Background: The efficacy of epidural and facet joint injections has been assessed utilizing multiple solutions including saline, local anesthetic, steroids, and others. The responses to these various solutions have been variable and have not been systematically assessed with long-term follow-ups.
Methods: Randomized trials utilizing a true active control design were included. The primary outcome measure was pain relief and the secondary outcome measure was functional improvement. The quality of each individual article was assessed by Cochrane review criteria, as well as the criteria developed by the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) for assessing interventional techniques. An evidence analysis was conducted based on the qualitative level of evidence (Level I to IV).
Results: A total of 31 trials met the inclusion criteria. There was Level I evidence that local anesthetic with steroids was effective in managing chronic spinal pain based on multiple high-quality randomized controlled trials. The evidence also showed that local anesthetic with steroids and local anesthetic alone were equally effective except in disc herniation, where the superiority of local anesthetic with steroids was demonstrated over local anesthetic alone.
Conclusion: This systematic review showed equal efficacy for local anesthetic with steroids and local anesthetic alone in multiple spinal conditions except for disc herniation where the superiority of local anesthetic with steroids was seen over local anesthetic alone.
Keywords: Chronic pain; epidural injections; facet joint injections; local anesthetic; saline; spinal pain; steroids.