Doctors calm fears over steroid injections

Dr. Kevin Macadaeg talks with patient Matt Emkow.
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The meningitis outbreak has worried hundreds of patients who control their pain with injections.

Eyewitness News went to a local back pain specialist to find out how they're calming fears.

"You have a disc tear at this level right here," said Dr. Kevin Macadaeg with Indiana Spine Group as he pointed to a plastic model of a spine, so patient Matt Emkow could understand why he was having back pain.

When Emkow's back pain gets intense, he says, "Its very debilitating. It really changes your life. You can't function."

For the 38-year-old, it's been so bad, he's had to get a steroid injection before.

"The idea is to place a very potent anti-inflammatory medicine inside your spine," said Macadaeg, explaining how the injection works.

It's the same kind of procedure that's behind the recent outbreak of fungal meningitis nationwide.

"As a patient that's been in that type of pain, sometimes you're willing to take that type of risk to get better," said Emkow.

"The chance of infection is about one-in-100,000, which is extremely rare and I've been doing 'em for 20 years," said Macadaeg.

Macadaeg said the outbreak has been a wake-up call for pain clinics and companies who make pain medicine to review their procedures.

"We did check all the companies that we use for all the different types of medications here and had them send all their quality control measures just to assure ourselves and make sure we're comfortable with what they've done and we're comfortable," said Macadaeg.

Still, he said phones have been ringing off the hook with patients concerned they were at risk.

"We had to bring in other people just to field the phone calls," he said.

Emkow wasn't one of those calls. For him, the relief he got from a steroid shot, has been worth all the risk - and one he says he'd take again.