Short-Term Efficacy of Intravenous Pulse Glucocorticoids in Acute Discogenic Sciatica. A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Study Design.

Double-blinded randomized controlled trial.


To test the short-term efficacy of a single intravenous (IV) pulse of glucocorticoids on the symptoms of acute discogenic sciatica.

Summary of Background Data.

The use of glucocorticoids in the treatment of acute discogenic sciatica is controversial. A potential advantage of the IV pulse therapy is the ability to distribute high glucocorticoid concentrations to the area surrounding the prolapsed disc without the risks and inconveniences of an epidural injection.


Patients with acute sciatica (<6-week duration) of radiologically confirmed discogenic origin were randomized to receive either a single IV bolus of 500 mg of methylprednisolone or placebo. Clinical evaluation was performed in a double-blind manner on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 10, and 30. The primary outcome was reduction in sciatic leg pain during the first 3 days following the infusion; secondary outcomes were reduction in low back pain, global pain, functional disability, and signs of radicular irritation. The analysis was performed on an intent-to-treat basis using a longitudinal regression model for repeated measures.


A total of 65 patients were randomized, and 60 completed the treatment and the follow-up assessments. A single IV bolus of glucocorticoids provided significant improvement in sciatic leg pain (P = 0.04) within the first 3 days. However, the effect size was small, and the improvement did not persist. IV glucocorticoids had no effect on functional disability or clinical signs of radicular irritation.


Although an IV bolus of glucocorticoids provides a short-term improvement in leg pain in patients with acute discogenic sciatica, its effects are transient and have small magnitude.

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