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Pain Med. 2010 Aug;11(8):1149-68. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2010.00908.x.

The efficacy of transforaminal injection of steroids for the treatment of lumbar radicular pain.

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Department of Neurosurgery, John Hunter Hospital, NSW, Australia.



Transforaminal injection of steroids is used to treat lumbar radicular pain. Not known is whether the route of injection or the agent injected is significant.


A prospective, randomized study compared the outcomes of transforaminal injection of steroid and local anesthetic, local anesthetic alone, or normal saline, and intramuscular injection of steroid or normal saline. Patients and outcome evaluators were blinded as to agent administered.


The primary outcome measure was the proportion of patients who achieved complete relief of pain, or at least 50% relief, at 1 month after treatment. Secondary outcome measures were function, disability, patient-specified functional outcomes, use of other health care, and duration of relief beyond 1 month.


A significantly greater proportion of patients treated with transforaminal injection of steroid (54%) achieved relief of pain than did patients treated with transforaminal injection of local anesthetic (7%) or transforaminal injection of saline (19%), intramuscular steroids (21%), or intramuscular saline (13%). Relief of pain was corroborated by significant improvements in function and disability, and reductions in use of other health care. Outcomes were equivalent for patients with acute or chronic radicular pain. Over time, the number of patients who maintained relief diminished. Only some maintained relief beyond 12 months. The proportions of patients doing so were not significantly different statistically between groups.


Transforaminal injection of steroids is effective only in a proportion of patients. Its superiority over other injections is obscured when group data are compared but emerges when categorical outcomes are calculated. Over time, the proportion of patients with maintained responses diminishes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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