Epidural injections directly introduce the medication into the epidural space of the spine. The goal of the treatment is pain alleviation or reduction of inflammation. The effects can be temporary or permanent. The medications that are administered this way include corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory medications and anesthetics.
Risks of Epidural Steroid Injections
Lumbar epidural steroid injection procedure belongs to a group of risk associated procedures. After the drug administration a patient may complain about numbness of the bowels or the bladder. Still this is only temporary.
Definitely the most common complications are infections, dural puncture, hemorrhage and damage of the nearby nerves. Infections can be more or less serious. A dural puncture is usually followed by headache. The headache occurs after the drug administration and is also known as spinal headache. It is present for a few days and then it withdraws. If the headache does not go away after a few days a blood patch may be required. A blood patch is actually a procedure in which the blood is taken from the patient and then injected into the epidural space. What follows is clot formation and the clot will stop the leak. Hemorrhage is a complication that usually affects patients who have already been suffering from coagulopathies. The spinal nerves can be damaged either directly by the needle or indirectly by consequent infection or hemorrhage.
Side Effects of Steroid Injections
Apart from the possible complications that are connected to the application of the drug, there are also several side effects of the very medication that is injected. Steroid medications possess numerous side effects. This is why they need to be used with certain precaution. Luckily, injected steroids do not have to lead to all the complications which can occur if oral steroids are used.
Intensity of pain in the affected area may increase. Apart from that, a patient may suffer from non-positional headaches which will usually resolve in a day. Redness in the face after drug administration is another possible side effect. Increased body temperature and increased level of sugar in blood are also possible. Insomnia and anxiety may occur as well. A patient may develop stomach ulcers, cataract and serious arthritis of the hips.
The patients are due to report severe headache while sitting up or standing, increased body temperature which lasts more than 24 hours, loss of function or sensations in legs, loss of bowel or bladder control, and intensive pain which cannot be alleviated by over-the-counter medications.