The Vault

People who have undergone epidural steroid injections have felt a huge reduction in their sciatica pain. Greater benefit is observed when an organized therapeutic exercise program is followed after the epidural procedure.

Even though the effects of epidural steroid injections tend to be temporary, the procedure can still bring substantial benefits to patients who are suffering from low back pain. Half of the patients who have undergone this procedure, which involves fluoroscopy and radiograph, instantly receive pain relief.

Typically, the patient’s leg pain will fade first, followed by their lower back pain. This pain relief enables the patient to experience mental improvement and lessen their need for painkillers. It can even delay or avoid the need for surgery altogether. The success rate of epidural steroid injections may vary depending on the patient’s condition and the degree of pain they are experiencing. Recent studies show that the procedure is quite successful for those with sciatica due to disc herniation. It has also been proven beneficial for patients with lumbar spinal stenosis and with patients experiencing 50% less pain a year after the injection.

Even with numerous conducted studies, skepticism on how effective the injection is and how appropriate it is for patients still arises. Much of the controversy roots from some scientific outcomes where fluoroscopy and radiographic contrast were not used to ensure the accurate placement of the steroid solution at the level of pathology.

Risks and Side Effects of Epidural Steroid Injections

Risks associated with epidural injections are relatively rare, but patients would still do well to discuss the possibility of complications with their surgeon before the procedure is performed. These possible risks include:

  • Temporary bowel and bladder numbness
  • Infection
  • Dural puncture or wet tap that can lead to temporary spinal headache
  • Bleeding, especially for patients with underlying bleeding disorders
  • Nerve damage from needle trauma, infection, or bleeding
  • A localized increase in pain
  • Facial flushing
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Fever the night of the injection
  • High blood sugar
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Severe arthritis of the hips (avascular necrosis)
  • Cataracts

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