Consumer reports weighs in on steroid injections for lower back pain

Consumer reports weighs in on steroid injections for lower back pain

In a previous post, the concerns with steriod injections for lower back pain were discussed (read it here). Apparently, by now, over 100 people have died from a procedure that has a very low success rate to begin with. The important question needs to be asked ; do the benefits outweigh the risks? Consumer Reports reviews this important subject.

Should you avoid all steroid injections for your back pain?

Oct 15, 2012 10:00 AM

The news about fungal meningitis from steroid injections has many back pain sufferers wondering if they should now avoid the shots entirely. Our medical experts say no: The deaths and health problems currently being reported are associated with three batches of the drug made by a single pharmacy. And steroid injections sometimes do seem to help relieve debilitating back pain. But our experts also caution that the injections should be used only for specific kinds of back pain, and even then only if a number of simpler methods have been tried first and failed, and if a number of precautions are carefully followed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that as of Monday morning 200 people in 14 states have been found to be infected with fungal meningitis, and 15 have died from it. All of them were linked to a steroid product made by New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass. The CDC has an online map that shows the states affected and lists the clinics that received the contaminated product. The CDC also has advice on what people should do who think they might have been given one of the injections.

Our medical experts say that the injections pose other concerns, too, and offer limited benefits. “The vast majority of people with lower back pain don’t need the shots,” says Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumer Reports medical adviser and neurologist. Their benefits seem limited mainly to people with lower-back pain that also travels down the buttock or leg, according to guidelines from the American Pain Society, the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, and the American Academy of Neurology. Read more