Study Design. A prospective clinical outcome study.
Objective. To analyze clinical outcome and prognostic factors of the epidural steroid injection (ESI) for cervical radiculopathy (CR) patients who were considered surgical candidates.
Summary of Background Data. The clinical outcomes and prognostic factors of ESI for CR have not been consistently reported, and there has been no prospective study with long-term follow-up.
Methods. ESI was administered in 98 patients (mean age = 50.1 yr, follow-up = 40.4 mo) with CR without major neurological deficit. A total of 3 or fewer ESIs were administered, using either the interlaminar or transforaminal technique. The patients were divided into 2 groups: those who did not have surgery and those who underwent surgery at the last follow-up. We analyzed statistical difference of relevant clinical (sex, age, duration of symptom, previous episode of CR, visual analogue scale [VAS] of arm pain, etc.), radiological factors (soft disc vs. hard disc, central disc vs. foraminal disc, single segment involvement vs. multiple segment involvement, degree of neural compression and degeneration, etc.) and clinical outcomes (VAS of arm pain, Odom's criteria, and neck disability index) between the 2 groups.
Results. The patients received mean 1.8 ESI treatments. At the final follow-up, 79 of the patients (80.6%) did not undergo surgery, whereas the other 19 patients (19.4%) underwent surgery. Of the clinical factors, recurred CR (15.2% vs. 42.1%, P = 0.022) and mean VAS score of arm pain before (6.1 vs. 8.2, P = 0.000) and after ESI (2.8 vs. 6.9, P = 0.000) were significantly different between both groups. Radiological factors and outcome parameters showed no significant difference.
Conclusion. In more than 80% of patients with CR who were surgical candidates, surgery was avoided using ESI. The significant factors predisposing failure of ESI were intensity of symptom and a previous episode of CR. ESI is therefore considered a safe and effective treatment to choose before undergoing surgery.