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What is an Epidural Injection?

An epidural injection is injected into the epidural space of the spine to provide temporary or long term relief from pain or inflammation. The epidural space is located outside the dural membrane. In an epidural injection, anesthetics steroids and anti inflammatory medications are administered. Pain and swelling in and surrounding the spinal nerve roots and damaged nerves are helped by this procedure.

In order for the patient to obtain maximum benefit from an epidural injection, the doctor may use imaging techniques, such as fluoroscopy or CT scan to help place the needle in the exact position.

 

 

What is an Epidural Injection useful for?

An epidural injection is one of many methods doctors use to relieve pain.

An epidural injection may be injected to alleviate pain caused by:

 1.  A bulging or herniated disk

2.   Spinal stenosis

3.   Injuries to spinal nerves, vertebrae and surrounding tissues.

What can I expect during the procedure for Epidural Injection?

You may have no sensation whatsoever, however you may feel tingling or pressure when the injection is administered. Depending on the amount of swelling in the area, you may experience a burning sensation or some mild discomfort as the medication enters the epidural space. When the injection is finished, however, any discomfort usually disappears. It is possible to feel "pins and needles" in your arms and legs, depending on the injection site. If you feel any sharp pains, however, tell your doctor immediately.

Due to the numbness and any discomfort you may experience after the procedure, you may have some difficulty walking on your own and getting in and out of the car. This is normal and should subside in a matter of hours. You should take it easy for the rest of the day, though, and may resume normal activities the next day.

The epidural may not take effect immediately—it is common for improvement in the pain to occur progressively over the first 48 hours. The effects may last for a matter of days, weeks, and occasionally months.

How does an Epidural Injection work?

The different types of medications injected into the epidural space create different effects. Corticosteroids are an anti-inflammatory agent, which reduce swelling and nerve irritation to allow the nerve time to heal itself, preventing further discomfort. By delivering an epidural injection directly into the epidural space, the medication moves throughout the epidural space, coating the nerve roots. Therefore, a lumbar injection could affect the lower back and the nerves traveling to the lower limbs, such as the sciatic nerves. Similarly, if an epidural injection is performed in the neck, it should spread throughout the cervical epidural space and provide relief to nerve roots in the neck. Unfortunately, oftentimes the results of the epidural injection may not be long lasting. A patient may experience relief for a matter of days up to several months, however, the pain may eventually return, requiring either another injection or an alternative treatment.

What are the pros and cons of an epidural injection?

Pros

Temporary or prolonged pain relief.

Temporary or prolonged reduction of inflammation in the region of the spine causing pain.

Better ability to function in daily life without the restrictions previously caused by pain.

Cons

Temporary increase in pain, although this is extremely rare.

Headache is also extremely rare, but possible see "What Is An Epidural Headache".

Reaction to the medications, such as hot flashes or rash.

Infection at the injection site.

Bleeding if a blood vessel is inadvertently damaged.

Injury to the nerves at the injection site.

Temporary paralysis of the nerves leading to the bowel and bladder, causing temporary bowel or bladder dysfunction.

When fluoroscopy or CT is used, there will be minimal low-level radiation.

 

 

 

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