A cohort study conducted in Bristol has reported that selective lumbar nerve root block, an injection targeting one specific spinal nerve, offered good, long lasting pain relief to many patients. Furthermore, an encouraging 66 per cent of patients from the study avoided the need for surgery.
The nerve root block injections are a safe, relatively inexpensive outpatient treatment which are completed in 30 minutes and are used for both diagnosis and treatment.
A group of 61 patients with painful sciatica who received nerve root blocks were followed. Pain diaries were issued to patients which covered 28 days and patients were advised to score the severity of sciatica. Good pain relief on average was reported after the nerve root block injection. After a mean follow up of more than 12 months, it was found that only 34 per cent of patients needed surgery. This strongly suggests that nerve root block injections can make a swift and worthwhile difference to patients who have painful sciatica.
Potentially, this safe and relatively inexpensive treatment could be employed in primary care, earlier in the course of symptoms. This is encouraging for many patients who have been suffering for several months before they are able to come to clinic. By providing this treatment earlier in the course of disc related sciatica, sufferers may be able to return to work sooner.
Dr Keith Greenfield, Neurosurgery Research Group from Southmead Hospital presented the findings of this study paper at the North American Spine Society annual meeting in San Francisco on 12-15 November, the world's largest spine meeting. Details of his paper can be found here.