Background: Active discopathy is associated with a specific phenotype of chronic low back pain (LBP). Local inflammation has a role in active discopathy-associated symptoms.
Objective: To assess the efficacy of a single glucocorticoid intradiscal injection (GC IDI) in patients with chronic LBP with active discopathy.
Design: Prospective, parallel-group, double-blind, randomized, controlled study. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT00804531).
Setting: 3 tertiary care centers in France.
Patients: 135 patients with chronic LBP with active discopathy on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Intervention: A single GC IDI (25 mg prednisolone acetate) during discography (n = 67) or discography alone (n = 68).
Measurements: The primary outcome was the percentage of patients with LBP intensity less than 40 on an 11-point numerical rating scale (0 [no pain] to 100 [maximum pain] in 10-point increments) in the previous 48 hours at 1 month after the intervention. The main secondary outcomes were LBP intensity and persistent active discopathy on MRI at 12 months and spine-specific limitations in activities, health-related quality of life, anxiety and depression, employment status, and use of analgesics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at 1 and 12 months.
Results: All randomly assigned patients were included in the primary efficacy analysis. At 1 month after the intervention, the percentage of responders (LBP intensity <40) was higher in the GC IDI group (36 of 65 [55.4%]) than the control group (21 of 63 [33.3%]) (absolute risk difference, 22.1 percentage points [95% CI, 5.5 to 38.7 percentage points]; P = 0.009). The groups did not differ in LBP intensity at 12 months and in most secondary outcomes at 1 and 12 months.
Limitation: Tertiary care setting.
Conclusion: In chronic LBP associated with active discopathy, a single GC IDI reduces LBP at 1 month but not at 12 months.
Primary funding source: French Ministry of Health.