What is a Spinal Injection?

The purpose of the spinal injection is to ease the pain you are experiencing. The procedure involves the injection of substances into or around a joint, nerve root or epidural space.
There are two medications used in a spinal injection:
Local anaesthetic -temporarily numb the area
Corticosteroid -works by reducing the inflammation

What are the benefits?

Spinal injections are used to help improve your symptoms by reducing swelling and inflammation.

The effects of the injection can last up to 3-6 months.

The injection can be repeated if it is effective. The injection may not relieve the symptoms in everyone. Your specialist will discuss alternative options with you if this is the case.

What are the risks?

Spinal injections are commonly performed and are generally safe. However, with any procedure there is always an element of risk.

Risks include:

  • Mild discomfort at the injection site

Other reported risks although these are rare:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Bruising (haematoma)
  • Headaches
  • Increased pain in the treated area

Extremely rare risks include:

  • Spinal nerve injury
  • An allergic reaction
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Dural puncture (epidural injections only)

Cervical spine (neck injections):

  • Extremely small risk of a stoke (less than 1 in a1000)

Corticosteroid side effects

  • Hot flushes
  • Feeling sick
  • Mild abdominal pain
  • Light menstrual bleeding for woman
  • Temporary rise in blood glucose levels (If you have poorly controlled diabetes, please notify the Radiologist)

These should all settle in a few days. Severe complications are rare but the consequences can be serious.

Giving Consent

Your Specialist will have discussed with you the expected benefits and potential risks of the procedure.

Before the procedure the Radiologist or Radiology Technician will re-discuss the potential risks, and you can then ask any questions you have about the procedure.

You will be asked to sign a consent form. This states that you agree to the procedure and understand what it involves.

Pre Examination

Our booking team will ask you a few questions about your health and any pre-existing conditions including diabetes or bleeding disorders, medication you may be taking, including blood thinning and over the counter medications.

Please advise the team if you have any allergies in particular any reactions to CT contrast, corticosteroids, or anaesthetics

You may be asked to have a blood test to check your clotting.

If you are a woman of childbearing age, you will be asked if you could be pregnant. If you are unsure, you will be required to take a pregnancy test before attending the appointment.

You may be asked to stop taking some medications for a few days before and after the procedure.

Before your procedure you can drink sips of water and take your usual meds. No eating for 4 hours before the procedure

Some patients find it useful to take some mild pain relief before the procedure. 500mg-1g of Panadol is usually sufficient.

Your Procedure

For the procedure you will be asked to change into a gown.

The Radiologist may insert a small cannula in the back of your hand or arm.

For lumbar spine injections you will usually be positioned lying face down on your stomach.

For cervical spine injections you may be placed on your stomach, back or side.

The Radiologist will inject some local anaesthetic around the area where the needle is to be inserted. This may cause a stinging sensation. The local anaesthetic will numb the area. The Radiologist will then carefully guide a thin needle into the correct location using CT. A small amount of contrast may be injected to confirm the position of the needle tip.

Once the needle is in the correct position the anaesthetic and corticosteroid is injected. Whilst the needle is being inserted it is important to stay very still. Please tell the Radiologist if you experience any pain or discomfort.

The procedure takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Post Examination

Following the procedure, you will be asked to remain in the clinic for 10-20 minutes. The staff will check that you are comfortable and able to mobilise safely before you leave.

For safety reasons you should not drive home and will need to arrange transport. Once home you may experience an increase in pain for 24 to 72 hours. Your symptoms should gradually improve.

The anaesthetic may cause you to experience limb weakness for a few hours following the procedure.

It can take up to 2 weeks to feel the full effects.

Continue to take pain relief for the first 72 hours.

The dressing can be removed after 24 hours.

What should I do if I have a problem?

If you have any concerns that you may have developed a complication, or if you experience any of the following symptoms, please contact your doctor for advice.

  • Worsening pain
  • Increase redness, swelling or oozing 
  • Fever (temperature higher than 38 degrees)
  • Sudden weakness or numbness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control