What is an epidural injection?
An epidural injection is an injection of long lasting steroid and occasionally some other medications into the epidural space. The epidural space is the area that surrounds the spinal cord and the nerves coming out of it. The epidural space is just inside the spinal canal and extends from the neck to the base of the tailbone.
What is the purpose of an epidural injection?
The long acting steroid injected reduces the inflammation and swelling of spinal nerves and other surrounding tissues in the epidural space. This may in turn reduce pain, tingling and numbness and other symptoms caused by such inflammation, irritation or swelling.
What is actually injected?
The injection consists of a mixture of saline, sometimes a very small amount of local anesthetic and a long acting steroid medication.
How is the epidural injection performed?
The skin of the neck or back is cleaned with antiseptic solution and then the injection is carried out. All epidurals are performed using x-ray guidance with the patient lying on the table on their stomach.
What should I expect after the epidural injection?
Immediately after the injection, you should feel much the same as before the injection. You may have a small numb area at the injection site. You may also have some deep ache from the passing of the injection needle. Certain patients, especially those with prior neck or back surgery around the injection site, may have some soreness or aching for a day or two. This is due to the mechanical process of needle insertion, as well as initial irritation from the volume of the medications injected. You should start noticing pain relief starting the third day or so.
What are the risks and side effects of epidural injections?
Generally speaking, epidural injections are safe. However, with any procedure there are risks, side effects and possibility of complications. The most common and usually temporary side effects are bruising, soreness or other pain at the injection site. Uncommon risks involve spinal puncture with headaches, infection, bleeding inside the epidural space, nerve damage or worsening of symptoms, increase in blood sugar in diabetics, water retention or suppression of body’s own natural production of steroids. The patient is required to bring a driver, especially if sedation will be given.
PLEASE INFORM OUR OFFICE IF YOU HAVE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
- ALLERGY TO CONTRAST OR IODINE
- TAKE ANY BLOOD THINNING MEDICATION SUCH AS COUMADIN, PLAVIX, ASPIRIN OR NSAID.
- HAVE AN INFECTION ANYWHERE IN YOUR BODY.