BACKGROUND: This study aimed to assess how Dutch neurologists and anesthesiologists diagnose and treat people with sciatica in secondary care and to evaluate their adherence to the newest guidelines.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey. Respondents were asked about their current clinical practice related to sciatica. Three authors rated the respondents' adherence to the guidelines on a three-point Likert scale.
RESULTS: Eighty neurologists and 44 anesthesiologists completed the questionnaire. Neurologists diagnose their sciatica patients primarily using a magnetic resonance imaging (89%). Selective diagnostic nerve blocks are considered useful by 81% of the neurologists. Neurologists primarily treat patients with pain medication, and 40% of them think epidural steroid injections are effective in 40-60% of injected patients. Twenty-nine percent of neurologists refer patients to a neurosurgeon after 4 months. Anesthesiologists consider a selective diagnostic nerve root block to have a higher diagnostic value than mapping. The most reported side effect of epidural injections is exacerbation of pain (82%). Pulse radiofrequency is applied in 9-11% of acute cases. The results also indicate that Dutch neurologists and anesthesiologists follow an evidence-based approach that is strictly or broadly in line with the guideline.
CONCLUSIONS: Neurologists treat sciatica patients initially with pain medication and physiotherapy, followed by epidural steroid injections and referral for surgery. Anesthesiologists treat sciatica patients with one or more steroid injections or may perform a selective nerve root block. Imaging, selective nerve root blocks, medication, physiotherapy, and pulse radiofrequency are topics of further research.