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Psychopathology predicts the outcome of medial branch blocks with corticosteroid for chronic axial low back or cervical pain: a prospective cohort study

PainSci » bibliography » Wasan et al 2009
Tags: neck, back pain, mind, head/neck, spine, pain problems

Three articles on PainSci cite Wasan 2009: 1. The Complete Guide to Low Back Pain2. The Complete Guide to Neck Pain & Cricks3. Do Nerve Blocks Work for Neck Pain and Low Back Pain?

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Comorbid psychopathology is an important predictor of poor outcome for many types of treatments for back or neck pain. But it is unknown if this applies to the results of medial branch blocks (MBBs) for chronic low back or neck pain, which involves injecting the medial branch of the dorsal ramus nerves that innervate the facet joints. The objective of this study was to determine whether high levels of psychopathology are predictive of pain relief after MBB injections in the lumbar or cervical spine.

METHODS: This was a prospective cohort study. Consecutive patients in a pain medicine practice undergoing MBBs of the lumbar or cervical facets with corticosteroids were recruited to participate. Subjects were selected for a MBB based on operationalized selection criteria and the procedure was performed in a standardized manner. Subjects completed the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) just prior to the procedure and at one-month follow up. Scores on the HADS classified the subjects into three groups based on psychiatric symptoms, which formed the primary predictor variable: Low, Moderate, or High levels of psychopathology. The primary outcome measure was the percent improvement in average daily pain rating one-month following an injection. Analysis of variance and chi-square were used to analyze the analgesia and functional rating differences between groups, and to perform a responder analysis.

RESULTS: Eighty six (86) subjects completed the study. The Low psychopathology group (n = 37) reported a mean of 23% improvement in pain at one-month while the High psychopathology group (n = 29) reported a mean worsening of -5.8% in pain (p < .001). Forty five percent (45%) of the Low group had at least 30% improvement in pain versus 10% in the High group (p < .001). Using an analysis of covariance, no baseline demographic, social, or medical variables were significant predictors of pain improvement, nor did they mitigate the effect of psychopathology on the outcome.

CONCLUSION: Psychiatric comorbidity is associated with diminished pain relief after a MBB injection performed with steroid at one-month follow-up. These findings illustrate the importance of assessing comorbid psychopathology as part of a spine care evaluation.

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