Transforaminal epidural

What is a transforaminal epidural injection?

A transforaminal epidural injection is the newest type of epidural steroid injection. It involves injecting steroid into the epidural space through the bony opening of the exiting nerve root, known as the foramen. It numbs your nerve, offers temporary pain relief and reduces inflammation.

Transforaminal epidural injections are done with a more diagonal approach than other epidural injections so that the affected nerve can be better treated. They allow the medication to be placed nearer to the area where the nerve is being pinched. They only target one side of your spine. These injections are also known as transforaminal epidural blocks.

When is a transforaminal epidural recommended?

A transforaminal epidural steroid injection may be recommended to help treat pain in your back, neck, arms, or legs. It can be used to relieve the pain from conditions including: herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, spondylolysis, sciatica and radiculopathy.

These steroid injections buy you time to allow healing to occur. They can be used in conjunction with non-surgical treatments such as physiotherapy in an attempt to avoid surgery. A transforaminal epidural can also be used as a diagnostic tool to identify a specific spinal nerve root that is causing your pain.

What happens during a transforaminal epidural?

The skin of your neck or back will be cleaned with antiseptic and sometimes numbed with local anaesthetic. Under x-ray guidance the injection needle is inserted and once in the correct place, the medication is injected.

Benefits of transforaminal epidural injection

A transforaminal epidural injection offers pain relief for your back, legs, arms and neck. It is administered close to the area where your nerve root is being pinched.

It can improve your mobility, mental health and quality of life. It can minimise the need for painkiller use, and potentially delay or avoid surgery.

Possible complications

Complications from transforaminal injections are rare. However, as with any procedure there are possible side effects and complications. The most common side effect is temporary pain from the injection when the local anaesthetic wears off. Possible complications include: headaches, infection, bleeding, nerve damage and an allergic reaction.

After a transforaminal epidural

Immediately after the injection, your arm or leg may feel slightly heavy and numb and your pain may be gone or less. This lasts only for a few hours and your pain may return when the effects of the local anaesthetic wear off. The steroid medication becomes effective after 24 to 36 hours.

You must arrange for someone to take you home. It’s advisable to take it easy for a day or so after the procedure until the steroid medication has a chance to work.

How long will the pain relief last?

The steroid medication starts to work after 24 to 36 hours following the procedure and can last for several days to several months. A transforaminal epidural injection can be repeated if required.

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