Epidural Steroid Injections

Download/print the Epidural Steroid Injection patient information sheet

What is an epidural steroid injection?

An epidural steroid injection is a procedure performed to relieve pain in patients with spinal degeneration, spinal stenosis (narrowing) and/or disc herniation/protrusion. Inflammation can often be the source of back pain, and a steroid injection helps to reduce this.

How should I prepare for my procedure?
  • If you have an active infection and are taking antibiotics, the medication course must be complete prior to the procedure.
  • If you are taking blood thinners (Coumadin, Plavix or Ticlid), you will have to hold the medication prior to the procedure. Contact your healthcare provider before stopping any medication to determine if it is safe for you.
  • Wear comfortable clothes without metal fasteners, including zippers, buttons and snaps.
  • Bring someone to drive you home; no driving for 2 hours after the injection.
  • Inform us if you are or may be pregnant, or have allergies to medications or x-ray dye (contrast).
  • Arrive 15 minutes early to complete registration.
  • Bring your insurance card and a valid photo ID.
How long will my procedure take?

An epidural steroid injection will take approximately 20 minutes.

What happens during my procedure?

You will be positioned on your stomach on an x-ray table. The area to be injected will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution. Local anesthetic will be applied to numb the area.

A small needle will be placed into the space surrounding the nerves in the spinal canal (called the epidural space). The location of the needle will be confirmed by injecting a small amount of x-ray contrast. Next a combination of anesthetic and steroid will be injected.

What happens after my procedure?

A summary of the procedure and findings will be sent to your healthcare provider.

You may resume your normal diet and prescribed medications. You should have someone stay with you for 12 hours after the procedure. Rest for the remainder of the day and do not return to work until the following day. Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activity for 24 hours after the procedure.

As the anesthetic that was injected wears off, your symptoms may return and may be worse for 1-2 days until the steroid takes effect. You may feel soreness at the needle insertion site for 2-3 days. You can use an ice pack for up to 15 minutes per hour to relieve any discomfort.

In some patients, a single injection will give permanent relief. Many patients require multiple injections. In patients where inflammation is not a contributing factor to the pain, this injection may not provide any relief.

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Fluoroscopy image from an epidural steroid injection.

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