What Are Steroid injections?
Intraarticular steroid injections are injected directly into an affected joint. The goal of a local, intraarticular steroid injection is to improve joint function while reducing inflammation.
Important Things to Know About Steroid Injections
1 - Steroid injections can be used as an adjunct therapy along with systemic therapy. In other words, the patient can continue taking other medications while receiving a steroid injection or series of injections. Steroid injections can also be used alone for people who do not tolerate other treatments.
2 - Sterile technique must be used for steroid injections in order to reduce the risk of infection. There is some risk of infection whenever the skin is punctured for an injection.
3 - Joint fluid can be aspirated at the same time when a steroid injection is planned. The joint fluid can be sent on to the laboratory for testing.
4 - No more than three steroid injections per year in the same joint is the usual recommendation. If injected more frequently there is a risk of deterioration of bone and progressive cartilage damage in the affected joint. Bone, ligaments, and tendons can weaken with too frequent steroid injections.
5 - Steroid injections deliver a high dose of medication to the affected joint. This is an effective way to knock down inflammation.
6 - Steroid injections can be delivered into the site of bursitis (inflamed bursa), or around tendons at the shoulder, hip, elbow, knee, hand, and wrist, not only into a joint.
7 - Steroid injections should not be given if a joint is already infected or if there is an active infection anywhere in the body. There are risks and benefits which must be weighed when considering steroid injections.
8 - A common side effect of steroid injections occurs when the injected cortisone crystallizes and causes a flare of pain. This may last a couple of days. Icing the injected area is helpful.
9 - Overuse of the joint in the first six hours after injection can aggravate arthritis. Local anesthetic is typically combined with the steroid and patients may put too much stress on their arthritic joint while still feeling the effects of the anesthetic.
10 - There are several choices of steroid that can be used. Doctors usually prefer one of the choices (Depo-Medrol, Aristospan, Kenalog and Celestone). As local anesthetic wears off, after steroid injection, it may take several days to realize the expected benefit.
11 - It's important to remember - steroid injections are used to decrease pain and inflammation while consequently improving function. The steroid injections do not, however, cure the disease.
Corticosteroid Injections. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. Edition 12. Published by the Arthritis Foundation.
Steroid Injections: What You Need to Know. Cleveland Clinic. 7/17/2006.