Every year, thousands of people get cortisone shots in the spine. Unfortunately, the FDA has recently warned that this can potentially cause stroke, paralysis, seizure, and even death. Another problem is contaminated injections causing life-threatening infections, such as fungal meningitis.
What is a Cortisone Shot?
Cortisone shots are anti-inflammatory injections of corticosteroids, which mimic a natural substance the body releases in response to stress. They are usually injected into the joints to treat painful conditions like arthritis, bursitis, gout, and more.
Types of Steroid Shots
What is an Epidural Steroid Injection?
Cortisone shots are sometimes given into the epidural space in the spine to treat conditions like back pain, radiating pain in the arms and legs, spinal stenosis, herniated discs, nerve damage in the spine, and more.
In April 2014, the FDA published a Drug Safety Communication and warned that cortisone shots have never been approved or evaluated for use in the spine. In rare cases, spinal cortisone shots can cause life-threatening complications. The FDA warned:
“Injection of corticosteroids into the epidural space of the spine may result in rare but serious adverse events, including loss of vision, stroke, paralysis, and death.”
Spinal Cortisone Shot Side Effects
- Spinal cord infarction
- Cortical blindness
- Nerve injury
- Brain edema
Cortisone Shot Infections
Compounding pharmacies are small-scale, independent businesses that are supposed to produce individual medications to fulfill a doctor’s prescription. In recent years, several pharmacies have recalled massive numbers of cortisone shots after finding mold, bacteria, or visible particulate matter contaminating the shot. Patients who receive contaminated cortisone shots can potentially develop infections.
Cortisone Shots Linked to Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigated an outbreak of fungal meningitis in 2012. The outbreak was linked to thousands of vials of methylprednisolone produced by New England Compounding Pharmacy. The outbreak lasted over a year, and the final case count was 751 infections, including 64 deaths, in 20 states. A $100 million compensation fund was established in December 2013.