Some potential side effects a cervical epidural are spinal cord injury and injury to parts of the brain, including the stem and cerebellum. These can be direct, as in injury to the spine itself, or indirect, as in injected material entering the spinal cord, states the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation.
Some professionals recommend avoiding cervical epidurals for people who have conditions such as back pain that does not come from a specific source. Patients with stenosis and who receive injections in the lower back have a higher risk of injury, suggests the APSF.
Injury to the spinal cord is the most common side-effect of cervical epidurals, the APSF found. In some cases, it results in complete or total paralysis. Bleeding and abscesses at the injection site can happen, but these do not cause as many problems as direct injury to the spine and the absorption of material from the injection. Direct injury can happen with patients who have received spinal surgery before or who have very little fat available to receive an epidural.
A medical professional usually applies an epidural to try and target a nerve. However, many of the targeted nerves have arteries nearby that can accidentally pick up particles from the injection, particles the doctor did not intend to release, reports the APSF. This released matter can block the arteries or capillaries. Doctors know more about this risk due to malpractice suits and are changing medications, size of needles and injection sites, as of 2015.