CT-guided vs. fluoroscopically guided transforaminal epidural steroid injections for lumbar radiculopathy: a comparison of efficacy, safety and cost.
INTRODUCTION: There are no formal guidelines for whether CT-guided or fluoroscopy-guided TFESI should be undertaken for patients with symptoms of lumbar nerve root irritation and corresponding nerve impingement. Here, we sought to compare the efficacy, safety and cost of computer tomography (CT)-guided and fluoroscopically guided transforaminal epidural steroid injection (TFESI). MATERIALS AND METHODS: All patients who underwent lumbar TFESI at our institution between June 2016 and June 2018 were identified. Six-week follow-up outcomes were categorised. The radiation doses and associated cost was retrieved from our institution's costing system. RESULTS: One hundred and sixteen patients were included (CT-50; fluoroscopy-56). There were no complications. More patients were discharged 6 weeks after CT-guided lumbar TFESI when compared with fluoroscopically guided TFESI (CT-23, fluoroscopy-14 (P = 0.027)). There was no difference in the number of patients who were referred to surgery (P = 0.18), for further pain management (P = 0.45), or for further TFESI (P = 0.43). The effective radiation dose was significantly higher for CT-guided TFESI (CT-5.73 mSv (3.87 to 7.76); fluoroscopy-0.55 mSv (0.11 to 1.4) (P < 0.01)). The total cost for CT-guided lumbar TFESI was £237.50 (£235 to £337), over £800 less than under fluoroscopic guidance (£1052 (£892.80 to £1298.00), P < 0.01)). Removing cost associated with staff and theatre use (staffing, theatre, medical indemnity and overheads) revealed CT-guided lumbar TFESI to be less expensive than if the procedure was fluoroscopy-guided-CT-guided: £132.6 (130.8 to 197.5); fluoroscopy: £237.4 (£209.2 to £271.9) (P = 0.019). CONCLUSIONS: CT-guided TFESI was associated with a higher discharge rate, a lower cost, but a ten times higher radiation dose when compared with fluoroscopically guided TFESI. Prospective studies are required to compare the efficacy of these procedures and to investigate how the radiation dose of CT-guided TFESI can be reduced without jeopardising efficacy or safety.