What are steroid injections?

A steroid injection, also termed corticosteroid injection, is an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat a range of musculoskeletal conditions. It can be used to treat swollen or painful joints, such as after an injury or if you have arthritis. It is also used to treat painful bursitis and conditions such as plantar fasciitis and Morton's neuroma. The injection helps relieve pain and swelling, and make movement easier. The benefits can last for several months and in some patients the injection permanently resolves the symptom.

 

How are steroid injections given?

Most injections are performed under X-ray or ultrasound guidance to ensure that the medication is accurately placed. The injections are undertaken either in a radiology suite (by a radiologist) or in theatre. Some injections do not require image guidance and will be performed in clinic. 

A combination of local anaesthetic and steroid is used for the injection. The skin over the site of the injection is cleaned with anti-septic and a small gauge needle is used to inject. Occasionally local anaesthetic is injected to numb the the skin (especially when performing injections of narrow joints). Following the injection, a small dressing is applied which can be removed after an hour.

We would recommend avoiding strenuous physical activity for 2 to 3 days after an injection. It would be advisable to keep a pain diary to monitor your response. Your follow-up appointment will be arranged approximately 6 to 8 weeks following your injection to assess your outcome.

 

What are potential side-effects of steroid injections?

  • Face flushing for a few hours

  • Infection 

  • Steroid flare - increased pain at site of injection for a few days

  • Skin changes - thinning or depigmentation

It is beyond the scope of this document to list rarer side-effects (less than one in a thousand) but I will be very happy to discuss any worries about specific concerns and also about any family history or your past health problems. If there is anything you do not understand or if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to discuss them with me.

 

Mr Dev Mahadevan
Consultant Foot and Ankle Surgeon