% or more reduction in scores from baseline were observed in 72% of patients receiving local anesthetic alone and 67% of the patients receiving local anesthetic with steroids. Opioid intake was reduced from baseline in each group for 2 years.
Limitations: The results of the study are limited by the lack of a placebo group.
Conclusion: Lumbar interlaminar 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.
Trial registration: NCT00681447.