Cervical epidural steroid injections are used to treat the pain caused by neck pain, disc bulge, and cervical radiculopathy. Cervical radiculopathy refers to pressure on nerves in the cervical spine and the resulting radiation of pain along these nerves. The pinching of the nerves in the neck is often the result of cervical spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis is characterized by a narrowing of the spinal canal. Cervical spinal stenosis can cause severe neck pain if the spinal nerves are compressed or irritated. Cervical radiculopathy can also be caused by deformities in the bones, tumors, and cervical disc herniation.
Overview Of The Procedure
Patients can generally choose to receive a sedative through an IV drip during a cervical epidural steroid injection. X-ray images are used throughout the procedure to allow accurate placement of the needle. After the injection site is sterilized and numbed with a local anesthetic, the epidural needle is inserted into the affected area. The patient will feel some pressure, but the anesthetic should eliminate any pain. A liquid called contrast dye is injected first to ensure that the medicine is visible in the X-ray images. A pain relief medication is then injected into the affected area along with a time-released steroid solution. The steroid is used to reduce inflammation in the area over time, and the local anesthetic provides immediate relief. The injections may also serve to flush out proteins that contribute to inflammation.
Benefits Of Cervical Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injections deliver medication much more directly than oral steroids and pain medications. The procedure leads to a significant reduction in pain in many cases. Some patients may require additional injections to identify and treat the specific area that is causing the pain. If the injections are successful, the patient may be able to avoid surgery. Surgical procedures used to correct neck pain will result in a longer recovery period as well as scarring.
Risks Associated With The Injections
Cervical epidural steroid injections very rarely lead to infections, although these infections are rarely severe. In very rare cases, the needle may puncture the dura mater membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. Symptoms of dural punctures include nausea and spinal headaches. If the patient has an underlying bleeding disorder or is taking an anticoagulant, some bleeding may occur. Steroids lead to symptoms such as flushing, weight gain, and water retention in some patients. Misplaced needles have the potential to cause nerve damage, but the risk of this type of trauma is exceedingly low.
Patients should not drive themselves home after the procedure. If the injected pain medication wears off before the steroid takes effect, the patient may experience some neck pain. Icing the area should help to reduce pain and inflammation. Any numbness caused by the anesthetic or pain medication should wear off by the end of the day. Normal activity can be gradually resumed after the procedure.