The Risks and Benefits of ESI (Epidural Steroid Injections)

ESI, or Epidural Steroid Injection, has been available as a nonsurgical treatment for years.  Desribed by Dr. Matthew T. DesJardins, who administers ESIs at Commonwealth Orthopaedic Centers offices, as a "fancy steroid injection," ESI can be used in conjunction with medications and physical therapy to decrease pain from spinal problems.  

What are the risks and benefits?

The risks of bleeding, infection and nerve damage are very low, notes Dr. DesJardins.  Spinal headache, the most common complication, affects an estimated one in 1,000 patients.  Most ideal candidates receive 50-75 percent pain relief after the procedure.  ESIs may be repeated 3-4 times a year in appropriate circumstances.

Does it hurt?

"This procedure is much more anxiety-provoking than painful," Dr. DesJardins explains.  Local anesthesia numbs the area, and patients may feel a bit of quick discomfort.  Still, "80-90 percent of patients say it's not as painful as they expected," he notes.  The procedure takes 10-15 minutes per injection.  Patients may have initial minor weakness in the leg, so they are requested to have a driver with them, and are advised to rest the day of the procedure.  Pain relief can be expected within 1-4 days.

For more information, and to learn what to expect from an ESI, watch this video.  You can learn more about Dr. DesJardins here.