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Epidural injections with or without steroids in managing chronic low back pain secondary to lumbar spinal stenosis: a meta-analysis of 13 randomized controlled trials

Authors Meng H, Fei Q, Wang B, Yang Y, Li D, Li J, Su N

Received 26 March 2015

Accepted for publication 19 May 2015

Published 13 August 2015 Volume 2015:9 Pages 4657—4667


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Shu-Feng Zhou

Hai Meng, Qi Fei, Bingqiang Wang, Yong Yang, Dong Li, Jinjun Li, Nan Su

Department of Orthopedics, Beijing Friendship Hospital, Capital Medical University, Beijing, People’s Republic of China

Background: Epidural injections of anesthetic with or without steroids are widely used for treating lumbar spinal stenosis, a common cause of chronic low back pain, but there is a lack of rigorous data comparing the effectiveness of epidural injections of anesthetic with and without steroids. This meta-analysis presents a current, comprehensive picture of how epidural injections of anesthetic with steroids compare with those using local anesthetic alone.
Methods: PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and Cochrane Library databases were searched from their inception through February 5, 2015. Weight mean difference, risk ratio, and 95% confidence intervals were calculated. A random effects model or fixed effects model was used to pool the estimates, according to the heterogeneity between the included studies.
Results: We included 13 randomized controlled trials, involving 1,465 patients. Significant pain relief (≥50%) was demonstrated in 53.7% of patients administered with epidural injections of anesthetic with steroids (group 1) and in 56.4% of those administered with local anesthetic alone (group 2). Patients showed a reduction in numeric rating scale pain score of 3.7 and 3.6 in the two groups, respectively. Significant functional improvement was achieved in 65.2% of patients in group 1 and 63.1% of patients in group 2, with Oswestry Disability Index reductions of 13.8 and 14.5 points, respectively. The overall number of injections per year was 3.2±1.3 and 3.4±1.2 with average total relief per year of 29.3±19.7 and 33.8±19.3 weeks, respectively. The opioid intakes decreased from baseline by 12.4 and 7.8 mg, respectively. Among the outcomes listed, only total relief time differed significantly between the two groups.
Conclusion: Both epidural injections with steroids or with local anesthetic alone provide significant pain relief and functional improvement in managing chronic low back pain secondary to lumbar spinal stenosis, and the inclusion of steroids confers no advantage compared to local anesthetic alone.

Keywords: chronic low back pain, spinal stenosis, epidural injections, steroids, local anesthetics

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