The authors’ aim in this paper was to review the intraoperative use of epidural steroids in lumbar discectomy surgery with a focus on surgical complications.
A comprehensive literature search was done using PubMed, MEDLINE, and the Cochrane Central Registry of Controlled Trials. Relevant papers were retrieved and analyzed. The authors performed a meta-analysis of all available data. Search terms included epidural, steroids, discectomy, lumbar disc surgery, herniated lumbar disc, methylprednisolone, and perioperative.The primary outcome was surgical complications such as wound infection or need for reoperation. Secondary outcomes were pain and postoperative narcotic usage.
Sixteen trials and 1 retrospective study (a total of 1933 patients) were eligible for inclusion in this study. In all studies, steroids were added epidurally over the nerve root before closure in cases, and control patients underwent discectomy alone. The mean age (42.7 years vs 42.4 years; RR 0.30 [95% CI −0.30 to 0.90], p = 0.32), overall complication rates (2.69% vs 1.18%; RR 1.94 [95% CI 0.72–5.26], p = 0.19), and infectious complication rates (0.94% vs 0.08%; RR 4.58 [95% CI 0.75–27.95], p = 0.10) were similar between the steroid group and control group, respectively.
There is good evidence that epidural steroids can decrease pain in the short term and decrease the usage of postoperative narcotics after lumbar spinal surgery for degenerative spinal disease. The authors’ results demonstrate a trend toward increased infection with epidural steroid use, but there was not a statistically significant difference. More studies are needed to validate the long-term risk/benefit ratio of epidural steroids in lumbar discectomy.