A Steroid injection is commonly referred to as a Cortisone injection.  Cortisone is a man-made version of the steroid Cortisol which is produced by our adrenal glands.  There are many types of steroids that are used for treating various conditions that are typically related to inflammation.  In hand surgery and orthopedic surgery, we do not actually inject cortisone.  Since the public is used to hearing the term a “Cortisone shot” that is how the injection is commonly explained to patients.  There are various reasons we pick one steroid over others for injections.  Sometimes it is based on the location of the injection (in a joint vs into the soft tissues).  Regardless of the type of steroid we use the purpose is the same – to relieve inflammation.


The Two Most Common Reasons we give a Steroid Injection:

  • Injection into a joint to relieve arthritis pain – this relief typically lasts 3 to 5 months
  • Injection to a tendon sheath to stop finger triggering or wrist pain


What are the Risks of a Steroid (Cortisone) injection:

  • Cartilage damage – very rare, usually due to too frequent injections to the same joint
  • Death of nearby bone – very rare
  • Joint infection – rare but possible
  • Nerve damage – not from the steroid but from the needle if it hits a nerve
  • Temporary facial flushing – occasionally occurs, goes away in a day
  • Temporary flare of pain and inflammation in the joint – occasionally occurs, may take a few days to resolve, may give oral steroid to help
  • Temporary increase in blood sugar – happens in diabetics, can last for up to 2 weeks
  • Tendon weakening or rupture – only if injected into a tendon,
  • Thinning of nearby bone (osteoporosis) – very rare
  • Thinning of skin and soft tissue around the injection site – possible with tendon sheath injections
  • Whitening or lightening of the skin around the injection site – possible with tendon sheath injections


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