The Great Epidural Debate

New study furthers the question on epidural steroid injections


Epidural steroid injections are one of the most commonly used pain treatments in recent history.

Researchers at the University of Washington published a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine that found epidural cortisone injections used to treat spinal pain “offered minimal or no short-term benefits” when compared to patients injected with only lidocaine, a local anesthetic. Although this kind of information isn’t necessarily new, the question of whether or not epidural injections for spinal pain are beneficial for patients is still a hot topic.

Epidural steroid injections are one of the most commonly used pain treatments in recent history. For this most recent study, researchers compared two groups, one that was injected with cortisone and one that was injected with lidocaine. After six weeks, they found no significant differences in pain levels or disability scores between the two groups. However, the cortisone group did show a statistical advantage when it came to their satisfaction of the treatment, and they also had greater improvements in their depression. So the question is: since these patients seemed happier with their treatments, even though their pain levels were no different than the other group, does this mean epidural steroid injections are the better form of treatment?

The answer appears more complex the deeper you go. Things like patient satisfaction and how we look at and measure pain all play a role in determining which treatment is best. Regardless, epidural steroid injections continue to be one of the most popular forms of pain management, with an estimated 10-11 million procedures performed in the United States every year.

To read the full article about the new study, click here.


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