The needle should always be advanced slowly over short distances with frequent monitoring by fluoroscopy. The operating practitioner needs to be aware to move his hands out of the path of the x-ray beam when using intermittent fluoroscopy. The needle tip position can be determined by tissue feel (soft tissue vs bone), fluoroscopic visualization [lateral, oblique and AP planes] and using radiopaque contrast. Fluoroscopic localization requires an AP and lateral of the needle or one fluoroscopy view and contact with an identifiable bony landmark. Contacting bone during the procedure offers a unique opportunity to know needle tip position.
How often cortisone injections are given varies based on the reason for the injection. This is determined on a case-by-case basis by the health care practitioner. If a single cortisone injection is curative, then further injections are unnecessary. Sometimes, a series of injections might be necessary; for example, cortisone injections for a trigger finger may be given every three weeks, to a maximum of three times in one affected finger. In other instances, such as knee osteoarthritis, a second cortisone injection may be given approximately three months after the first injection, but the injections are not generally continued on a regular basis.
Epidural steroid injections are generally very safe, but there are some rare potential complications. One of the most common risks is for the needle to go too deep and cause a hole in the dura, the tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and nerve roots. When this occurs spinal fluid can leak out through the hole and cause a headache . This headache can be treated with bedrest, or with a blood patch. A blood patch involves drawing some blood from the vein and the injecting it over the hole in the dura. The blood forms a seal over the hole and prevents any further fluid from leaking out.