Eight years ago, research came out discussing the potential dangers associated with epidural steroid injections. Despite the numerous risks to health and safety, many physicians continued to prescribe these injections as a way of treating pain in the back, arms and legs.
Then, the Safe Use Initiative stepped in and attempted to minimize the risks associated with epidural steroid injections (ESIs). What does the landscape of ESIs look like today?
ESIs as a Safe Use Initiative project
The FDA includes epidural steroid injections on the list of completed Safe Use Initiative projects. The staff of Safe Use facilitated meetings of an expert working group of external physicians who all had either scholarly works or published studies related to ESIs. The Safe Use staff did not take part in any of the decision-making aspects or deliberations of this group, however.
From this meeting came warnings, such as the 2014 warning of the serious but rare neurological problems that tied back to ESIs. They also discussed various safeguards to prevent neurological complications when using ESIs, taking a consensus of opinions from medical professionals ranging from radiologists to orthopedic surgeons to rehabilitation specialists.
Adverse events related to ESIs
Major adverse events include the possibility of meningitis, epidural abscess and osteomyelitis. Generally, these involve the accumulation of pus, infection of the discs or vertebrae or inflammation of spinal cord membranes or the brain itself.
To this day, experts continue to warn the general public of these adverse reactions, cautioning physicians away from offering ESIs as options for people seeking pain relief. Ultimately, many individuals in the medical field continue to believe that the risk is simply not worth the reward.