Tainted spinal steroid injections for back pain

(Updatd 10-27-12)  Over 300 cases of fungal meningitis have been traced back to tainted steroid injections used primarily to treat back pain.

A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention meningitis and stroke advisory warns that multiple cases of spinal meningitis caused by fungus, an exceedingly difficult disease to treat, have been traced to epidural (spinal) injections with contaminated methylprednisolone, performed primarily by specialty clinics.

Thousands (17,676) of vials (about 20 gallons total) of contaminated methylprednisolone acetate have been traced back to a compounding pharmacy in Framingham Massachusetts.  Black mold has been found in the companies vials.

Tainted methylprednisolone has also been traced to non-spinal joint, heart, and eye treatment complications.

Clinics, physicians, and even local police departments made attempts to contact patients who had received spinal injections of tainted methylprednisolone.

The ‘meninges’ are the deep inner coverings of the spinal cord.  Potential symptoms of spinal meningitis include:

  1. Worsening fever.
  2. New or worsening headache.
  3. Stiff neck.
  4. Neurological problems suggestive of a deep brain stroke (loss of balance, dizziness, difficulty walking).

Testing for meningitis includes performing a lumbar puncture to draw a fairly large volume of cerebrospinal fluid.

Treatment for fungal meningitis may involve the use of a drug, voriconazole, which is not without complications, possibly causing liver and kidney damage.

Note:  Meningitis, a potentially fatal condition,  is diagnosed when a patient presents with a headache and/or a fever and/or a stiff neck or visual sensitivity to light, PLUS elevated protein, low glucose, and pleocytosis of the cerebrospinal fluid , assessed via a lumbar puncture.

This information is not to be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please talk to your health care provider for anything related to your health including but not limited to diagnosis, treatment advice and/or care. Always seek the advice of a health care professional. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. If you are in the United States and are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone.