The Effect of Epidural Steroid Injections on Bone Mineral Density and Vertebral Fracture Risk: A Systematic Review and Critical Appraisal of Current Literature

Pain Med. 2018 Mar 1;19(3):569-579. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnx324.


Objective: The aim of this paper is to review the available literature investigating the effect of epidural steroid injections (ESIs) on bone mineral density (BMD) and vertebral fracture risk.

Study design: Systematic review of current literature.

Methods: The sources of the data were PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, and Scopus. Papers included in the review were original research articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Results: A total of 7,233 patients (eight studies) with a mean age ranging between 49 and 74 years and an average follow-up between six and 60 months were studied. Steroids that were used included triamcinolone, dexamethasone, and methylprednisolone (MP), with a mean number of injections ranging from one to 14.7 and an average cumulative dose in MP equivalents between 80 and 8,130 mg. Epidural steroids were associated with significantly decreased BMD in four out of six included studies, and with increased risk of vertebral fracture in one out of two included studies. Significant reductions in BMD were associated with a cumulative MP dose of 200 mg over a one-year period and 400 mg over three years, but not in doses of less than 200 mg of MP equivalents for postmenopausal women and at least 3 g for healthy men. The risk of osteopenia and osteoporosis was lower in patients who were receiving anti-osteoporotic medication during the treatment course.

Conclusions: ESIs should be recommended with caution, especially in patients at risk for osteoporotic fractures, such as women of postmenopausal age. Anti-osteoporotic medication might be considered prior to ESI.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bone Density / drug effects*
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Dexamethasone / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Epidural
  • Male
  • Methylprednisolone / administration & dosage*
  • Methylprednisolone / adverse effects
  • Spinal Fractures / chemically induced*
  • Spinal Fractures / epidemiology
  • Triamcinolone / administration & dosage
  • Triamcinolone / adverse effects*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Triamcinolone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Methylprednisolone