Last November, I underwent an epidural steroid injection in my lumber region to treat a disc injury and that’s why when the news broke last week of the contaminated epidural batches, my blood froze. As a patient we are told that the procedure is routine, that there is no appreciable risk and it is an outpatient procedure.
Those things are generally true but in this case, it is devolving into a nightmare. The human body is well adapted to defend against a variety of pathogens. The skin itself is a body system that protects 90% of our surface area from bugs of all types. When it comes to injections that go directly into the spinal canal, you have bypassed most of mother nature’s defenses and you just have to pray that the medicine is sterile.
Meningitis is the medical name for the swelling of the meninges, the tissue which surrounds and protects the brain and spinal cord. The reason these infections are so dangerous is how quickly the swelling can damage key neuro functioning. Fungal meningitis is somewhat rare in the United States and more common in the Third World. Bacterial and Viral meningitis are much more common. For example, my daughter’s pre-school was shut down for a week due to a bacterial meningitis infection. With those pathogens, the body has a chance to fight it in the blood stream and the infection may never pass the blood-brain barrier. With the fungal meningitis in this contaminated batch, the fungus was delivered straight to the point of attack.
Should You Be Worried?
The CDC has released a list of the states where shipments of contaminated product went and a list of the clinics. Thankfully for those of us in Georgia, it looks like only one clinic in Macon received the shipments. The CDC has a comprehensive list of the symptoms and the clinics should have reached out to patients already.
Do the Patients Who Received a Contaminated Injection Have a Claim?
The short answer is yes, there is a products liability claim against the New England Compounding Center, the alleged lab that manufactured the epidural steroid solution. There are quality control guidelines designed to prevent exactly this type of contamination and given the massive threat the fungus poses and the method of delivery, it is upsetting that it got this far.