Spinal injections are very useful to control pain. Patients experience the reduction of pain, mainly of leg pain (also called sciatica). Patients seem to have a better response when they get epidural steroid injections and at the same time, they submit to an organized program of therapeutic exercises.
Low back pain affects about 40% of the adult population, with a high prevalence throughout life and high costs for the health system. In recent years the use of invasive therapeutic procedures such as spinal injections, among others, has increased.
Risks related to this procedure are rare when performed by a specialist.
Risks of spinal injections
Possible risks of epidural steroid injections
Some potential risks have been linked with lumbar epidural steroid injections. In conjunction with the temporary numbness of intestines and bladder, the most frequent risks and complications are the following:
Infections: Infections are very rare, they occur in 0.1% to 0.01% of injections.
Dural puncture (“wet tap”): A dural puncture arises in 0.5% of injections. It can cause a headache after the lumbar puncture, which can improve after a few days. Although it is not very frequent, a blood patch may be necessary to relieve a headache. A blood patch is a medical procedure that consists in injecting a small amount of blood into the epidural space around the spinal canal, close to the area of the previous puncture. As the blood clots, it forms a “patch” that seals the site and stops the leak of cerebrospinal fluid.
Bleeding: Bleeding is an unusual complication and it prevails in patients with underlying bleeding disorders.
Nerve damage: Although it is very infrequent, it may arise from direct trauma from the needle, infection, or bleeding.
Possible side effects of lumbar epidural steroid injection
Along with the mentioned risks from the injection, there are also possible side effects of the steroid medication itself. These are extremely uncommon and their prevalence is much lower than the side effects of oral steroids. However, reported side effects of epidural steroid injections include: Localized increase in pain, non-postural headaches that resolve within 24 hours, facial flushing, anxiety, insomnia, fever (the night of the injection), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), a transient decrease in immunity due to the suppressive effect of steroids, stomach ulcers, severe hip arthritis (avascular necrosis) and cataracts.
Current therapy for pain management has a lot of alternatives. At the London Spine Unit, before performing any procedure, we thoroughly evaluate the patient and his or her background to use the appropriate technique. These procedures are performed by experienced surgeons and with the support of imaging systems. We also take into account all precautions and adverse effects.
-Are there any risks of spinal injections?