Value of diagnostic lumbar selective nerve root block: A prospective controlled study

J. S. Yeom, J. W. Lee, K. W. Park, Bong Soon Chang, C. K. Lee, J. M. Buchowski, K. D. Riew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Although diagnostic lumbar selective nerve root blocks are often used to confirm the pain-generating nerve root level, the reported accuracy of these blocks has been variable and their usefulness is controversial. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of diagnostic lumbar selective nerve root blocks to analyze potential causes of false results in a prospective, controlled, single-blinded manner. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 105 block anesthetics were performed under fluoroscopic guidance in 47 consecutive patients with pure radiculopathy from a single confirmed level: 47 blocks were performed at the symptomatic level, and 58 were performed at the adjacent asymptomatic "control" level. Contrast and local anesthetics were injected, and spot radiographs were taken in all cases. We calculated the diagnostic value of the block anesthetics using concordance with the injected level. We analyzed the potential causes of false results using spot radiographs. RESULTS: On the basis of a definition of a positive block as 70% pain relief, determined by receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) analysis, diagnostic lumbar selective nerve root block anesthetics had a sensitivity of 57%, a specificity of 86%, an accuracy of 73%, a positive predictive value of 77%, and a negative predictive value of 71%. False-negatives were due to the following causes identifiable on spot radiographs: insufficient infiltration, insufficient passage of the injectate, and intraepineural injections. On the other hand, false-positives resulted from overflow of the injectate from the injected asymptomatic level into either the epidural space or symptomatic level. CONCLUSION: The accuracy of diagnostic lumbar selective nerve root blocks is only moderate. To improve the accuracy, great care should be taken to avoid inadequate blocks and overflow, and to precisely interpret spot radiographs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1017-1023
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2008

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