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Korean J Radiol 7(2), June 2006 139

Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injectionfor Lumbosacral Radiculopathy:Preganglionic versus ConventionalApproach

Objective: The present study was undertaken to evaluate the effectiveness oftransforaminal epidural steroid injection (TFESI) with using a preganglionicapproach for treating lumbar radiculopathy when the nerve root compression waslocated at the level of the supra-adjacent intervertebral disc.

Materials and Methods: The medical records of the patients who receivedconventional TFESI at our department from June 2003 to May 2004 were retro-spectively reviewed. TFESI was performed in a total of 13 cases at the level ofthe exiting nerve root, in which the nerve root compression was at the level of thesupra-adjacent intervertebral disc (the conventional TFESI group). Since June2004, we have performed TFESI with using a preganglionic approach at the levelof the supra-adjacent intervertebral disc (for example, at the neural foramen ofL4-5 for the L5 nerve root) if the nerve root compression was at the level of thesupra-adjacent intervertebral disc. Using the inclusion criteria described above,20 of these patients were also consecutively enrolled in our study (the pregan-glionic TFESI group). The treatment outcome was assessed using a 5-pointpatient satisfaction scale and by using a VAS (visual assessment scale). A suc-cessful outcome required a patient satisfaction scale score of 3 (very good) or 4(excellent), and a reduction on the VAS score of > 50% two weeks after perform-ing TFESI. Logistic regression analysis was also performed.

Results: Of the 13 patients in the conventional TFESI group, nine showed sat-isfactory improvement two weeks after TFESI (69.2%). However, in the pregan-glionic TFESI group, 18 of the 20 patients (90%) showed satisfactory improve-ment. The difference between the two approaches in terms of TFESI effective-ness was of borderline significance (p = 0.056; odds ratio: 10.483).

Conclusion: We conclude that preganglionic TFESI has the better therapeuticeffect on radiculopathy caused by nerve root compression at the level of thesupra-adjacent disc than does conventional TFESI, and the diffence between thetwo treatments had borderline statistical significance.

he epidural space has historically been accessed inferiorly by using acaudal approach or it has been accessed posteriorly by using an interlami-nar approach, and this procedure is often done without fluoroscopic aid

(1 2). Interlaminar and caudal epidural injections require relatively large volumes ofinjectate to deliver the steroid to the presumed pathologic site, and these types ofinjections also introduce the risk of extraepidural and intravascular needle placement.Thus, transforaminal epidural steroid injection (TFESI) under fluoroscopic guidancehas emerged as the preferred approach to the epidural space (3 5).

In some cases of lumbosacral radiculopathy that are secondary to stenosis or a

Joon Woo Lee, MD1

Sung Hyun Kim, MD1

Ja-Young Choi, MD2

Jin-Sup Yeom, MD3

Ki-Jeong Kim, MD4

Sang-Ki Chung, MD4

Hyun-Jib Kim, MD4

Choonghyo Kim, MD4

Kyu Sung Kwack, MD1

Jong Won Kwon, MD1

Sung Gyu Moon, MD2

Woo Sun Jun, MD2

Heung Sik Kang, MD1,2

Index terms:Spine, interventional procedure Spine, therapeutic radiology

Korean J Radiol 2006;7:139-144Received October 31, 2005; accepted after revision December 20, 2005.

1Department of Radiology, Seoul NationalUniversity Bundang Hospital, Gyeongi-do463-707, Korea; 2Department ofRadiology, Seoul National UniversityCollege of Medicine, Seoul 110-744,Korea; 3Department of OrthopaedicSurgery, Seoul National UniversityBundang Hospital, Gyeongi-do 463-707,Korea; 4Department of Neurosurgery,Seoul National University BundangHospital, Gyeongi-do 463-707, Korea

Address reprint requests to:Heung Sik Kang, MD, Department ofRadiology, Seoul National UniversityBundang Hospital, 300 Gumi-dong,Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do463-707, Korea.Tel. (8231)787-7609Fax. (8231)787-4011e-mail: [email protected]


herniated disc, the site of impingement can lie at the levelof the supra-adjacent intervertebral disc, which is rostral tothe conventional lumbar TFESI bevel position. Lew et al.(6) have suggested that because one cannot always guaran-tee a rostral spread of injectate to bathe theepidural/preganglionic portion of the nerve root, a pregan-glionic approach at the level of the supra-adjacent interver-tebral disc (for example, the L4-5 disc level for a L5 nerveroot) could be helpful (Fig. 1). Theoretically, by utilizingthe preganglionic approach for TFESI, the injectate can beplaced closer to the site of neural impingement and soprovide a more effective washout of inflammatory discmaterial. However, the above suggestion is not based onany clinical study. To the best of our knowledge, based ona comprehensive MEDLINE literature review, nopublished study has yet assessed the effectiveness of TFESIwith using a preganglionic approach when the site ofimpingement lies at the level of the supraadjacent interver-tebral disc. The present study was undertaken to evaluatethe effectiveness of TFESI with using a preganglionicapproach for lumbar radiculopathy when the nerve rootcompression is located at the level of the supra-adjacentintervertebral disc.


Patients One radiologist retrospectively reviewed the medical

records of the patients who received TFESI using theconventional approach at our department during a 1-yearperiod, from June 2003 to May 2004. This involvedperforming TFESI at the location of the exiting nerve root,regardless of the level of the nerve root compression. Forexample, TFESI for L5 radiculopathy was performed at theneural foramen of L5-S1 even when the L5 nerve rootcompression was in the paracentral or subarticular region

at the level of the L4-5 disc. After a consensus meetingbetween three radiologists who were unaware of theclinical results after TFESI, we selected those cases treatedby conventional TFESI with supra-adjacent nerve rootimpingement. The inclusion criteria were (a) the presenceof lumbar radiculopathy, (b) nerve root compression in theparacentral or subarticular region at the level of the supra-adjacent intervertebral disc (for example, at the L4-5 disclevel for the L5 nerve root), (c) one level TFESI from L1 toS1, (d) no prior therapeutic TFESI, (e) no prior surgery,and (f) clear identification of the nerve root compressionby using a cross-sectional imaging study (either computedtomography or magnetic resonance imaging). Thirteenpatients who met all the criteria were included and theywere referred to as the conventional TFESI group.

However, since June 2004, we have used TFESI with thepreganglionic approach at the supra-adjacent intervertebraldisc (for example, at the neural foramen of L4-5 for a L5nerve root) if the nerve root compression was at the levelof the supra-adjacent intervertebral disc. Using the sameinclusion criteria as mentioned above, a total of 20 patientswere consecutively enrolled and they were referred to asthe preganglionic TFESI group.

TechniqueTtransforaminal epidural steroid injection using the

conventional approach was conducted under biplanefluoroscopic guidance by two radiologists who were veryexperienced in spinal interventions. All the treatmentswere performed as outpatient procedures, and writteninformed consents were obtained from all the patients.With a patient lying in the prone position, the tube wasrotated obliquely to ensure injection at the neural foramen.The goal of positioning was to allow a perpendicularneedle tract toward the classic injection site underneath thepedicle, in the so-called safe triangle (5, 7). The safetriangle was defined by the pedicle superiorly, the lateralborder of the vertebral body laterally, and the outermargin of the spinal nerve medially. After disinfecting theskin, local anesthetic was administered by using a 25-gaugeneedle. Under fluoroscopic guidance, a 12-cm 22-gaugespinal needle was then advanced into the safe triangle. Atthe same time, a lateral view was obtained to verify thatthe anterior-posterior position of the needle tip wasappropriate. The needle position was checked by biplanefluoroscopy, and this was followed by the injection ofabout 1 mL of contrast material (Omnipaque 300[IOHEXOL, 300 mg of iodine per milliliter]; AmershamHealth, Princeton, NJ). The posteroanterior and lateralspot radiographs were obtained to document the distribu-tion of the contrast material. Bupivacaine hydrochloride

Lee et al.

140 Korean J Radiol 7(2), June 2006

Fig. 1. Schematic description for transforaminal epidural steroidinjection with the preganglionic approach versus the conventionalapproach.

(0.5 ml, Marcaine Spinal 0.5% Heavy; AstraZeneca,Westborough, MA) and 40 mg (1 mL) of triamcinolonacetonide suspension (Tamcelon; Hanall, Seoul, Korea)were slowly injected.

In terms of TFESI with using the preganglionic approach,the goal of positioning the needle tip was medial andinferior to that used in the conventional approach. In ourdepartment, we target injections just lateral to the parsinterarticularis on the oblique view during the pregan-glionic approach (Fig. 2).

A fortnight after TFESI, the patients were followed-up atour outpatient department. This length of follow-up hasbeen proposed in the literature and relates to the durationof the therapeutic effect of corticosteroid (7). To check the

effect of TFESI, all the patients were recommended nottake any drugs or to participate in any physical therapy fortheir sciatica before this 2-week follow-up.

Review of the Radiologic and Clinical DataThe level and cause of nerve root compression

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