The Vault

Spine Center of Texas will be answering the most common questions we hear about epidural steroid injection.

What exactly is an epidural steroid injection? 

Epidural steroid injection or ESI is a minimally-invasive treatment which involves injecting a steroid medication into the spine’s epidural space. The epidural space is the part of the spine where inflamed nerves are usually located. Epidural steroid injection is done to reduce such inflammation, leading to pain relief. This is a less invasive technique used for painful conditions that are located anywhere in the spine.

What is the injection process? 

There are various techniques used to perform epidural steroid injection. X-Ray guidance or fluoroscopy is the most commonly used technique employed by pain management specialists. The patient is  asked to lie on his stomach. During the process, the patient may be put under local anaesthesia or intravenous sedation, but not deeply sedated.  The whole procedure takes 5-10 minutes, followed by a 15-20 minute recovery period.

What types of conditions does epidural steroid injections respond to? 

Epidural steroid injections has been used to effectively treat chronic neck and back pain for over 40 years. It is also used to treat herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and recurrent pain following spine surgery.  Spondylolisthesis (slippage of the vertebral column) and post-herpetic neuralgia (pain after shingles) also respond well to epidural steroid injection treatments.

Will it hurt?

The initial local anaesthetic injection may sting a bit, but the overall routine procedure can be tolerated by patients ranging from mid-teens to seniors. If you are concerned about the pain, you can discuss intravenous sedation with your doctor.

What should I do to prepare for this procedure?

Avoid eating or drinking for at least 8 hours before the procedure. If you’re taking medication for high blood pressure or any kind of heart condition, you can do so at the the usual time with a sip of water. If you’re taking medications that thins the blood or cause excessive bleeding, make sure to discuss with your doctor if you should discontinue it prior the procedure. Since you’ll be sedated, also make sure to also have someone available to drive you home after the procedure.

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