An epidural block or epidural spinal injection is a non-surgical treatment option for relieving back pain and other symptoms.
Epidural blocks contain a strong anti-inflammatory agent called corticosteroid and an anesthetic for pain relief. It is administered into the epidural space of the spine, the space between the outermost covering of the spinal cord (dura mater) and the wall of the spinal canal. The epidural space is approximately 5 mm wide and is filled with spinal nerve roots, fat tissue, and small blood vessels.
An epidural block may be administered through a transforaminal approach where the injection needle is placed into the opening or foramen, on the side of the vertebra, through which the spinal nerve roots pass. The transforaminal approach is preferred to other methods as it delivers the medication more precisely to the target nerve.
Spine degenerative conditions such as herniated disc, spinal stenosis, and many others may induce back pain due to compression of the associated spinal nerves. The pain or numbness may extend to other parts of your body such as the hips, buttocks, and legs. Dr. Vengurlekar first recommends non-surgical methods to treat back pain. Epidural blocks are one of these preferences.
An epidural spinal injection may be employed both for diagnostic and therapeutic reasons.
- Diagnostic: Helps determine the specific nerve root involved in the spinal problem
- Therapeutic: Induces short or long-term relief from pain and inflammation
Epidural spinal injections are not a curative intervention, but reduce discomfort so that rehabilitation programs such as physical therapy may be well executed. If no relief is obtained from an epidural block or other non-surgical methods, surgery may be recommended.
Dr. Vengurlekar will review your medical history thoroughly before the procedure. You may be asked to undergo an imaging test to help Dr. Vengurlekar plan for the treatment. Dr. Vengurlekar may advise you to stop taking blood thinning medications 3 to 5 days before an ESI. You will be advised to eat a light meal before the treatment.
Transforaminal epidural blocks are usually administered on an outpatient basis. The procedure involves the following steps:
- You will be taken to the pre-op area where trained nursing staff check your vitals, review your medications and prepare you for the procedure. Blood sugar and coagulation status may also be evaluated if needed.
- You are then taken to the procedure room and will lie face down on a table.
- The injection site is cleaned and a local numbing agent administered so that you don’t feel pain during the procedure.
- A thin hollow needle is then inserted into the epidural space through the neural foramen at the side of the vertebra, guided by fluoroscopy, which provides real-time X-ray images of the needle’s position on a monitor for your surgeon to view.
- A contrast material is then injected through the properly placed hollow needle to confirm drug flow to the affected nerve.
- When Dr. Vengurlekar is satisfied with the position of the needle, the anesthetic drug and corticosteroid are injected through the same needle inserted in the spine.
- Finally, the needle is removed and the injection site covered with a dry, sterile bandage.
The procedure takes about 15-30 minutes to complete. You may feel some pressure during the injection but the procedure is mostly painless.
You will be monitored for a short while after the procedure. You are then encouraged to walk around. You may experience mild discomfort at the site of injection. Soreness in and around the injection site can be relieved by using ice packs. You will be advised to resume your normal activity the next day. You may have to go to visit Dr. Vengurlekar for a follow-up a week after the procedure.
You should not drive or return to work immediately after the procedure. You should rest and avoid any vigorous activities. Dr. Vengurlekar may provide specific post-care instructions. Please follow the instructions for a faster recovery.
You will feel numbness in the arms or legs just after the procedure due to the anesthetic component. This usually wears off within 1-8 hours, following which you may feel some back pain. The steroid component of the epidural block takes about 24-72 hours before you can experience its pain-relieving action.
In some cases, if the desired effect is not obtained, reinjection may be recommended. The standard guidelines for steroid injections state a maximum of 3 injections per year. In case relief is not obtained from the spinal injection, then surgery is considered.
As with any procedure, epidural blocks may be associated with certain complications such as:
- Bleeding or infection at the injection site
- Pain during or after injection
- Post-injection headache
- Nerve injury
- Bladder dysfunction
- Fluid retention
- Respiratory arrest
- Epidural hematoma
- Spinal cord infarction
Discuss with Dr. Vengurlekar if you have any concerns prior to the procedure.
Central Arizona Pain Management Doctor Vengurlekar assists patients with pain relief, as reports surface that back pain is one of the leading causes of adult physical discomfort.
In a new figure, produced by Consumer Reports , nearly 80% of Americans deal with one form of back pain, or another. That means four out of five people will suffer from back pain, at some point in their lives. This number is so high, because there are so many factors and variables that can cause the pain. Physical strain, previous injury, age, disease, side effects of diseases, there are many causes of back pain, but luckily, the treatments are becoming easier to administer, thanks in large part to doctors like Central Arizona Pain Management Doctor , Dr. Vengurlekar.