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Complications in image-guided musculoskeletal injections



To establish the incidence and define the nature of complications occurring following image-guided musculoskeletal injections at our institution.

Materials and methods

All patients undergoing image-guided musculoskeletal injection during the study period (16/3/2016 to 24/01/2020) were included. Departmental records were reviewed to identify all patients describing possible complications following injection, what therapy was required (if any) and what the outcome was. No patients were excluded. Complications were classified as minor or major. Injections were categorised as follows: cervical spine, lumbar facet joint, lumbar nerve root, caudal epidural and ‘other’. The complication rate for each individual category of procedure was compared with the combined complication rate for all other categories by constructing contingency tables and using Fisher’s exact test.


A total of 8226 patients underwent image-guided musculoskeletal injections within the study period. Exactly 100 patients were identified as having reported a complication, producing an overall complication rate of 1.2%. One complication was categorised as ‘major’, with the patient requiring expedited surgery. The remainder (99 patients) were categorised as having experienced minor complications. The incidence of complications after ‘other’ injections was significantly greater than for other categories of injection (1.86%, p = 0.028). There was no significant difference in the complication rate for cervical spine (0.93%, p = 0.257), lumbar nerve root (0.85%, p = 0.401), lumbar facet joint (0.67%, p = 0.326) or caudal epidural (1.29%, p = 0.687) injections. ‘Other’ injections were subsequently further sub-categorised by anatomical site and imaging modality used. Glenohumeral (2.97%, p = 0.0361) and sacro-iliac (3.51%, p = 0.0498) joint injections were associated with a significantly increased risk of complications. There was no difference in the incidence of complications with fluoroscopic or ultrasound guidance.


In conclusion, image-guided musculoskeletal injections are safe and well-tolerated procedures. Complications are rare, occurring in just 1.2% of patients. 99% of complications are minor, either not requiring intervention or resolving with simple supportive treatment.

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Correspondence to John P. Hynes.

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Hynes, J.P., Fhlatharta, M.N., Ryan, J.W. et al. Complications in image-guided musculoskeletal injections. Skeletal Radiol 50, 343–349 (2021).

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  • Musculoskeletal injection
  • Complications
  • Corticosteroid
  • Interventional radiology