Neck pain is often chronic and disabling. Cervical facet joint injections and epidural steroid injections are frequently used to manage chronic neck pain and cervicogenic headaches. While minimal side effects are commonly associated with these treatments, severe complications are exceedingly rare.
The authors report 4 cases of iatrogenic neurological injury after radiofrequency ablation (RFA) and epidural steroid injections. One patient experienced left shoulder, scapular, and arm pain with left arm and hand weakness that developed immediately after RFA for chronic neck pain. Electromyography/nerve conduction velocity (EMG/NCV) studies confirmed denervation changes in the left C8–T1 distribution. Three patients complained of numbness and weakness of the hands immediately after an interlaminar cervical epidural block. One of these patients underwent EMG/NCV that confirmed denervation changes occurring in the left C8–T1 distribution.
Spine surgeons and pain management specialists should be aware of neurological injuries that may occur after cervical RFA and epidural steroid injections, especially after a multilevel cervical procedure and with severe cervical spinal stenosis. EMG/NCV studies plays an important role in detecting and localizing neurological injury and in differentiating from conditions that mimic cervical root injuries, including brachial plexus trauma due to positioning and Parsonage-Turner syndrome.