Anaesthetics (Epidural Injection for Chronic Pain Relief)

Epidural Injection for Chronic Pain Relief

This page will give you information about an epidural injection for chronic pain relief. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is an epidural injection?

An epidural injection involves injecting drugs, such as local anaesthetics and steroids, into an area called the epidural space which is around and below the spinal cord. The local anaesthetic drugs affect the nerves to provide pain relief. The steroids reduce inflammation and may make the pain relief last longer.

What types of epidural injection are available?

The type of epidural injection depends on where it is given (see figure 1).

What are the benefits of an epidural injection?

An epidural injection can give you short-term pain relief, allowing you to move around more easily.

 

Epidural injection

What does the procedure involve?

An epidural injection usually takes about fifteen minutes.

Your doctor will insert the needle and inject the drugs. Your doctor will then remove the needle.

What complications can happen?

  • Failure of the epidural
  • Worsening pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Temporary leg or arm weakness
  • Backache
  • Seizures
  • Unexpected high block
  • Infection around the spine
  • Short-term nerve injury
  • Long-term nerve injury
  • Blood clot in the spine

Summary

An epidural injection can be used for most people, usually giving a safe and effective form of pain relief.

Acknowledgements

Author: Dr Vanessa Hodgkinson FRCA and Dr Iain Moppett DM MRCP FRCA

Illustrations: LifeART image copyright 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. All rights reserved.

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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