Study Design. A pragmatic, randomized, controlled, single-blinded trial in Dutch general practice.
Objective. Assessing the costs and cost-effectiveness of adding segmental epidural steroid injections to care as usual in radiculopathy in general practice.
Summary of Background Data. Lumbosacral radicular syndrome (radiculopathy) is a benign, generally self-limiting but painful condition caused by a herniated lumbar intervertebral disc, which results in an inflammatory process around the nerve root. Segmental epidural steroid injections could lessen pain. Low back pain and sciatica form a large financial burden on national health care systems. Improving pain treatment could lower costs to society by diminishing loss of productivity.
Methods. Patients with acute radiculopathy were included by general practitioners. All patients received usual care. Patients in the intervention group received one segmental epidural steroid injection containing 80 mg of triamcinolone as well. Follow-up was performed using postal questionnaires at 2, 4, 6, 13, 26, and 52 weeks. Main outcomes were pain, disability and costs. Economic evaluation was performed from a societal perspective with a time horizon of 1 year.
Results. Sixty-three patients were included in the analysis. Mean total costs were (sic)4414 or $5985 in the intervention group and (sic)5121 or $6943 in the control group. This difference was mostly due to loss of productivity. The point estimate for the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio was -(sic)730 or -$990 (1-point diminishment on the numerical rating scale back pain score in 1 patient in the course of 1 yr would save (sic)730 or $990). Bootstrapping showed a 95% confidence interval of -(sic)4476 to (sic)951 or -$6068 to $1289. The cost-effectiveness acceptability curve showed that without additional investment the probability that epidural steroids are cost-effective is more than 80%.
Conclusion. The effect on pain and disability of epidural steroids in lumbosacral radicular syndrome is small but significant, and at lower costs with no reported complications or adverse effects. Segmental epidural steroid injections could be considered by policy makers as an additional treatment option.