Chronic Pain — 24 September 2013

By Pat Anson, Editor

Another study is raising questions about the value of epidural steroid injections. New research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine suggests that it may not be the steroids in spinal shots that provide relief from lower back pain, but the introduction of any fluid – even just saline solution — in the space around the spinal cord.

In recent decades, epidural steroid injections (ESI) have become one of the most common treatments for back pain, with nearly 9 million spinal injections in the U.S. in 2011. Studies have shown the procedure often gives only short term pain relief and have high failure rates for conditions such as sciatica.

In addition, questions have also been raised about the safety of steroids, particularly after a fungal meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated steroids killed 64 people and sickened hundreds in 2012. Steroid injections have also been found to increase the risk of spinal fractures.

Johns Hopkins anesthesiologist Steven Cohen, MD, and his colleagues reviewed dozens of published studies on epidural steroid shots and found something unexpected. Epidural injections of any liquid — such as saline solution or a local anesthetic like Lidocaine — work just as well as steroids.

Read more at National Pain Report.

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About Author

Pat Anson, Editor

Pat is Editor in Chief of American News Report. He is a veteran journalist and a former correspondent and producer for HealthWeek (PBS), Nightly Business Report (PBS) and other nationally syndicated shows. Pat has won numerous journalism awards, including a Golden Mike award for investigative reporting.

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