Hemiparesis and facial sensory loss following cervical epidural steroid injection

Raghu Maddela, Sayed E. Wahezi, Steven Sparr, Allan Brook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Interlaminar cervical epidural steroid injections (ic-ESI) are safe and effective treatment options for the management of acute and chronic radiculopathy, spinal stenosis, and other causes of neck pain not responding to more conservative measures. However, the procedure inherently lends itself to possible spinal cord injury (SCI). Though reports of such events have been documented, the clinical presentation of patients with needle puncture SCI varies. In part, this may be due to anatomic considerations, as symptoms may be dependent on the cervical level intruded, as well as the volume and type of injectate used.

Many cases go unreported and therefore the true incidence of cord injections during ic-ESI is not known. Cervical epidurals can be performed by the transforaminal or interlaminar approach. It is generally accepted that ic-ESI is safer than transforaminal epidurals. There are numerous reports of arterial invasion or irritation with the latter despite an inherently greater risk of cord puncture with the former. The likelihood of cord interruption rises when ic-ESIs are performed above C6-C7 as there is a relatively slim epidural layer compared to lower cervical epidural zones. Though most cases of devastating outcomes, such as hemiplegia and death, have been reported during cervical transforaminal epidural injections and rarely with ic-ESI, it is important to understand the symptoms and potential pitfalls of performing any cervical epidural injection. Cervical epidural malpractice claims are uncommon, but exceed those of steroid blocks at all the levels combined, demonstrating the need for improved awareness of potential complications in ic-ESI. Here, we will describe an unusual presentation of a spinal cord injection during an ic-ESI procedure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E761-E767
JournalPain Physician
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2014


  • Cervical epidural
  • Hemiparesis
  • Spinal cord

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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