BACKGROUND: Chronic neck pain is reportedly considered the fourth leading cause of disability. Cervical interlaminar epidural injections are among the commonly administered nonsurgical interventions for managing chronic neck pain, secondary to disc herniation and radiculitis, spinal stenosis, or chronic neck pain of discogenic origin.
OBJECTIVES: To systematically review the differences in the effectiveness of cervical epidural injections with local anesthetics with or without steroids for the management of chronic neck pain.
STUDY DESIGN: Systematic review and meta-analysis.
METHODS: A comprehensive search of the literature of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared epidural injections with local anesthetic with or without steroids was performed, including a search of PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases for all years up to May 2019. Meta-analysis was done for pain relief based on the Numeric Rating Scale, functional status based on the Neck Disability Index, and opioid intake dosage.
RESULTS: Four studies met the inclusion criteria. A total of 370 patients were divided into 2 groups: the experimental group received cervical epidural injection with steroid and local anesthetic, and the control group received injection with local anesthetic only. Regrading pain relief, no significant difference was observed between both groups (weighted mean difference [WMD], -0.006; 95% confidence interval (CI), -0.275 to 0.263; P = 0.963; I² = 0.0% at 12 months). There was also no significant difference in the improvement of the functional status (WMD, 0.159; 95% CI, -1.231 to 1.549; P = 0.823; I² = 9.8% at 12 months). Similarly, there was no significant difference in opioid dosage (WMD, -0.093; 95% CI, -5.952 to 5.766; P = 0.975; I² = 0.0% at 12 months).
LIMITATIONS: Only a few studies on this premise were found in the literature. There was also a lack of heterogeneity of the included RCT studies.
CONCLUSIONS: The addition of steroids to anesthetic injectates was not associated with better pain and functional score outcomes compared with anesthetic injectate alone in patients with chronic neck pain.
KEY WORDS: Chronic neck pain, cervical radiculopathy, cervical disc disease, spinal stenosis, facet joint pathology, cervical epidural injections, steroid injections, local anesthetic injections, systematic review, meta-analysis, randomized control trial.