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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Radiology and Medical Imaging - Surgery

Diagnostic Value of Lumbar Facet Joint Injection: A Prospective Triple Cross-Over Study
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Author: Uwe Schütz et al.

by Uwe Schütz, Balkan Cakir, Karsten Dreinhöfer, Marcus Richter, Holger Koepp

The diagnosis “lumbar facet syndrome” is common and often indicates severe lumbar spine surgery procedures. It is doubtful whether a painful facet joint (FJ) can be identified by a single FJ block. The aim of this study was to clarify the validity of a single and placebo controlled bilateral FJ blocks using local anesthetics. A prospective single blinded triple cross-over study was performed. 60 patients (31 f, 29 m, mean age 53.2 yrs (22–73)) with chronic low back pain (mean pain persistance 31 months, 6 months of conservative treatment without success) admitted to a local orthopaedic department for surgical or conservative therapy of chronic LBP, were included in the study. Effect on pain reduction (10 point rating scale) was measured. The 60 subjects were divided into six groups with three defined sequences of fluoroscopically guided bilateral monosegmental lumbar FJ test injections in “oblique needle” technique: verum-(local anaesthetic-), placebo-(sodium chloride-) and sham-injection. Carry-over and periodic effects were evaluated and a descriptive and statistical analysis regarding the effectiveness, difference and equality of the FJ injections and the different responses was performed. The results show a high rate of non-response, which documents the lack of reliable and valid predictors for a positive response towards FJ blocks. There was a high rate of placebo reactions noted, including subjects who previously or later reacted positively to verum injections. Equivalence was shown among verum vs. placebo and partly vs. sham also. With regard to test validity criteria, a single intraarticular FJ block with local anesthetics is not useful to detect the pain-responsible FJ and therefore is no valid and reliable diagostic tool to specify indication of lumbar spine surgery. Comparative FJ blocks with local anesthetics and placebo-controls have to be interpretated carefully also, because they solely give no proper diagnosis on FJ being main pain generator.
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