Objectives. Cervical transforaminal epidural injections of corticosteroids have been used in the treatment of radicular pain. Particulate agents have been associated with rare adverse neurological outcomes. It is unknown whether nonparticulate preparations are any less effective than particulate preparations. Therefore, a study was designed to determine whether there is a basis for promoting a theoretically safer nonparticulate corticosteroid preparation.
Design. Volunteer patients were randomized to receive a single cervical transforaminal epidural injection with one of two corticosteroid preparations.
Setting. This study was undertaken in a private practice setting.
Patients. Those with single-level, unilateral radicular pain with advanced imaging demonstrating single-level neural compression.
Interventions. Patients received a single cervical transforaminal epidural injection with either dexamethasone or triamcinolone.
Outcome Measures. Ratings were obtained by an independent unbiased assessor at 4 weeks via a telephone interview. A visual analog pain scale was used preprocedurally and a verbal integer scale was used at 4 weeks to assess the severity of the patient’s radicular pain. As a secondary outcome measure, a patient-specified functional outcome measure was obtained.
Results. Both groups exhibited statistically and clinically significant improvements in pain at 4 weeks. Although the triamcinolone group exhibited a somewhat greater improvement, the difference between groups was not significantly different.
Conclusion. The study found that the effectiveness of dexamethasone was slightly less than that of triamcinolone, but the difference was neither statistically nor clinically significant. A theoretically safer nonparticulant agent appears to be a valid alternative to particulate agents that have been used to date, and which have been associated with hazard.