Which technique is used for corticosteroid injections to treat joint and soft tissue injuries?

Updated: Mar 01, 2019
  • Author: Jess D Salinas, Jr, MD; Chief Editor: Elizabeth A Moberg-Wolff, MD  more...
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Answer

Answer

The procedure for injection therapy is uncomplicated and well established. The object is to inject the corticosteroid preparation with as little pain and as few complications as possible. The technique is similar for muscle, periarticular, or articular injections. Selection of the site and careful attention to surface and deep anatomy are of paramount importance. [26] Injections in the vicinity of known nerve or arterial landmarks should not be attempted. For example, a lateral epicondyle injection is relatively easy. An injection into at the medial epicondyle (near the ulnar nerve) carries greater risk, and extra care must be taken to identify the nerve, outline its course, and avoid it.

Sterile technique is recommended when performing injections. This added care is needed to minimize the risk of iatrogenic infection and is especially important for intra-articular injections.

Opinions abound regarding whether to give a separate injection with just a local anesthetic (eg, lidocaine) prior to the corticosteroid injection. Some physicians prefer to give 1 injection (the corticosteroid preparation, perhaps mixed with a local anesthetic). Their rationale is that 1 needle is less painful than 2; however, the cortisone injection involves a thicker material, and therefore, a larger-gauge needle is used. Thus, this author prefers a 2-needle technique, feeling that this method is better tolerated by patients. The 2-needle technique starts with the physician anesthetizing the area with a small, 25-gauge needle and waiting 3-5 minutes for the anesthesia to take full effect; a larger-bore needle (21-22 gauge) is then used for the corticosteroid injection.

It should be remembered that the povidone-iodine solution should dry on the skin to have its full antibacterial effect. Just swabbing on the disinfectant and injecting increases the risk of infection. Another important tip is to consider changing the needle used to aspirate the medication into the syringe with the one used to do the injection, especially when using multidose vials. Finally, gentle distraction of the joint being injected may improve accessibility.


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