OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to investigate if relying on postal questionnaires returned by patients provides an accurate representation of reported outcomes from patients receiving imaging-guided lumbar nerve root injections (NRIs).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Patients who received imaging-guided transforaminal lumbar NRIs were given short questionnaires inquiring about pain level [numerical rating scale (NRS)] and overall improvement [Patient's Global Impression of Change (PGIC)]. Those who did not return the questionnaires (non-responders) were telephoned and asked about pain level and overall change in condition. Age and gender matching of responders and non-responders resulted in 97 patients in each group. The proportion of patients reporting clinically relevant "improvement" or "worsening" in each group was calculated and the Chi-square test was used to detect differences. NRS and PGIC scores for responders and non-responders were compared using Student's t test and the Mann-Whitney U test, respectively.
RESULTS: A higher proportion of non-responders reported clinically relevant improvement (53.6 %) compared to responders (42.6 %) and responders reported significantly higher levels of worsening of condition (p = 0.01). Both responders and non-responders had significant (p ≤ 0.05) improvement on the 20-30-min and 1-month NRS scores compared to their pre-injection baseline scores. Non-responders had significantly higher baseline NRS scores but no significant difference at the 20-30-min and 1-month NRS scores compared to responders.
CONCLUSIONS: Patients returning postal questionnaires reported less favorable outcomes compared to those who did not return their questionnaires.