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Open Access Research article

Efficacy of intraoperative epidural steroids in lumbar discectomy: a systematic review

Bakur A Jamjoom1 and Abdulhakim B Jamjoom2*

Author Affiliations

1 Core Surgical Trainee, University Hospital of Coventry and Warwickshire, Walsgrave, Coventry CV2 2DX, UK

2 Department of Surgery, Section of Neurosurgery, King Khalid National Guards Hospital, P O Box 9515, Jeddah 21423, Saudi Arabia

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:146  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-146

Published: 5 May 2014



This study is a descriptive review of the literature aimed at examining the efficacy of the use of intraoperative epidural steroids in lumbar disc surgery, a matter that remains controversial.


The relevant clinical trials were selected from databases and reviewed. The methodological quality of each included study was assessed and graded for perceived risk of bias. All the documented significant and non-significant findings were collected. Our outcome targets were reduction in postoperative pain scores, consumption of analgesia, duration of hospital stay and no increase in complication rates. The variation in the timing of postoperative pain assessments necessitated grouping the outcome into three postoperative stages; early: 0 to 2 weeks, intermediate: more than 2 weeks to 2 months and late: more than 2 months to 1 year.


Sixteen trials that were published from1990 to 2012 were eligible. At least one significant reduction in pain score was reported in nine of the eleven trials that examined pain in the early stage, in four of the seven trials that examined pain in the intermediate stage and in two of the eight trials that examined pain in the late stage. Seven of the nine trials that looked at consumption of postoperative analgesia reported significant reduction while six of the ten trails that examined the duration of hospital stay reported significant reduction. None of the trials reported a significant increase of steroid-related complications.


There is relatively strong evidence that intraoperative epidural steroids are effective in reducing pain in the early stage and reducing consumption of analgesia. There is also relatively strong evidence that they are ineffective in reducing pain in the late stage and in reducing duration of hospital stay. The evidence for their effectiveness in reducing pain in the intermediate stage is considered relatively weak. The heterogeneity between the trials makes it difficult to make undisputed conclusions and it indicates the need for a large multicenter trial with validated outcome measures that are recorded at fixed time intervals.

Lumbar discectomy; Steroids; Methylprednisolone; Intraoperative; Epidural; Randomized controlled trial; Postoperative outcome