Epidural steroids for spinal pain and radiculopathy: A narrative, evidence-based review

Indy Wilkinson, Steven P. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Purpose of review: Epidural steroid injections (ESIs) are the most commonly performed intervention in pain clinics across the USA and worldwide. In light of the growing use of ESIs, a recent spate of highly publicized infectious complications, and increasing emphasis on cost-effectiveness, the utility of ESI has recently come under intense scrutiny. This article provides an evidence-based review of ESIs, including the most up-to-date information on patient selection, comparison of techniques, efficacy, and complications. Recent findings: The data strongly suggest that ESIs can provide short-term relief of radicular symptoms but are less convincing for long-term relief, and mixed regarding cost-effectiveness. Although some assert that transforaminal ESIs are more efficacious than interlaminar ESIs, and that fluoroscopy can improve treatment outcomes, the evidence to support these assertions is limited. Summary: The cost-effectiveness of ESI is the subject of great debate, and similar to efficacy, the conclusions one draws appear to be influenced by specialty. Because of the wide disparities regarding indications and utilization, it is likely that indiscriminate use is cost-ineffective, but that judicious use in well-selected patients can decrease healthcare utilization. More research is needed to better refine selection criteria for ESI, and to determine which approach, what dose, and how many injections are optimal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)562-572
Number of pages11
JournalCurrent Opinion in Anaesthesiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Back pain
  • Epidural steroid
  • Neck pain
  • Radicular pain
  • Radiculopathy
  • Sciatica

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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