Tennessee Physicians Emphasize Safety with Epidural Steroid Injections

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With the recent outbreaks of meningitis due to tainted corticosteroids, the Tennessee Society of Interventional Pain Physicians issues a patient safety and effectiveness guide to epidural steroid injections for back pain.

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Graf Hilgenhurst, MD, as Medical Director and founder of Precision Pain Care, is serving as President of TNSIPP.

An epidural steroid injection is a safe, effective treatment under the direction of a qualified physician.

In response to the recent national and state-wide meningitis crisis, the Tennessee Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (TNSIPP) is emphasizing the long safety history of epidural steroid injections for back pain relief and has created an educational guide for patients. This guide – in the form of “Frequently Asked Questions” – provides background on spinal injections for back pain that will help both patients who have had an injection and those who are considering one.

To date, 404 cases of meningitis and 29 deaths have been recorded due to a tainted corticosteroid produced by a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these cases, 78 have been in Tennessee, resulting in 12 deaths.

“This situation is tragic, and it is incumbent upon all of us in the field of interventional pain management to ensure that the people of Tennessee have the information they need and that this does not happen again,” says Graf Hilgenhurst, MD, President of TNSIPP. But he emphasizes that, with proper diagnosis and under the direction of a qualified physician, “an epidural steroid injection is a safe, effective treatment. They allow millions of people around the country to live more productive lives, despite chronic, sometimes debilitating, pain.”

TNSIPP members have been advocates for ensuring that only qualified physicians be permitted to perform epidural steroid injections. Just this past year, the Tennessee General Assembly passed legislation that prohibits practitioners without proper training from performing spinal injections; the law takes effect on July 1, 2013. Many other states, however, have no such regulations, he says.

“As with any procedure, there are risks and potential side effects, but contaminated corticosteroids on such a wide scale is surprising,” says Dr. Hilgenhurst. “However, compounding pharmacies produce special drug formulations that are not always available through traditional pharmacies. We must be as diligent in finding ways to ensure drug safety as we have been with providing training and qualification standards for those performing the procedures.” He says TNSIPP will continue to play a leadership role in both important areas.

To read the TNSIPP resource guide, Epidural Steroid Injection Safety & Effectiveness: Frequently Asked Questions, visit TNSIPP.com.

About Tennessee Society of Interventional Pain Physicians

The Tennessee Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (TNSIPP) is a state chapter of the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP), an organization of physicians who perform procedures to diagnose and relieve pain. Its mission is to promote safe, high-quality, cost-effective interventional pain management techniques, and to ensure patient access to interventional pain management physicians in Tennessee.

About Dr. Graf Hilgenhurst

Graf Hilgenhurst, MD, as Medical Director and founder of Precision Pain Care, is serving as President of TNSIPP. Before coming to Tennessee, Dr. Hilgenhurst served as Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at Tufts/New England Medical Center in Boston and practiced both anesthesiology and pain management at Carney Hospital. He completed his medical degree at Rush Medical College in Chicago, his residency in anesthesiology at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, and a fellowship in pain management at the University of Cincinnati. He is board certified in both anesthesiology and pain management. Dr. Hilgenhurst is also founder and Medical Director of the Spine and Pain Physicians Surgery Center under development in Smyrna, Tennessee – the first ambulatory surgery center in Rutherford County dedicated to interventional pain management.

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