New recommendations aim to improve safety of pain-relieving spinal steroid injections

More and more people are seeking injections of anti-inflammatory steroid medications for back and neck pain. In 2011, the last year for which complete information is available, doctors pushed the plunger on 2.3 million steroid injections into the spine — and that’s just among people covered by Medicare. These injections deliver drugs that mimic the effects of two hormones, cortisone and hydrocortisone, to reduce inflammation and help relieve pain. When they work — they don’t always — such injections can bring profound relief. “If you are in severe pain with a ruptured spinal disc and you get a steroid injection, you are going to feel better sooner,” says Dr. James P. Rathmell, professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School. “That’s the good part.” But there’s a bad part, too. Steroid injections into the spine can cause partial or total paralysis, brain damage, stroke, and even death. This week, in a Viewpoint article in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Rathmell and two colleagues spotlight their new safety recommendations to help prevent these rare but real problems. “There are these very, very small risks of some serious adverse effects that we think we can prevent,” says Dr. Rathmell. “If you perform these injections in the safest way, I think the risk becomes exceedingly low.” It’s hard to pin down exactly how often spinal injections go awry. Dr. Rathmell ...
Source: New Harvard Health Information - Category: Consumer Health News Authors: Tags: Back Pain Drugs and Supplements anti-inflammatory steroid medications spinal injections spine steroid injections Source Type: news

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