Sacroiliac joint Injection is a small procedure that is very useful to control back and leg pain performed under local or intravenous sedation. This Sacroiliac joint injection helps to reduce the pain and inflammation of the sacroiliac joint. This joint is the link between your spine and the pelvis. As age advances, this joint loses its movement. When there is strain across this joint in later life, it gets inflamed. This leads to Sacroiliac joint pain.
When is this procedure recommended by the Spine Surgeon?
Sacroiliac joint Injection is recommended for control of your back pain coming from the sacroiliac joint. Inflammation caused by the stress across the spine and hips produces chemicals from soft tissues around the sacroiliac joint. These irritate the ‘cluneal nerves’ in your lower back causing low back pain. Sometimes it can also cause ‘sciatica’.
Where is Sacroiliac joint injection given for back pain?
The spinal column is made of bones and the soft cushion between these bones. It has a central canal (passage) that contains and protects the solid spinal cord. There are branches coming out of the spinal cord at regular intervals on each side. These are called nerve roots. These nerve roots come out of the spinal cord exits through small holes (foramen) in your spine. These nerve roots can be pinched by either a herniated disc or by the narrowing of the small exit holes (foramen)due to wear and tear of the spine. This is also called ‘Lumbar Radiculopathy’. The nerve root injection is given close to the trapped or pinched nerve.
What does the Sacroiliac joint injection contain?
Sacroiliac joint Injection contains a mixture of:
- Kenalog 40 mgs (Steroid)
- Marcaine 0.25% (Local anaesthetic)
Kenalog is a Steroid commonly used in Spine Injections. It has a 40 mgs of steroid in a sterile solution. This steroid works on the Sacroiliac joint and reduces pain and inflammation around them.
It blocks the release of chemicals that your body releases from ruptured or damaged discs, injured soft tissues around the Sacroiliac joint. Steroid limits the production of proteins needed for these chemicals and blocks the painful nerve signals coming from these injured tissues.
Due to the pain relief, there is more movement in the small (facet) joints in the spine and the soft tissues. This increase in movement will further reduce the stiffness around the bones, ligaments and muscles of your spine.
Marcaine 0.25% is a local anaesthetic (numbing solution) used by your dentist. This is also used in Sacroiliac joint Injection. This solution works on the tissues around the Sacroiliac joint reduces pain and works very well with the steroid.
It blocks the pain signals released by your irritated and inflammed spinal nerves as the steroid works to control the inflammation. Due to the pain relief, there is more movement in the small (facet) joints and the soft tissues of the spine. The other joint in your pelvis like the hip joints move well.
This increase in movement will further reduce the stiffness around the bones, ligaments and muscles of your spine. The strength of the muscles around your buttocks, low back and hips improves.
What does Sacroiliac joint injection exactly do?
Sacroiliac joint Injection contains a mixture of numbing solution (local anaesthetic) and corticosteroid (steroid). The local anaesthetic will improve the pain immediately and the steroid in the solution will act on the inflammation around the soft tissues and control the ‘sciatica like pain’ in the long term. This improvement in the pain will help you move around better and mobilise your lower back. This increase in the movement of the small joints of your spine will further reduce the stiffness around the pelvic bones, ligaments and muscles. Physiotherapy helps in the recovery of pain and function.
This is done as a Day Case Procedure
You will be admitted for Day Case surgery just for a day. You will need to come in starved for at least 6 hours. This is because we have to give you a sedative in your arm to make you sleep for a short duration. It will help you cope with the anxiety and pain from the procedure. Your will be required to lie on your tummy comfortably. After the sedation, your skin on the back will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution.
Before the Procedure:
You will be admitted for Day Case surgery just for a day. You will arrive in the morning with a member of your family. It will be safe for you to return home after a short period of sedation. The pain relief is instant as the local anaesthetic works on the inflamed tissues of the joint immediately.
You need to come in starved for at least 6 hours so that it is safe to give you sedation in an empty stomach. You will be required to lie on your tummy. After the sedation, with the help of Xray guidance, the Sacroiliac joint injection will be performed safely and accurately.
Most probably you will be advised to:
1) Bring are your medications including the prescription
2) Stop all tablets that causes your blood to become thin
3) Have a blood test to check your fitness for the procedure
During the Procedure:
After you are sedated, a tiny needle for the injection of the steroid and anaesthetic solution close to the Sacroiliac joint. X-rays will be taken to make sure that the needle placement is accurate before the procedure. You will recover from the procedure and sedation very quickly. You will be free of the pain almost immediately.
After the injection, you will be taken to the recovery room from theatre and monitored for an hour. It takes 24 to 48 hours before the steroid takes effect on the inflammed sacroiliac joint and soft tissues around it. You will be able to leave hospital once you are safe.
After the Procedure:
You must be aware that the local anaesthetic may cause a temporary numbness or weakness of the leg for a few hours. Your leg may give way when you try getting out of bed due to the weakness. But this will settle with time. Once the effect of the anaesthetic wears off, your leg and back pain may return, occasionally slightly worse than before for a short period until the steroid in the solution takes effect. It takes a few days or even weeks for the steroid to take effect on your pain.
You must continue to take your usual pain relief medication that your doctor had prescribed for you till you begin to feel benefit. Some medications like morphine, gabapentin, pregabalin or amitriptyline need to be continued and not stopped abruptly.
After Discharge from Hospital:
After discharge from the hospital you will be given a discharge summary and a booklet. This will contain all the details of:
1) Sacroiliac joint Injection procedure
2) How and when to move around
3) Physiotherapy exercises
4) Driving – when and how to drive
5) When and how to return to your work
What are the benefits of this Injection procedure?
70% of patient will have significant benefit from a Sacroiliac joint injection for low back pain. But the duration of this pain control varies between a few weeks to a few months. Sometimes the pain relief can last for a year. The inflammation and soft tissue swelling will reduce naturally due to your increase in mobility and activity. However, there is an increased risk of having a further episode of back pain.
Repeat Injections: If the initial Sacroiliac joint injection was helpful in controlling your back pain, you will be offered a repeat injection.
How many Sacroiliac Steroid injections can you have?
Most experts recommend not more than 2-3 injections over a 12-month period. There are concerns about the adverse side effects of repeated steroid injections on the sacroiliac joint and on your metabolism. There is a very small risk of diabetes, raised blood pressure, decreased immunity, recurrent infections and weight gain.
Follow up appointment after Sacroiliac joint Injection?
My secretary will arrange a follow-up appointment in about two weeks’ time for a review with me – either Face to Face or over the telephone. I will be keen to know the control of your pain over the last 2 weeks.
Most patients will not need physiotherapy but if you need physiotherapy, after my assessment, I will make arrangements. The physiotherapist will educate you on gentle stretching, strengthening, and conditioning exercises for your back.
Steroid injections in combination with physiotherapy will offer you longer period of pain control.
What are the risks and complications of Sacroiliac joint injection?
There are risks and complications associated with any procedure:
This is rare but there is an increased risk in skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema. The rate is less than 1 in 1000 injections.
There is very little chance that you will bleed from a tiny puncture wound with a needle. But there is an increased risk of bleeding if you are taking medications to ‘thin your blood’ like warfarin, rivaroxaban or clopidogrel. You will be advised to stop these medications at least a week in advance of the procedure for safety.
Flushing on your Face:
This is a temporary side effect from the steroid injection – like a prolonged ‘blush’ – it settles down very quickly.
Vasovagal or fainting episodes:
This can be due to the stress of the procedure and is not life threatening. 1 in 100 patients do have such episodes and it settles very quickly.
When can I get back to work after Sacroiliac joint injection?
You are advised to take the next day off work as you had an intravenous sedation. If your back pain persists or is worse, you may need a few days off work. Usually, it can take several weeks before you feel the full benefit of the Sacroiliac joint injection. There are no limitations for work if your pain settles after a day.
When is my follow up appointment?
This is booked in 4 weeks after the injection. It allows you to explain the progress of you back pain to Mr Rajesh and he may arrange physiotherapy to build on the gains from the injection. Repeat injections or possible the need for surgery only if necessary, can be discussed.