Epidural for chronic pain relief

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.

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
  • Bladder-emptying problems
  • Temporary leg or arm weakness
  • Backache
  • 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.

Paying for your procedure

Epidural injection for chronic pain relief costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own procedure the cost will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the procedure. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon's fee, the anaesthetist's fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

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Acknowledgements

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

Illustrations: LifeART image copyright 2007 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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