Responses to Letters to the Editor by Prof Bogduk and Dr Davies. Time to reconsider steroid injections in the spine?

Ian A Harris, Rachelle Buchbinder

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterOther

3 Citations (Scopus)


IN REPLY: We thank Bogduk for his comments, but, based on previous reviews and some comparative studies,1-4 do not consider the transforaminal route to be clearly and consistently superior to the interlaminar route for radiculopathy. Further, we note that when the evidence for transforaminal injections is isolated to placebo-controlled trials, the evidence is based on very few studies. The largest of these showed marginal short-term (2-week) improvement in the steroid and local anaesthetic group over the saline group for the primary outcome (leg pain), an effect that was not sustained by 4 weeks.5 Short-term relief is a common finding in studies that use local anaesthetic in the active group. We consider the evidence for the effectiveness of transforaminal steroids over placebo to be neither strong nor consistent (within or between studies). We suggest that the gem in the bathwater be subject to more scrutiny and weighed against the risks and costs. We thank Davies and colleagues for their comments about medial branch blocks and transforaminal epidural steroid injections. We have addressed the latter in our response above. Our article does not extend beyond the use of steroids to procedures such as neurotomy, so we have not commented on this procedure here. Regarding medial branch blocks, we note that in a systematic review mentioned by Davies and colleagues, each of the randomised trials showed no significant difference in the response between groups treated with steroid and those treated with local anaesthetic alone.6 This reinforces our point that steroid injections in the spine have no specific therapeutic effect beyond natural history, the effect of any concomitant treatment or any placebo effect.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)754 - 754
Number of pages1
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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