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Swiss Med Wkly. 2003 Mar 22;133(11-12):170-7.

Perispinal TNF-alpha inhibition for discogenic pain.

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Institute for Neurological Research, Los Angeles, California, USA.



To examine the potential of etanercept, a biological inhibitor of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF), delivered by perispinal administration, for the treatment of pain associated with intervertebral disc disease.


Charts from 20 selected patients treated at our private clinic by perispinal delivery of etanercept 25 mg for severe, chronic, treatment-resistant discogenic pain were reviewed. Therapeutic benefit was assessed clinically and was documented by changes in a validated pain instrument, the Oswestry Disability Index. The patients were treated off-label with etanercept as part of our usual practice of medicine. Five detailed case reports are presented, including three additional patients.


Rapid, substantial and sustained clinical pain reduction was documented in this selected group of patients. The cohort of 20 patients had a mean age of 56.5 and mean duration of pain of 116 months. Nine of the patients had undergone previous spinal surgery; 17 had received an epidural steroid injection or injections (mean 3.2). This group of patients received a mean of 1.8 doses (range 1-5, median 1.0) of etanercept during the observation period. The mean length of follow-up was 230 days. Clinical improvement was confirmed by a decrease in the calculated Oswestry Disability Index from a mean of 54.85 +/- 12.5 at baseline, improving to 17.2 +/- 15.3 (p <0.003) at 24 days and ending at 9.8 +/- 13 (p <0.003) at 230 days.


TNF inhibition by etanercept delivered by perispinal administration may offer clinical benefit for patients with chronic, treatment-resistant discogenic pain. Further study of this new treatment modality is warranted.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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