What is the role of epidural steroid injections in lumbar spinal disease with moderate disability?

Jae Ho Choi, Jae Young Hong, Seung Woo Suh, Jae Hyuk Yang, Si Young Park, Jung Ho Park, Sung Woo Hong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Epidural steroid injections have been gaining popularity as an alternative to surgical treatment of radicular pain with associated spinal derangement. To determine the effectiveness and indications of lumbar epidural steroid injections in patients with or without surgery, we performed a prospective observational study. We gathered data from 262 degenerative short-segment spinal disease patients (affected at one or 2 levels) with greater than 12 weeks of medication-resistant radicular pain without neurological deficits but with moderate disability (visual analog scale < 6.5; Oswestry Disability Index < 35). All patients received initial fluoroscopically guided transforaminal epidural steroid injections of the affected vertebral level(s) corresponding to their symptoms. Those with inadequate responses or who wanted subsequently surgery underwent decompression surgery. Clinical and demographic characteristics were assessed to compare the differences between the groups. Results: Of the 262 patients who received epidural steroid injections, 204 did not have operations for up to one year. However, 58 patients experienced inadequate relief of pain or wanted operations and therefore underwent surgery. At baseline, the 2 groups had similar mean disability indices and pain scores, as well as gender ratios, ages, and durations of symptoms (P > 0.05). In the patients who underwent surgery, the mean disability and pain scores were not significantly decreased after injection compared to those in the injection-alone group, although the scores for the injection plus surgery patients decreased significantly after surgery (P < 0.05). In contrast, patients who underwent epidural steroid injection alone experienced a significant decrease in disability and pain after injection, and that persisted up to one year of follow-up (P < 0.05). Epidural steroid injection can decrease the pain and disability in the majority of a moderate disability group for up to one year, although a significant number of patients underwent surgery regardless of injection. We recommend epidural steroid injection as a first-line treatment in patients with moderate disability that can be converted to surgery without significant delay.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)293-298
Number of pages6
JournalPain Physician
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2016 May 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by a Korea University Grant (No: K1512681). This study was supported by a Chong Kun Dang pharmaceutical corporation Grant.


  • Epidural steroid injection
  • Lumbar radicular pain
  • Lumbar radiculopathy
  • Lumbar spinal disease
  • Spinal surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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