The Safety of Epidural Steroid Injections

Category: Injections | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: January 23, 2020

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For many individuals with lower back or sciatic nerve-related pain, they need a little assistance pushing pain to the side so they can progress with things like physical therapy or exercise that can help provide more long-term relief. Many of them find this help in the form of an epidural steroid injection.

With an epidural steroid injection, a local anesthetic and anti-inflammatory agent is injected directly into the area of pain to help calm irritation and numb pain sensations. They can help provide relief for anywhere from one week to many months, but their effectiveness is temporary. This is why they are often paired with active treatment options to help heal irritated tissues so pain is reduced by the time the injection wears off.

However, like any medical procedure, epidural steroid injections are not without their own risks. Complications are rare and we work very hard to prevent them, but there is no guarantee that an injection will go perfectly every single time. Below, we take a closer look at some of the risks associated with epidural steroid injections and how we work hard to prevent them from becoming a problem.

Risks Associated With Epidural Steroid Injections

It’s worth noting that when we say that these are some of the more “common” risks associated with the injection, that doesn’t mean these complications are routine. As you’ll see when we throw out some numbers, complication rates for epidural steroid injections are quite rare, which is great for patient and provider when considering it as an option. Here’s a look at what doctors look to prevent when administering the injection:

  • Bleeding – Bleeding from the injection site is a very rare complication and is more of a risk for patients with a family history of bleeding disorders. Your doctor will review your medical charts and ask about any clotting disorders that may run in your family prior to the procedure.
  • Infection – When breaking the barrier into the body, there’s always the risk that bacteria could enter the site and lead to the onset of an infection. However, infection rates during epidural steroid injections are very rare, as medical data say they occur in between 1 in 1,000 and 1 in 10,000 injections.
  • Dural Puncture – Perhaps the risk that surgeons are most aware of during an epidural steroid injection is a dural puncture. This occurs in about 1 in every 200 procedures and involves an injection that results in a leakage of cerebrospinal fluid. If the injection site doesn’t clot properly, cerebrospinal fluid can leak and lead to spinal headaches. Typically the site clots on its own with a little rest, but if the leak continues, the doctor may choose to inject a small amount of blood into the epidural space, which will clot the opening and restore normal cerebrospinal fluid flow.
  • Nerve Damage – Finally, nerve damage is a possibility when using a needle to deliver an injection, but the odds of this happening are extremely rare, especially when the procedure is performed by a skilled surgeon with years of experience like Dr. Sinicropi.

For more information about epidural steroid injections, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi’s office today.

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