Background context: Cervical epidural steroid injections are frequently used in the conservative management of neck pain, cervical radiculitis, and cervical radiculopathy. Between 64-76% of patients who receive injections report subjective pain improvement. Injections are usually well-tolerated with only mild, transient side effects, although a few case reports of patients with adverse effects do appear in the literature. Some clinicians have expressed concerns about epidural injections above the C7-T1 level, and in the use of methylprednisolone epidurally; as yet, neither is a consensus viewpoint.
Purpose: This case report describes severe adverse effects (quadriplegia and respiratory arrest) associated with an epidural injection into the C6-C7 space. Although the patient's symptoms improved somewhat with supportive care, quadriparesis appears irreversible. No reports of quadriparesis after cervical epidural injection were found in the literature, although other adverse effects have been reported.
Study design/setting: The patient was injected by a fellowship-trained pain management specialist in an outpatient surgicenter using C-arm fluoroscopic guidance. Immediately he experienced respiratory arrest with quadriplegia. He was intubated and transferred to the hospital, then transferred again to Christiana Health Care Services.
Methods: The patient was hospitalized, treated with steroid protocol within 8 hours, and followed clinically for 6 months.
Results: Magnetic resonance imaging within 6 hours of the injury and 6 months later showed no significant findings aside from lordosis (40 degrees angle) of the cervical spine at the C6-C7 level.
Conclusion: Although evidence is not conclusive, this patient may have suffered a vascular event from a cervical epidural injection.