BACKGROUND: Inadvertent intravascular injection has been suggested as the most probable mechanism behind serious neurological complications during transforaminal epidural steroid injections. Authors believe a smaller gauge needle may lead to less intravascular uptake and less pain. Theoretically, there is less chance for a smaller gauge needle to encounter a blood vessel during an injection compared to a larger gauge needle. Studies have also shown smaller gauge needle to cause less pain. The aim of the study was to quantify the difference between a 22-gauge needle and 25-gauge needle during lumbosacral transforaminal epidural steroid injection in regards to intravascular uptake and pain perception.
METHODS: This was a prospective single blind randomized clinical trial performed at outpatient spine practice locations of two academic institutions. One hundred sixty-two consecutive patients undergoing lumbosacral transforaminal epidural injections from February 2018 to June 2019 were recruited and randomized to each arm of the study - 84 patients were randomized to the 22-gauge needle arm and 78 patients to 25-gauge arm. Each transforaminal injection level was considered a separate incidence, hence total number of incidence was 249 (136 in 22-gauge arm and 113 in 25-gauge arm). The primary outcome measure was intravascular uptake during live fluoroscopy and/or blood aspiration. The secondary outcome measure was patient reported pain during the procedure on the numerical rating scale.
RESULTS: Fisher exact test was used to detect differences between 2 groups in regards to intravascular uptake and paired t-tests were used to detect differences in pain scores. The incidence of intravascular uptake for a 22-gauge needle was 5.9% (95% confidence interval: 1.9 to 9.8%) and for a 25-gauge needle, 7.1% (95% confidence interval: 2.4 to 11.8%) [p = 0.701]. Average numerical rating scale scores during the initial needle entry for 22-gauge and 25-gauge needle was 3.46 (95% confidence interval: 2.94 to 3.98) and 3.13 (95% confidence interval: 2.57 to 3.69) respectively [p = 0.375].
CONCLUSIONS: The study showed no statistically significant difference in intravascular uptake or pain perception between a 22-gauge needle and 25-gauge needle during lumbosacral transforaminal epidural steroid injections.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT04350307. Registered 4/17/2020. (Retrospectively registered).
Raju, Robin; Mehnert, Michael; Stolzenberg, David; Simon, Jeremy; Conliffe, Theodore; and Gehret, Jeffrey, "Differential rates of intravascular uptake and pain perception during lumbosacral epidural injection among adults using a 22-gauge needle versus 25-gauge needle: a randomized clinical trial" (2020). Department of Rehabilitation Medicine Faculty Papers. Paper 40.
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