What can you do when you have constant pain in your neck and back after a car wreck? After numerous trips to your doctor and anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medications don’t work, he or she may recommend that you have an epidural steroid injection. This happens frequently after you have been diagnosed with a bulging for herniated disc.
Should you get these controversial injections? This post will answer questions about these shots.
What is an epidural steroid injection?
A corticosteroid and anesthetic are injected into the outside section of the spinal column. That is where inflamed nerve roots are located in the space between the bone and the sac that protects spinal nerves. At other times, the injection goes into the transforaminal space where the spinal roots exit (a “nerve block”) or into the sacral hiatus in the tailbone area.
Cortisone is one of many hormones made in the body. Adrenaline is released by the adrenal gland that curbs the inflammation from the immune the system and reduces the mind’s ability to perceive pain. It is part of the “fight or flight” reflex.
How is the injection done?
It is usually performed by an interventional pain physician in their office or at a surgery center. X-ray guidance called fluoroscopy is used.
Local anesthesia is used, although occasionally the patient is sedated. The procedure takes less than 15 minutes. Side effects are usually limited.
What is the success rate for an epidural steroid injection?
Studies show that up to one-half of patients report improvement in their pain level, but that depends on various factors including the
- Type of steroid – some like dexamethasone are considered safer but are shorter-lasting; others, like methylprednisolone, are stronger and carry greater risks;
- Size and location of any bulging or herniated disc;
- Number – they are often administered in a series of three, so just having one will not be as beneficial; and
- Diagnosis – a bulging disc or herniated disc may not be affected but they may help other problems.
What are the advantages of having one?
Getting an epidural steroid injection is a simple, minimally invasive procedure. It can relieve an injured person’s pain for one to three months and sometimes longer.
Most seriously injured people would quickly sign up for that, especially if the other options are to undergo a surgery or live with the pain forever.
We just blogged about how to deal with a bulging disc and getting these injections is sometimes the next step in that treatment: Bulging discs tips
What are the disadvantages?
Like any medical procedure, its success is not guaranteed. Some people only get a few days of pain relief. Each person will have different results. But getting an injection is never a permanent solution.
Furthermore, there are potential risks. The injection is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has warned it can cause rare but serious neurological problems. That alone would stop many people from getting one.
Sometimes a different procedure like a percutaneous disc decompression or surgery is a better alternative.
How does this affect my injury case?
Your need for this extended pain management affects your prognosis and the value of your claim or lawsuit. But first, you and your doctor need to decide what your best medical options are. Then you and your injury attorney can craft the best strategy for moving forward with your case.
Over the past 40 years, our law firm has represented thousands of car and truck wreck victims. Please contact us if you have questions.