What is a corticosteroid injection?
A corticosteroid (or ‘cortisone injection’) is an anti-inflammatory medicine, which can be injected directly into the tissues that are causing your pain symptoms. It is generally safer than being on long term steroid tablets which is more likely to lead to unwanted side effects. It is also safer than taking high dosages of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory tablets for longer periods of time. It acts directly in the area injected and is not the same as the steroids taken by bodybuilders or athletes.
What are the benefits?
The injection can help to relieve swelling, pain and stiffness caused by inflammation. This may in turn help you to start your rehabilitation and return to normal activities sooner by ‘breaking the cycle’ of pain and inflammation. It can also be helpful to aid in the diagnosis of your condition if it is not clear which structures are responsible for your pain. You may also have a local anaesthetic injected at the same time, which allows for temporary pain relief.
What are the risks?
Generally speaking ultrasound guided steroid injections are low risk. However there are a number of potential side-effects and risks that you should be aware of prior to the injection. Please refer to our patient information leaflet which explains the potential risks and side-effects associated with steroid injections.
Medicines that can interfere with steroid injections:
Certain medications might interfere with steroids. When you are taking medications for conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or HIV please check with your specialist whether a steroid injection is appropriate. Blood thinning medications such as warfarin may require a blood test and a temporary adjustment/change of your medication to make sure the blood is not too thin which might cause bleeding in the joint. If you are on blood thinning medication such as warfarin you should consult your specialist first to obtain his/ her advice before having an injection.
Please include any information regarding your health and or medication that you are taking to your appointment.
What happens during the injection?
You will be placed in a comfortable position. The skin is cleaned with antiseptic. A needle is positioned into the affected area whilst the procedure is monitored by means of ultrasound guidance. The steroid (plus possibly a local anaesthetic) is injected through the needle. A plaster will be placed over the site to keep it clean.
Is the injection painful?
The injection is not particularly painful as the clinician is thoroughly trained in this procedure. Sometimes it can be sore for a few hours after the procedure.