What is an epidural steroid injection?
An epidural steroid injection is an outpatient procedure for treating neck, back, or extremity pain. For this procedure, a corticosteroid (anti-inflammatory medicine) is injected into the epidural space of the spinal column to reduce inflammation. A local anesthetic (numbing medicine) may also be injected. Depending on where you are experiencing pain, this injection will take place in one or more of the four regions of the spinal column: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumber, Sacral.
About the Procedure
A local anesthetic will be used to numb your skin. The doctor will then insert a thin needle directly into the epidural space. Fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, will be used to ensure the safe and proper position of the needle. A dye may also be injected to make sure the needle is at the correct spot.
Once the doctor is sure the needle is correctly placed, the medicine will be injected.
After the Procedure
You will be monitored for up to 30 minutes after the injection. When you are ready to leave, the staff will give you discharge instructions. You will also be given a pain diary. It is important to fill this out because it helps your doctor know how the injection is working.
It may help to move in ways that hurt before the injection, to see if the pain is still there, but do not overdo it. Take it easy for the rest of the day. You may feel immediate pain relief and numbness in your back and leg for a period of time after the injection. This may indicate the medication has reached the right spot.
Your pain may return after this short pain-free period, or may even be a little worse for a day or two. It may be caused by needle irritation or by the corticosteroid itself. Corticosteroids usually take two or three days to start working, but can take as long as a week. You can usually return to work the day after the injection, but always check with your doctor.
As with any procedure, there are potential risks. Although discography is designed to minimize these risks as much as possible, there is a chance that complications could occur. Be sure to discuss the possible risks with your doctor. Also, please note that not all patients are candidates for discography. For more information on specific risks, please speak with your physician.
Interlaminar– This is when the needle is placed from the back of the spine. It is most common approach for this procedure.
Transformainal– This is when it is done from the side where the nerve exits the spine. This technique puts the medication near the source of inflammation.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your pain is cause by injury to more than one area, only some of your symptoms may be helped by a single injection.