The sacroiliac joint is the joint where the bottom section of the spine called the sacrum joins the pelvis (the ilium, commonly referred to as hip bones). A sacroiliac joint injection is a procedure where a mixture of numbing medications is used to block pain signals from emanating from the nerves in this area. Thousands of patients undergo this procedure annually in the United States for successful treatment of their pain.
What conditions are treatable with sacroiliac joint injections?
Sacroiliac joint injections can be used diagnostically to determine if the sacroiliac joint is indeed the cause of the patients’ pain, they can also be used to treat symptoms of a condition called sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction which can cause pain similar to other conditions of the spine. This is why correct diagnosis is important.
What are expectations when a patient undergoes sacroiliac joint injections?
The patient has a reasonable expectation to find relief from their symptoms relating to sacroiliac joint dysfunction as well as other conditions treatable with this procedure. The majority of patients who receive this treatment report a high percentage (90%+) of successful relief from pain and other symptoms.
How is a sacroiliac joint injection performed?
The sacroiliac joint injection is a simple outpatient procedure that can be performed in about one half hour. The procedure is followed by another hour observation period to watch for adverse reactions to the medications used, although this is rare.
The patient is placed on an exam table face down, they are often sedated. Their vital signs are monitored and the area to be injected is first cleansed with antiseptic solution, and then numbed with a topical anesthetic to ease the sensation of the insertion of the needle.
The doctor uses a device called a fluoroscope, (a type of xray machine that allows them to see the needle being inserted in real time) to insert the needle in order to minimize the risk of damaging tissue or nerves with the needle and ensure proper needle placement.
Contrast dye is often used to determine that the medications will contact the nerves desired and then the medications are slowly injected. For diagnostic procedures a local anesthetic is used alone, for therapeutic procedures the local anesthetic is combined with a corticosteroid which is used to provide extended periods of relief.
How long do the effects of the injections last?
The patient often experiences immediate, but temporary relief from the local anesthetic. This wears off after about one day and then it may take a couple of days for the steroid to take effect. Once the steroid does begin working it may last from several days to several weeks with the first treatment. Subsequent treatments can provide longer lasting relief for up to several months at a time.
Are there any risks or side effects with the procedure?
Risks and side effects are minimal; they include slight bruising, swelling, and bleeding at the injection site. There is a very minimal risk of allergic reaction to the medications and an even more remote risk of nerve damage from a misplaced needle. Generally the procedure is very safe.
How successful is the procedure for the relief of pain?
Most patients who receive these injections report a significant reduction in felt pain. The level and duration of relief varies from patient to patient depending on the severity of their condition and how well they respond to the medications. Overall the procedure is very effective.
What is the bottom line on this procedure?
The bottom line is that this is a very effective procedure for providing relief from chronic pain. Discuss your condition and symptoms with your Chicago pain management doctor to determine if these injections could help you.