Low Back Pain in Pregnancy: Investigations, Management, and Role of Neuraxial Analgesia and Anaesthesia: A Systematic Review.

Sehmbi H, D'Souza R, Bhatia A.

Gynecol Obstet Invest. 2017 May 18.[Epub ahead of print]


Background: Low back pain (LBP) is commonly experienced during pregnancy and is often poorly managed. There is much ambiguity in diagnostic work-up, appropriate management and decision-making regarding the use of neuraxial analgesia and anaesthesia during labour and delivery in these patients. This systematic review summarises the evidence regarding investigations, management strategies and considerations around performing neuraxial blocks for pregnant women with LBP. 

Methods: We searched 3 databases and reviewed literature concerning LBP in pregnancy with regards to diagnostic modalities, management strategies and use of neuraxial techniques for facilitating labour and delivery. 

Results: In all, we included 78 studies in this review, with 32 studies concerning diagnostic investigations, 56 studies involving management strategies, and 4 studies regarding the use of neuraxial techniques for labour and delivery. 

Summary: MRI is the safest investigative modality for LBP in pregnancy. Antenatal educational programmes, exercise and steroid injections into the epidural space or sacroiliac joints may help with pain management. Worsening neurological deficits, vertebral fractures and tumours may need surgical management. There is limited evidence on challenges of performing neuraxial blocks in the peripartum period for analgesia and anaesthesia, but there is a potential for increased risk of neurological complications in parturients with pre-existing neurological deficits.

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