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Dr. Max Gomez: New Study Questions The Effectiveness Of Epidural Injections

CBS New York (con't)

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NEW YORK(CBSNewYork) — Common epidural steroid injections that are given to relieve back pain may not be effective.

Maria Traill’s back pain is so severe that even walking has become a chore.

“Ballroom dancing is a huge part of my life. I’ve no longer been able to do it,” the 51-year-old told CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez.

Traill has lumbar spinal stenosis. Like many people with her condition Traill has been getting epidural steroid injections to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

“They injected me three times and all three times it lasted less than a week before the pain started coming back,” Traill said.

A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine questioned the benefit of steroid injections for spinal stenosis. Researchers found that after six weeks, injections that combined both epidural steroids and the anesthetic lidocaine were no more effective than lidocaine alone. Even the effects of lidocaine did not last long.

“This study shows that the steroid is not the reason why patients are getting this significant relief. It could just be the lidocaine itself,” Dr. Nick Shamie, UCLA Spine Center, explained.

Insurance companies often require epidural injections before they will approve surgery. An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the requirement should be reconsidered.

Traill said that she has had enough of the injections and plans to get surgery in hopes of getting her life back.

The FDA recently added a warning label to epidural steroids following rare, but serious complications from the injections including paralysis, nerve damage, and death.

Some doctors have suggested that the injections may offer relief by washing inflammatory chemicals away from the nerve.

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