Comparison of the caudal and lumbar approaches to the epidural space.
Price CM., Rogers PD., Prosser AS., Arden NK.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate the accuracy of placement of epidural injections using the lumbar and caudal approaches. To identify which factors, if any, predicted successful placement. METHODS: 200 consecutive patients referred to a pain clinic for an epidural injection of steroid were randomly allocated to one of two groups. Group L had a lumbar approach to the epidural space and group C a caudal approach to the epidural space. Both groups then had epidurography performed using Omnipaque and an image intensifier to determine the position of the needle. RESULTS: Body mass index (BMI), grade of operator, and route of injection were predictors of a successful placement. 93% of lumbar and 64% of caudal epidural injections were correctly placed (p< 0.001). 97% of lumbar and 85% of caudal epidural injections clinically thought to be correctly placed were confirmed radiographically. For epidural injections where the clinical impression was "maybe", 91% of lumbar injections, but only 45% of caudal injections were correctly placed. Obesity was associated with a reduced chance of successful placement (odds ratio (OR) 0.34 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.17 to 0.72) BMI >30 v BMI <30). A more senior grade of operator was associated with a reduced chance of successful placement (OR 0.16 (95% CI 0.03 to 0.89) consultant v other). However, small numbers may have accounted for the latter result. CONCLUSIONS: The weight of the patient and intended approach need to be considered when deciding the method used to enter the epidural space. In the non-obese patient, lumbar epidural injections can be accurately placed without x ray screening, but caudal epidural injections, to be placed accurately, require x ray screening no matter what the weight of the patient.