Can spinal epidural steroid injection hurt my brain?

Spinal epidural injections are very common treatments for back pain and sciatica.  Sciatica is leg pain running down the back of your leg caused by a slipped disk pinching a nerve.  Imagine the disk is a marshmallow (even though it really isn’t).  The disk like a marshmallow may expand out if you squeeze it.

HOMEWORK:

You can try this at home – take a marshmallow and squeeze it from the top and bottom.  See how the marshmallow expands out as you flatten it.  This is similar to a herniated disk .  The bulging disk may pinch a nerve causing the nerve to swell up and get “hot” called inflammation causing back and leg pain.

Spinal epidural steroid injections are the placement of steroid medicine into the spine onto the hot and swollen nerve to cool down the inflammation and relieve the pain and suffering.  Think of it like putting an aspirin on the nerve.

Even though spinal injections are generally safe there are risks and side effects to all medical procedures. These include bleeding, infection, dural puncture or “wet tap” causing headaches and nerve damage.  Patients may also experience increased pain, headaches, red face, anxiety, problems sleeping, fever, high blood sugar, decreased immunity, stomach ulcers, severe arthritis, cataracts and menstrual irregularities.

TO ANSWER YOUR QUESTION the most common way spinal epidural steroid injections affect your brain is through headaches.  Usually these headaches will resolve with time.  If they are related to “wet tap” you may require bed rest, caffeine, fluids and rarely blood patch.  Blood patch is the injection of blood into the spine to stop spinal fluid leak and “plug” the hole from the “wet tap”.

ABOUT DR CARL SPIVAK

Dr. Spivak is a neurosurgeon fellowship trained in minimally invasive spine surgery and spinal epidural steroid injections.  He has practices in New York and New Jersey.  For more information on spinal epidural injections or laser endoscopic spine surgery please call Executive Spine Surgery at 908-452-5612 or click schedule-an-appointment.