As many as 13,000 patients may have been exposed to fungal meningitis from tainted spinal steroid injections used to ease back and neck pain, reported the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.
The CDC reported that the company that made the drug began shipping potentially contaminated lots on May 21 and that patients who received the treatment, called a lumbar epidural steroid injection, after that date should seek medical attention for symptoms of fungal meningitis. Symptoms include fever, headache, neck stiffness, sensitivity to light, and new numbness or weakness in the limbs. Also, increased pain or swelling at the injection site may be a cause for concern.
While the outbreak may be disconcerting, epidural steroid injections are a common treatment for spinal pain and sciatica. The safety and effectiveness of this treatment is not in question, though any injection inherently carries risk of infection (even injections for other parts of the body). The deadly consequences of meningitis make this recent outbreak all the more devastating.
The good news is that meningitis can be treated if diagnosed appropriately and in a timely fashion. Patients must be made aware of risks associated with spinal injection and with possible complications so that they may advocate for themselves. Fortunately, the problem has been identified and the pharmaceutical firmcompounding pharmacy has voluntarily recalled all of its products.