Interventional Spinal Injection Techniques
Interventional Spinal Injection Techniques
Injections are a fairly conservative treatment option for lower back pain. Injections are usually performed after a course of medications and/or physical therapy has been completed, or prior to and in conjunction with surgery. Injections can both be useful for providing pain relief and as a diagnostic tool to help identify the source of your back pain.
Injections can be more effective than an oral medication because they deliver medication directly to the area that is generating the pain. Usually, a steroid medication is injected to deliver a powerful anti-inflammatory solution directly to the area that is thought to be the source of your pain. Depending on the type of injection you receive, long-lasting pain relief may be obtained, or your relief may be only temporary.
For diagnostic purposes, injections can be used to help determine which structure in the back is generating your pain. If lidocaine or similar numbing medication is used, and you feel temporary relief after an anatomic region (such as a facet joint or sacroiliac joint) is injected, it can then be inferred that the specific region is the source of your pain. When considered along with your history, physical exam, and imaging studies, injections used for these purposes can be very helpful in helping us determine the most appropriate further treatment for you.
Common Injections include:
- Epidural (GO TO▼)
- Selective nerve root block (GO TO▼)
- Facet joint block (GO TO▼)
- Sacroiliac joint block (GO TO▼)
- Extremity joint injection (GO TO▼)
Please also see below for general information on injections.
What is an Epidural?
An Epidural Steroid Injection, or ESI, involves injecting a steroid directly around the dura, the sac around the nerve roots that contains cerebrospinal fluid (the fluids that the nerve roots are bathed in). This may be performed at the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar level, or per caudal approach.
How does it work?
Injecting around the dura sac with the steroid can decrease inflammation associated with common conditions such as spinal stenosis, disc herniation or degenerative disc disease. It is also thought that there is a flushing effect from the injection that helps to remove or “flush out” inflammatory proteins that may cause pain from around the structures.
How is the injection done?
You are placed onto your stomach on a procedure table, and a local numbing medicine is injected into the area we are targeting. Fluoroscopy (live x-ray) is used to make sure the physician is in the right place. After the initial numbing medicine, a longer needle is used to administer the medication and/or steroid to the desired area. Sometimes intravenous medication may be given to help you relax or minimize your discomfort during the injection. If medication is given to you, you must have an escort to drive you home. You may not drive yourself.
What is a Selective Nerve Root Block?
Another common injection, this block is primarily used to diagnose the specific source of nerve root pain, and secondarily, for therapeutic relief of low back pain and/or leg pain.
When a nerve root becomes compressed and inflamed, it can produce back and/or leg pain. An imaging study may not clearly show which nerve is causing the pain, and this injection is performed to assist the physician in isolating the source of your pain. In addition to its diagnostic function, this type of an injection can also be useful for treatment of certain disc herniation.
How is this injection performed?
You are placed onto your stomach on a procedure table, and a local numbing medicine is injected into the area we are targeting. Fluoroscopy (live x-ray) is used to make sure the physician is injecting the medicine in the right place. The nerve is approached at the level where it exits the foramen (the hole between the vertebral bodies). Usually a steroid (anti-inflammatory medication) and lidocaine (a numbing agent) is used. Sometimes intravenous medication may be given to help you relax or minimize your discomfort during the injection. If medication is given to you, you must have an escort to drive you home. You may not drive yourself.
What is a facet joint block?
In cases where the facet joint itself is the pain generator, a facet injection can be performed to alleviate your pain. Similar to the SNRB described above, facet block injections are a diagnostic tool used to isolate and confirm the specific source of your pain. Also, facet blocks have a therapeutic effect as they numb the source of your pain and soothe the inflammation present. These injections may also be performed at the cervical, thoracic or lumbar regions of your spine.
How is this injection done?
You are placed either onto your stomach or your back on a procedure table and a local numbing medicine is injected into the area we are targeting. Once again, the physician will use fluoroscopy (live x-ray) to guide the needle into the facet joint capsule to inject lidocaine (numbing agent) and/or a steroid (an anti-inflammatory medication). If your pain goes away after the injection, it can be inferred that the pain generator is that specific facet joint capsule. Sometimes intravenous medication may be given to help you relax or minimize your discomfort during the injection. If medication is given to you, you must have an escort to drive you home. You may not drive yourself.
What is a Sacroiliac Joint Block?
Sacroiliac (SI) joint blocks are injections that are primarily used for diagnosing and treating low back pain associated with sacroiliac joint dysfunction. The SI joint lies next to the spine and connects the sacrum (bottom of your spine) with the pelvis (hip).
In the SI joint block approach, the physician will use fluoroscopy (live x-ray) and insert a needle into your sacroiliac joint to inject lidocaine (a numbing agent) and a steroid (an anti-inflammatory medication). Once again, if you receive any intravenous medication to help you relax or to minimize the discomfort of the injection, you must have an escort to drive you home.
What is an Extremity Joint Injection?
Your provider may perform injections at your shoulder, knee, elbow, wrist, or other joints. These injections are primarily used for diagnosing and treating pain associated with joint dysfunction.
The physician will use fluoroscopy (live x-ray), and insert a needle into your joint to inject lidocaine (a numbing agent) and a steroid (an anti-inflammatory medication). Once again, if you receive any intravenous medication to help you relax or to minimize the discomfort of the injection, you must have an escort to drive you home.
How long does the injection take?
Most types of injections usually take about 15 to 30 minutes in the procedure room.
What can I expect after the injection?
You will be recovered for an additional period of about 10 minutes, offered a little snack and something to drink and given discharge instructions by the RN. You will be asked to complete a pain diary after the injection, charting your response to the injection you just received. You may feel extra pain initially after the injection, but this should subside. You may then be rescheduled for additional injections, as some injections are usually done in a series of 3. You may be required to have an escort or a ride home after the injection. This depends on the type of injection you received or if you had sedation.
What are my risks?
As with any minimally invasive procedure, there is a very slight risk of infection at the puncture site; swelling, bruising, and increased pain; or change in the character of your pain. With epidural injections there is also a remote risk that the needle might enter the dural sac into the cerebral spinal fluid, which may result in a spinal headache. Steps are taken to minimize your risk and maximize efficacy of treatment.
What can I do to prepare?
Wear comfortable clothes to the surgery center. Leave valuables at home. You must have a driver to take you home after the injection. No food or drink four hours before the injection. You may take all your regular medications with a small drink of water.
You will be contacted by a registered nurse prior to the injection to briefly review your history and to go over pre-procedure instructions with you. Please call the clinic at 425-486-1000 with any questions you might have prior to the procedure day so that we might address any issues or concerns you may have.