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Understanding Lumbar Epidural Injection

A lumbar epidural injection is done in a hospital or surgery center. Before your injection, your healthcare provider will discuss how you need to prepare.

You may need to prepare by doing the following:

  • Give the healthcare provider a list of all medicines you take, including over-the-counter pain medicines and blood thinners. Ask whether you should stop taking any of them before treatment. Don’t eat 6 hours before check-in, or drink anything 4 hours before check-in, or as directed.

  • Arrange for an adult friend or family member to drive you home afterward.

  • Bring any requested X-rays, CT scans, or MRI images on the day of the procedure.

During the procedure

Monitoring devices may be attached to your chest or side. These devices measure your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure.

  • You will lie on an exam table on your belly. Your back is cleaned and may be covered with sterile towels.

  • Medicine is given to numb the skin near the injection site.

  • A local anesthetic to numb the region, steroid medicine such as cortisone, or both are injected into the epidural space.

  • X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy) may be used to guide your healthcare provider. Contrast dye will be used to help get a better image and confirm the optimal location.

After the procedure

Usually, you can go home in about an hour. Have an adult friend or relative drive you. When the anesthetic wears off, your neck may feel more sore than usual. This is normal. If you notice increased pain or injection site soreness, you can apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 10-15 minutes a few times a day. It can take 3-4 days before the effects of the steroids are noticed. Keep the injection area clean and dry. Don’t apply any ointments, creams, or patches over the injection site. Stay away from soaking in a bathtub or pool for the first 48 hours. Ask your healthcare provider when it’s OK to go back to work.

Possible risks and complications

  • Spinal headache

  • Increased risk of spine fracture

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Worsening pain

  • Paralysis

  • Nerve damage

  • Allergic reaction

  • Increased blood sugar

  • Immune system suppression

  • Death

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:

  • Severe headaches

  • Fever over 101.0°F (38.3 °C)

  • Chills

  • Redness or drainage at the injection site

  • Weakness in your arms or legs

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 10/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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