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Systematic Review

Cervical transforaminal epidural steroid injections for radicular pain

a systematic review

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Cervical radiculopathy is a significant cause of pain and morbidity. For patients with severe and poorly controlled symptoms who may not be candidates for surgical management, treatment with transforaminal epidural steroid injections (CTFESI) has gained widespread acceptance. However, a paucity of high-quality evidence supporting their use balanced against perceived high risks of the procedure potentially undermines the confidence of clinicians who use the technique. We undertook a systematic review of the available literature regarding CTFESI to assess the clinical efficacy and complication rates of the procedure.


OVID, MEDLINE, and Embase database searches were performed independently by two authors who subsequently completed title, abstract, and full-text screening for inclusion against set criteria. Clinical outcomes and complication data were extracted, and a narrative synthesis presented.


Six studies (three randomized controlled trials and three non-randomized observational studies; 443 patients) were included in the final review. The aggregate data support the efficacy of CTFESI in excess of the likely minimal clinically important difference. No major complications were described.


There is increasing evidence supporting the efficacy of CTFESI. Concerns regarding the occurrence of catastrophic complications, widely shared in the case report and anecdotal literature, were not found when reviewing the best available evidence. However, the strength of these findings remains limited by the lack of highly powered high-level studies and the heterogeneity of the studies available. Further high-quality studies are recommended to address the issues of efficacy and safety with CTFESI.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2022;104-B(5):567–574.

Correspondence should be sent to Zakk M. Borton. E-mail:

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