Epidural steroid injection is a fast way to treat intense pain from inflamed spinal nerves in your back, legs, or arms. Some of the conditions commonly treated with epidural steroid injections include herniated disc, joint cysts, bone spurs, and spine arthritis. This is an effective way to treat pain, but just like any minimally invasive procedure carries certain health risks. If you consider epidural steroid injection as the main treatment option, it is important to get more information about possible side effects.
Below outlined 7 possible health complications associated with epidural steroid injections.
Bleeding is one of the most common risks associated with epidural steroid injection. In some cases, during injection, the doctor may damage the arteries. Because arteries carry a significant amount of blood, damage to the arteries can cause significant bleeding. Besides, damage to the arteries can lead to the development of hematoma or blood clots. This is a serious issue, because a clot may block the blood supply to the tissues like the brain or spinal cord.
2. Dural puncture
In some cases, the doctor may inadvertently put the needle into the outer membrane of your spinal cord called the dura mater. This is a membrane made of thick tissue that protects the central nervous system. Because of damage to this membrane, the cerebrospinal fluid location in dura matter may start leaking out. This can decrease the pressure in your brain and contribute to the development of severe headaches.
Just like any minimally invasive procedure or injection, epidural steroid injection puts you at risk of getting an infection. The infection may affect the whole body or its local parts like the brain or spinal cord. Some of the common complications associated with injections include epidural and soft tissue abscess. In the first case, pus starts collecting in the epidural space. In the second case, pus accumulates within the soft tissues.
Another complication is meningitis. This infection causes an inflammation of the membranes of your brain and spinal cord. Rarely, you can get osteomyelitis or discitis, when the infection affects your vertebral bones or discs. The common causes of infection are bacteria from the patient’s skin.
4. Nerve damage
Your spinal cord is surrounded by a wide variety of nerves. When making an epidural steroid injection, the doctor may accidentally damage one of these nerves. Nerve damage may cause debilitating symptoms like loss of sensations, abnormal sensations in the area of injection, and even seizures.
Nerve damage can be an emergency if the doctor gets into the cauda equina nerves. Damage to these nerves leads to the development of cauda equina syndrome. This condition can cause loss of bladder or bowel control and even permanent paralysis of the legs.
5. Heart problems
An epidural steroid injection can cause a wide range of symptoms related to your heart. Some of them include slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and high blood pressure. More serious complications like cardiopulmonary arrest occur rarely. Because of fluctuations in your blood pressure and a great rate, you may also have symptoms like nausea, vomiting, poor balance, headache, and dizziness.
If you have these symptoms, you need to inform your doctor about them immediately. This can be lifesaving.
6. Local anesthetics risks
Most epidural steroid injections contain a dose of a local anesthetic to reduce the discomfort from the injection. If an anesthetic enters your blood vessels, it can cause the toxicity of the central nervous system and possibly the cardiovascular system. The symptoms of toxicity of the CNS include tinnitus, circumoral numbness, dizziness, lightheadedness, and anxiety.
7. Steroid risks
Larger parts of steroids can cause the blockage of the blood vessels and reduce the blood flow to your spinal cord. This can cause sudden back pain, back muscle weakness, and loss of sensation. A severe decline in the blood supply can result in leg paralysis.