- 2020;23;127-134Interventional Pain Medicine Practice in the UK and the USA: A Survey of 242 Pain Physicians
Sanjeeva Gupta, MD, and Manohar Sharma, MD.
BACKGROUND: Pain medicine practices vary across different regions within a country and between countries.
OBJECTIVES: The objective of the survey was to study the variation in interventional pain medicine practices in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).
METHODS: A survey was designed in 2019 on Survey Monkey®. Pain physicians from the UK and the US were invited to respond.
RESULTS: A total of 120 responses were received from pain physicians in the UK and 122 from the US. Twenty-six percent and 90% of pain physicians in the UK and US, respectively, are in full-time pain medicine practice. There was marked variation in the utilization of diagnostic medial branch blocks before performing radiofrequency denervation (RFD) between the UK and the US. In the UK, 42% of pain physicians, and 50% in the US, use a 20-gauge or a 22-gauge radiofrequency needle for lumbar RFD. Around 30% to 50% of pain physicians, both in the UK and the US, discontinued antithrombotic agents before medial branch blocks at all the spinal levels. Around 50% of pain physicians in the UK and US are stopping anticoagulants before lumbar and cervical RFD. Over 95% of UK and US respondents stopped antithrombotic agents for interlaminar and transforaminal epidural injections along the spine. At the lumbar level, 51% of pain physicians in the UK and 47% in the US use a particulate steroid for the initial lumbar transforaminal epidural injection (TFESI); and 4% and 14% in the UK and US, respectively, use a particulate steroid for initial cervical TFESI. Eight percent of pain physicians in the UK and 20% from the US would switch to a particulate steroid if the initial TFESI with a nonparticulate steroid did not provide satisfactory pain relief. Ten percent of pain physicians from the United Kingdom and 20% from the US believed that this switch provides better pain relief.
LIMITATIONS: Interventional pain physicians from the UK and the US were invited to respond. This may not reflect global practice.
CONCLUSIONS: Our survey has highlighted the wide variation in interventional pain medicine practices both in the UK and the US. The relevant governing bodies in the UK and in the US should encourage clinicians to use at least an 18-gauge radiofrequency needle for RFD at the lumbar level. Discontinuing antithrombotic agents for the lumbar medial branch block is not justifiable. Pain physicians must discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a nonparticulate over a particulate steroid preparation with the patient before performing TFESI as a standard procedure during the consenting process.
KEY WORDS: Antithrombotic agents, epidural steroid, medial branch blocks, pain practice variations, particulate and nonparticulate steroids, radiofrequency denervation, spinal interventions