Sarah Bhattacharjee, Sean Pirkle, Lewis L. Shi, Michael J. Lee

July 2020, Volume 29, Issue 7, pp 1686 - 1692 Original Article Read Full Article 10.1007/s00586-020-06410-x

First Online: 18 April 2020


Lumbar epidural steroid injections (LESIs) are widely utilized for back pain. However, as studies report adverse effects from these injections, defining a safe interval for their use preoperatively is necessary. We investigated the effects of preoperative LESI timing on the rates of recurrent microdiscectomy.


This study utilized the PearlDiver national insurance claims database. Microdiscectomy patients were stratified by the timing of their most recent LESI prior to surgery into bimonthly cohorts (0–2 months, 2–4 months, 4–6 months). This first cohort was further stratified into biweekly cohorts (0–2 weeks, 2–4 weeks, 4–6 weeks, 6–8 weeks). The 6-month reoperation rate was assessed and compared between each injection cohort and a control group of patients with no injections within 6 months before surgery. Univariate analyses of reoperation were conducted followed by multivariate analyses controlling for risk factors where appropriate.


A total of 12,786 microdiscectomy patients were identified; 1090 (8.52%) received injections within 6 months before surgery. We observed a significant increase in the 6-month reoperation rates in patients who received injections within 6 weeks prior to surgery (odds ratio [OR] 1.900, 1.218–2.963; p = 0.005) compared to control. No other significant differences were observed.


In this study, microdiscectomy performed within 6 weeks following LESIs was associated with a higher risk of reoperation, while microdiscectomy performed more than 6 weeks from the most recent LESI demonstrated no such association with increased risk. Further research into the interaction between LESIs and recurrent disk herniation is necessary.

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