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Review
, 119 (4), 907-31

Epidural Injections for Spinal Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Evaluating the "Control" Injections in Randomized Controlled Trials

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Review

Epidural Injections for Spinal Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Evaluating the "Control" Injections in Randomized Controlled Trials

Mark C Bicket et al. Anesthesiology.

Abstract

Background: Epidural steroid injection is the most frequently performed pain procedure. This study of epidural steroid "control" injections aimed to determine whether epidural nonsteroid injections constitute a treatment or true placebo in comparison with nonepidural injections for back and neck pain treatment.

Methods: This systematic review with direct and indirect meta-analyses used PubMed and EMBASE searches from inception through October 2012 without language restrictions. Study selection included randomized controlled trials with a treatment group receiving epidural injections of corticosteroids or another analgesic and study control groups receiving either an epidural injection devoid of treatment drug or a nonepidural injection. Two reviewers independently extracted data including short-term (up to 12 weeks) pain scores and pain outcomes. All reviewers evaluated studies for eligibility and quality.

Results: A total of 3,641 patients from 43 studies were included in this systematic review and meta-analysis. Indirect comparisons suggested epidural nonsteroid were more likely than nonepidural injections to achieve positive outcomes (risk ratio, 2.17; 95% CI, 1.87-2.53) and provide greater pain score reduction (mean difference, -0.15; 95% CI, -0.55 to 0.25). In the very limited direct comparisons, no significant differences were noted between epidural nonsteroid and nonepidural injections for either outcome (risk ratio [95% CI], 1.05 [0.88-1.25]; mean difference [95% CI], 0.22 [-0.50 to 0.94]).

Conclusion: Epidural nonsteroid injections may provide improved benefit compared with nonepidural injections on some measures, though few, low-quality studies directly compared controlled treatments, and only short-term outcomes (≤12 weeks) were examined.

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