Use of a Risk-Stratification Tool in Identification of Potential Adrenal Suppression Preceding Steroid Injection Therapy in Chronic Pain Patients

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Abstract

Background.

Patients who present for steroid injections are not routinely screened for potential hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression from previous steroid exposure. Patients often receive various steroid therapies that are not reported by the patient or recorded in available medical records. Yet, HPA axis suppression has been reported with a single intra-articular injection.

Methods.

An IRB-approved quality improvement questionnaire was implemented to comprehensively screen patients for risk of HPA axis suppression secondary to prior and/or concurrent corticosteroid use. This questionnaire was given to adult patients seen in a University Pain Management Clinic, who were being considered for a steroid injection, to define the extent of exposure to corticosteroids either by mouth, topically, inhaled, or systemic/local injection within the past 6 months.

Results.

Two hundred patients completed the questionnaire. Eighty-nine patients (44.5%) screened positive for significant steroid exposure with a screen score of three or above. The average score for the screen positive group was 6.31 ± 3.47 (range 3–22). Women were 1.9 times more likely to screen positive than men (53.4% vs 27.5%,P< 0.0004). Otherwise, the screen positive and screen negative groups were similar in demographic characteristics (age, BMI, and diabetes status).

Conclusions.

Our results suggest that patients receive steroids from many sources and may be at risk for HPA axis suppression. Further testing is necessary to determine if these patients indeed have biochemical evidence of adrenal suppression. Utilization of a screening questionnaire might help identify patients who should be considered for HPA axis testing prior to steroid injections.

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