Epidural Steroid Injections
September 26, 2018
Procedure time: 10 -15 minutes
Time off from work: ½ day
Insurance providers: Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield, Medicare, Medicaid, Cigna, Tricare, United Health Care, Blue Advantage, Qual Choice, Health Advantage, UMR United Healthcare
What Is An Epidural Steroid Injection (ESI)?
Epidural Steroid Injections (ESIs) are relatively painless needle-based procedures used to reduce inflammation and irritation around specific nerves in the neck, mid-back or lower back. Irritated nerves can cause a type of pain referred to as radicular pain, which travels down the spinal nerve root and can be felt in the arms/hands, chest, hips, and legs/feet.
A steroid/anesthetic solution is injected into the epidural space (the area surrounding the spinal cord) where the medication “bathes” painful nerve roots with soothing medication.
ESIs have been performed for many decades and are generally considered to be a safe and effective treatment for chronic pain conditions.
What Conditions Are Typically Treated With ESIs?
Conditions commonly treated with epidural steroid injections include:
- Failed back surgery syndrome (continued pain following surgery to the spine)
- Radiculopathy (pain that progresses into the arms/hands or legs/feet)
- Stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal or nerve root exits)
- Bulging or herniated discs
- Degenerative Disc Disease
What To Expect
You will be wheeled to the procedure room in a hospital bed and given sedation to make you comfortable. The injection area will be cleaned with a cold sterilizing solution to decrease the chances of infection. X-rays will help your doctor guide the needle into the epidural space where it will treat the area of pain/inflammation. Once inserted, a contrast dye will be injected to ensure proper positioning of the needle. The steroid/anesthetic solution is then injected into the epidural space, the needle is removed and a small bandage is applied to the injection site.
Some patients report feeling “warm water running down the back or legs” when the medication is injected through the needle. This feeling is normal and is a sign that the medication is being administered in the correct areas.
The procedure only takes 10 -15 minutes. Once it is complete, you may return home and enjoy the rest of your day! The only restriction is that you cannot drive. Make arrangements for a friend, family member, or private transportation service to drive you home.
The steroids from the injection will usually begin working within three to five days, but in some cases it can take up to a week for patients to feel the benefits. Radicular pain (the pains down legs or arms) is often the first type of pain to abate.
Although not everyone obtains pain relief with ESIs, the injections can provide you with improvement in pain and function that last several months or longer.