Can patient characteristics predict benefit from epidural corticosteroid injections for lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms?

Spine J. 2015 Nov 1;15(11):2319-31. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.06.050. Epub 2015 Jun 19.


Background context: Epidural corticosteroid injections are commonly used to treat back and leg pain associated with lumbar spinal stenosis. However, little is known about which patient characteristics may predict favorable responses.

Purpose: The aim was to identify patient characteristics associated with benefits from epidural injections of corticosteroid with lidocaine versus epidural injections of lidocaine only for lumbar spinal stenosis symptoms.

Study design/setting: This was a secondary analysis of Lumbar Epidural steroid injections for Spinal Stenosis randomized controlled trial data from 16 US clinical sites.

Patient sample: Patients aged older than or equal to 50 years with moderate-to-severe leg pain and lumbar central spinal stenosis randomized to epidural injections of corticosteroids with lidocaine (n=200) or lidocaine only (n=200) were included.

Outcome measures: Primary outcomes were the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RMDQ) and 0 to 10 leg pain intensity ratings. Secondary outcomes included the Brief Pain Inventory Interference Scale and the Swiss Spinal Stenosis Questionnaire.

Methods: At baseline, clinicians rated severity of patient spinal stenosis, and patients completed predictor and outcome measures. Patients completed outcome measures again 3 and 6 (primary end point) weeks after randomization/initial injection. Analysis of covariance was used with treatment by covariate interactions to identify baseline predictors of greater benefit from corticosteroid+lidocaine versus lidocaine alone. We also identified nonspecific (independent of treatment) predictors of outcomes.

Results: Among 21 candidate predictors and six outcomes, only one baseline variable predicted greater benefit from corticosteroid+lidocaine versus lidocaine only at 3 or 6 weeks. Compared with patients who rated their health-related quality of life as high on the EQ-5D Index, patients who rated it as poor had greater improvement with corticosteroid than with lidocaine only in leg pain at 6 (but not 3) weeks (interaction coefficient=2.94; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.11-5.76; p=.04) and in RMDQ disability scores at 3 (but not 6) weeks (interaction coefficient=4.77, 95% CI= -0.04 to 9.59; p = .05). Several baseline patient characteristics predicted outcomes regardless of treatment assignment.

Conclusions: Among 21 baseline patient characteristics examined, none, including clinician-rated spinal stenosis severity, were consistent predictors of benefit from epidural injections of lidocaine+corticosteroid versus lidocaine only.

Keywords: Back pain; Corticosteroid; Epidural steroid injections; Leg pain; Lumbar spinal stenosis; Predictors; Treatment effect modifiers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / adverse effects*
  • Pain Management / statistics & numerical data
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Spinal Stenosis / drug therapy*
  • Spinal Stenosis / epidemiology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones