Amount of Fungal Meningitis Victims Still on RiseUnfortunately, the number of new victims in the recent fungal meningitis outbreak has not stopped growing. It was reported recently that North Jersey has had its first recorded case of meningitis that has resulted from the contaminated batch of steroids compounded from the New England Compounding Center. One fungal meningitis death was reported in Indiana (bringing the total deaths in Indiana from fungal meningitis to 7), and two in Maryland. Many of the patients that received the contaminated injections had them administered at pain clinics—facilities that specialize in providing relief for chronic back pain. One has to wonder if this outbreak has caused any practitioners of pain management to rethink epidural injections as an elective procedure.
Two Confirmed Cases of Fungal Meningitis in New JerseyThus far, New Jersey has two confirmed cases of fungal meningitis from the tainted batch of compounded drugs, but no deaths. Tennessee has the highest number of deaths of any state affected by the contaminated steroids.
New Jersey Reported Cases Could IncreaseBoth of the New Jersey patients received epidural injections in late September. It can take several months for the symptoms of fungal meningitis to become apparent, so there still might be cases yet to develop, although as time progresses, the risk that new infections will emerge will get lower. Mold infections tend to grow slowly, and incubation periods vary, with infected patients typically showing signs a few weeks post exposure.
Fungal Meningitis is a SEVERE ConditionFungal meningitis is a potentially life threatening condition that requires immediate medical intervention. Patients who do not seek treatment at the first signs of infection risk permanent neurological damage and even death.
This medical catastrophe was caused by mold growth in a batch of poorly maintained steroid medications, but patients seeking relief from back pain should be aware that epidural injections—even pure injections—pose a risk for severe complications. Any injection near the spine can lead to serious infections such as arachnoiditis, which is a chronic condition that can cause persistent back pain, trouble standing and sitting, incontinence and even paralysis. While physicians are always careful about injecting medications close to the spine, mistakes can be made; the needle can slip and puncture the spine, and the injection site can be vulnerable to epidural abscesses, which are difficult to diagnose or detect since they are relatively deep below the skin.
While chronic back pain can be debilitating, with the pain even migrating to the head, arms and legs, it is critically important to explore multiple options for therapy before agreeing to submit to epidural steroid injections. There are numerous forms of physical therapy that produce wonderful results. Degenerated or herniated discs do cause a small percentage of chronic back pain or sciatica. However, in many cases, lower back pain is the result of slack core muscles. When certain muscle groups lack the strength to support the back, the muscles that are burdened with the bulk of the work become strained, causing acute pain. If at all possible, if you suffer from lower back pain, try to get more than one opinion on the best course of treatment before making a final decision.