When the nerves leaving the spinal cord become pinched or inflamed due to a herniated, ruptured, or deteriorating disc, patients may experience debilitating pain. A thoracic epidural injection is a procedure involving the injection of medicine into the epidural space, the area around the spinal cord, to alleviate pain in the middle part of the back. The injection may reduce swelling around the spinal nerve roots, alleviating pain in the area for weeks to months.
The procedure is performed in an outpatient setting and involves the following steps:
Medication is administered to relax the patient
The physician cleans and numbs the part of the back where the needle will be inserted
Using X-ray guidance, the physician places the needle in the correct position
A small amount of contrast material is injected to confirm that the medicine will go into the correct area
A combination of pain and anti-inflammatory medicine is injected
After the procedure, the patient typically waits a short period, and the physician monitors the patient for any adverse reactions to the injection. Patients usually return home within an hour and return to their normal activities the next day.
Patients suffering from middle or upper back pain may benefit from thoracic epidural injections. The injection may ease pain for several types of back issues, such as:
Injuries causing irritation of the spinal nerves
Thoracic disc herniation with pain spreading into the back or arm
Thoracic post-surgical spine syndrome
Thoracic spinal stenosis
A thoracic epidural injection is a fairly safe procedure, but it does carry some risks. To help minimize these issues, physicians typically use X-ray guidance during the procedure.