If you are suffering from debilitating back pain after a car accident, your doctor may have suggested you get an epidural for the pain. As with any medical procedure, an epidural for back pain has benefits, risks, and costs you should know about.
What is an epidural?
An epidural is an injection of anti-inflammatory medicine into the epidural space (i.e., the space between the spinal cord and dura mater) used to numb any pain and reduce nerve pressure you may be experiencing in that area.
Please note that an epidural steroid injection (ESI) is different than epidural anesthesia administered before childbirth or surgery.
What is the procedure?
The procedure, which occurs at a hospital or clinic, is generally pretty quick. Once you have changed into your gown, the doctor will ask you to lie face down (or on your side if lying face down causes you pain) on an x-ray table.
The ESI may consist of several steps. If you are nervous or in pain, the doctor may give you medicine to numb the pain or relax.
Once you are relaxed enough to undergo the epidural, the doctor will inject the epidural into your lower back. The doctor may need to use an x-ray machine, also known as a fluoroscopy, to ensure proper placement of the needle.
CAUTION: While you may feel a little pressure during the injection, you cannot move because the injection must be exact.
After injection, the doctor will monitor you for 15-20 minutes and then send you home. You may need someone to drive you home afterwards so it is best to have someone accompany you.
The epidural, a steroid and anesthetic combination, can take anywhere from 24 hours to seven days to take effect.
What are the risks and side effects?
An epidural is generally a safe medical procedure. Yet, as with other medical procedures, complications may exist. The possible complications of an epidural include:
- Allergic reaction to the medicine used
- Dizziness, stomachache, or headache
- Spinal epidural hematoma, i.e., clot of blood in epidural space) A spinal epidural hematoma can be serious; if your back pain worsens, go to the doctor.)
- Brain or nervous system issues
- Leg pain from nerve root damage
- Spinal infection, such as an abscess or meningitis
Of course, it is always advisable that you discuss the aforementioned risks with your doctor before undergoing the medical procedure.
There are also possible side effects from the steroid medication, including:
- Facial flushing, also known as “steroid flush”
- Localized increase in pain
- Headaches resolving in about 24 hours
- Fever the night you receive your injection
How long do the effects of the treatment last?
Epidurals provide short-term pain relief in nearly 50 percent of the people who receive it. The ESI may provide symptom relief for weeks or even months, but it is unlikely it will last longer than that.
While the epidural will wear off, it will allow you to begin an exercise regimen which may also help relieve your back pain.
If your back pain returns, you may require regular ESIs.
Can I recover compensation for an ESI?
ESIs can be expensive. According to Medscape, an ESI usually costs around $2,200. You may face additional fees for things like the fluoroscopy.
If your car accident was the result of another driver’s negligent behavior, you may be entitled to compensation.
To have a valid claim, you must be able to establish the following four elements:
- You must show that the at-fault driver (defendant) owed you a specific duty of care. For example, drivers owe a duty to all drivers to behave responsibly behind the wheel.
- Second, you must show that the at-fault driver breached this duty of care by speeding, texting, running a red light, driving while fatigued or intoxicated, driving recklessly, etc.
- Third, you must then show that said breach was the actual cause of the accident and your injury. You must connect the breach with the accident. For example, if the other driver ran a red light, you must be able to prove that you would not have suffered your injury if the defendant had not run the red light.
- You must also be able to prove that you suffered actual damages, e.g., medical bills, lost wages, etc.
If you can prove these elements, you may be able to recover compensation any costs related to your back pain.
Note: It is important to note that your degree of fault will affect the amount of compensation you are able to recover. For example, if the driver ran a red light but you were speeding, the insurer or jury may find you 10 percent at fault. This would mean you are only able to recover 90 percent of injuries.
To guarantee your settlement covers all your needs, you need to understand your prognosis (i.e., whether you will need further ESIs or other treatments). A car accident attorney can help you account for all of your damages (short- and long-term) and ensure you recover the compensation you need and deserve.
Where can I get help with my claim?
If a car accident in New Jersey or Pennsylvania caused you or a loved one to suffer from incapacitating back pain requiring costly ESIs, we want to help you recover compensation. Call the attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC for help gathering evidence, filing a claim, managing communication and negotiations, and representing you in court if necessary.