A spinal corticosteroid injection places corticosteroids into tissue around the spine. Corticosteroids are drugs that reduce painful swelling and irritation, called inflammation. They are injected into the back with a needle.
Spinal injections are typically performed when persistent pain and disability are not relieved by:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have an injection, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Your doctor may:
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
A local anesthetic and/or a sedative may be used. They may help to alleviate pain and anxiety . You will be awake for the procedure.
You will lie on your side on an x-ray table. The skin on your back will be washed with a sterile solution. A syringe containing corticosteroid medicine and a local anesthetic will be prepared. The needle will be injected through the skin and into a space near the spine. The doctor will likely use x-ray imaging to guide placement of the needle. Contrast material may also be injected to confirm that the needle is in the right place. The medicine will be injected and the needle will be removed from your back. A small bandage may then be placed over the injection site.
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The procedure will take less than one hour. The entire visit takes about 2-3 hours.
The injection of the local anesthetic may burn or sting for a few seconds. After that, you should not feel pain during the procedure.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Association of Neurological Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). AAOS clinical guideline on low back pain/sciatica (acute) (phases I and II). Available at: http://www.guidelines.gov/summary/summary.aspx?doc_id=5369&nbr=003672&string=spinal+AND+fusion.
Jain KK. Neurologic complications of local anesthesia. In: Gilman S, ed. MedLink Neurology. San Diego, CA: MedLink Corporation; 2008.
Lumbar epidural steroid injections. Pain Clinic.org website. Available at: http://www.pain-clinic.org/lumbarepiduralsteroidinjections. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Manchikanti L, Staats PS, Singh V, et al. Evidence-based practice guidelines for interventional techniques in the management of chronic spinal pain. Pain Phys. 2003;6:3-81.
Ramachandran TS. Lumbar spinal stenosis and neurogenic claudications. In: Gilman S, ed. MedLink Neurology. San Diego, CA: MedLink Corporation; 2008.
Spinal injections. North American Spine Society website. Available at: http://www.spine.org/articles/injections.cfm .
Last reviewed December 2011 by John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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