, Volume 22, Issue 9, pp 1921-1935
Date: 26 Mar 2013

A systematic review and meta-analysis of biological treatments targeting tumour necrosis factor α for sciatica

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



Systematic review comparing biological agents, targeting tumour necrosis factor α, for sciatica with placebo and alternative interventions.


We searched 21 electronic databases and bibliographies of included studies. We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-RCTs and controlled observational studies of adults who had sciatica treated by biological agents compared with placebo or alternative interventions.


We pooled the results of six studies (five RCTs and one non-RCT) in meta-analyses. Compared with placebo biological agents had: better global effects in the short-term odds ratio (OR) 2.0 (95 % CI 0.7–6.0), medium-term OR 2.7 (95 % CI 1.0–7.1) and long-term OR 2.3 [95 % CI 0.5 to 9.7); improved leg pain intensity in the short-term weighted mean difference (WMD) −13.6 (95 % CI −26.8 to −0.4), medium-term WMD −7.0 (95 % CI −15.4 to 1.5), but not long-term WMD 0.2 (95 % CI −20.3 to 20.8); improved Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) in the short-term WMD −5.2 (95 % CI −14.1 to 3.7), medium-term WMD −8.2 (95 % CI −14.4 to −2.0), and long-term WMD −5.0 (95 % CI −11.8 to 1.8). There was heterogeneity in the leg pain intensity and ODI results and improvements were no longer statistically significant when studies were restricted to RCTs. There was a reduction in the need for discectomy, which was not statistically significant, and no difference in the number of adverse effects.


There was insufficient evidence to recommend these agents when treating sciatica, but sufficient evidence to suggest that larger RCTs are needed.