Prior to surgery, patients may elect to undergo "epidural injections".
These injections are similar to the "epidural" anesthesia which is
given to pregnant women prior to delivery. However, spinal injections are commonly
performed in operating suites with specialize X-ray equipment to visualize the
exact placement of the injection.
The goal of the injection is to place steroids or anesthetic agents next or
near the nerve which is causing pain. As a significant portion of the pain is
believed to be caused by inflammation, the steroid is used to minimize inflammation
in the area of the nerve.
The general consensus on epidural injections is that about 50% of the patient
may get pain relief lasting anywhere between a few days to over one year. Each
individual reacts differently to these injections and the timing and number
of injections needs to be customized for each patient.
Like any other surgical procedure, epidural steroid injections do carry some
risk with them. The most common side effects include gaining weight, flushing
and initial worsening of pain. Other risks as seen in larger
surgeries may also occur.
If the patient's symptoms are not improved by one or two epidural injections,
it is unlikely that any further injections would be helpful. However, if the
injections do help, up to three injections per year appears to be reasonably
safe to undergo.
Since these injections can carry a significant risk especially when performed
in the neck region, their risks and benefits should be reviewed in detail prior
to proceeding with these injections.