Epidural steroid injections are commonly prescribed for patients with a disc injury or spinal arthritis causing nerve irritation, and generally consist of local anesthetic (numbing medication such as lidocaine) and cortisone (a steroid that reduces inflammation and pain). Lidocaine is often injected initially so patients experience minimal, if any, pain during the procedure. The injection may be performed by placing the needle posteriorly between the spine bones (Translaminar or interlaminar) and injecting the medicine into the space around the spinal nerves. A transforaminal ESI means the injection is placed slightly to one side of the spine, and the medicine is injected near the ruptured disc and inflamed spinal nerve. A caudal ESI is performed by placing the needle near the tailbone, and injecting the medicine into the region of the sacral nerves and lower lumbar spinal nerves. Epidural steroid injections, as well as most spinal injections, are performed using a special x-ray guidance system called fluoroscopy. This allows the doctor to immediately see an x-ray image on a television screen and inject the medicine precisely into the right spot. The procedure time is often less than 10-15 minutes.
While it would be absurd to suggest that family doctors should be aware of the more obscure side effects of all the drugs they prescribe, this situation is rather different. Bendroflumethiazide is one of the commoner drugs prescribed for raised blood pressure and it is well known to cause diabetes in almost 10 per cent of those taking it. So for her family doctor to fail to make the connection is definitely a bit odd. She did the sensible thing and binned her pills. Gratifyingly, her “diabetes” has since cured itself, and for good measure, her blood pressure has also remained satisfactory.
Caudal epidural steroid injections involve injecting a steroid into the epidural space, where the irritated nerve roots are located. The caudal injection is performed through the sacral opening and is used to treat low back pain. This injection includes both a long-lasting steroid and an anesthetic (lidocaine, bupivacaine). The steroid reduces inflammation and irritation, while the anesthetic interrupts the pain-spasm cycle and nociceptor transmission (Boswell 2007). The medicines spread to the most painful levels of the spine, reducing inflammation and irritation. The entire procedure usually takes less than 15 minutes.