Frequently Asked Questions

Pain Management FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are a number of frequently asked questions that contain useful information that can better help you understand your anesthesiology or other pain medicine procedure at the Northwestern Medicine Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine Practice within Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

1. What will happen on the day of the injection procedure?

Wear comfortable clothes and leave unnecessary valuables at home. Please complete all of your paperwork prior to arriving at the Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine Practice. The medical assistant will bring you back to an exam room, check your vital signs and verify your current medications.

Your physician will evaluate you and perform a physical exam. Your physician will discuss the steps involved in the procedure, the expected outcomes and potential risks and then answer any remaining questions you have. You will provide consent to permit your physician to do the procedure.

For most procedures, you will then be taken into the procedure room and positioned on a procedure table. For your safety, monitors will be placed to measure your blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen level.

We make every effort to make you comfortable during the entire process. After completion of the procedure, you will be monitored for any side effects. You will be given follow-up instructions during the discharge process.

2. Do I need a driver?

Yes. Many procedures can cause short term numbness or weakness from the numbing medications we use, and this may make walking or driving difficult, temporarily. To ensure your safety after the procedure, it is our policy that you have a responsible adult accompany you home if you have an invasive procedure. We understand this may be an inconvenience but this is important to ensure your safety and well-being after you are discharged from the practice following your procedure.

3. I am very nervous. Can I have sedation during the procedure?

Anxiety regarding injection procedures is not uncommon, especially when you don’t know what to expect. Most injections are very fast, and are for the most part, painless. You should discuss your anxiety with your physician when you are evaluated here. More than 98 percent of our patients do not need sedation and we discourage sedation in our pain practice.

Your safety is our number one priority. It is important that we can directly communicate with you at all times during the procedure. If you and your physician decide that sedation or light “twilight” is needed, an intravenous line will be placed. You will NOT be able to eat or drink for six hours before the procedure and you will not be able to drive, operate machinery, or work for the rest of the day.

4. If I am going to have sedation for my procedure, what can I eat and drink before the procedure?

Patients can NOT eat or drink anything six hours before their procedure if they require sedation. Take all of your regular medication with a few sips of water. If you have diabetes, discuss this with your physician as your medication may be temporarily changed for the injection procedure.

5. Should I continue to take my medications before the procedure?

Take all of your usual medications for other health conditions. The ONLY exception would be blood thinners, such as Plavix®, Pletal®, Coumadin®, Lovenox® and similar medications that “thin” the blood or block your blood platelets. Please let us know if you are taking Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Aleve® or other anti-inflammatory medications. Supplements like Vitamin E or fish oil may not be allowed before some injections.

If you are taking a blood thinner, please inform our office and nurse at your first visit. With your physician’s approval, you will need to stop taking your blood thinner medication three to five days prior to your procedure.

6. How long will I be here during my procedure?

Typically from the time a patient arrives until the time a patient is checked out of the facility will be between one hour to one and a half hours. Appointments typically run on time, but occasionally emergencies and other complicated procedures can cause short delays.

7. What can I do after the procedure?

If you've had an epidural steroid injection, you should have a relaxing remainder of the day. You should limit your activities to your home. We do not recommend that you go back to work or do any major physical activity or air travel that day.

If you've had medial branch nerve blocks, facet joint injections or sacroiliac joint injections, you should do things that would normally aggravate your pain in order to test the effectiveness of the block.

For example, if you've had lumbar medial branch blocks for your lower back and you normally wouldn’t be able to touch your toes or mow the lawn, you should try to do those things over the six to eight hours after your medial branch nerve blocks. This “test” of your pain will let our physician know whether or not the procedure was successful.

8. Do I need to take off of work the day of my procedure?

You may need to take off of work after your procedure. We can provide a physician's note for the day of the procedure at your request. We are NOT able to provide a “work excuse” for any day other than the day of your procedure.

9. Can I get a flu shot and then come to get my injection?

We would prefer that patients wait at least seven days after receiving the flu shot to come in for most injection procedures. This avoids any problems with your immune system and immune response to the flu vaccine.

10. Does your office complete disability determination forms?


11. How do I become a new patient?

Patients are seen in our practice only by referral from another physician. Our practice does not accept self-referred patients.

12. I am late or cannot get to my appointment today. What are my options?

We want to treat all our patients with compassion and respect. Part of being respectful is punctuality. We know people have busy schedules and we want to get patients seen in a timely manner. This can be difficult if patients show up late. We ask that patients arrive 10 to 15 minutes before their scheduled appointment with all of their paperwork already completed.

There is very little wait time once you arrive at the Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine Practice. Late patients, regardless of the reason, may have their appointment rescheduled.

13. How do I contact the Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine Practice?

The Anesthesiology/Pain Medicine Practice is located at:
Lavin Pavilion 
259 East Erie Street, 14th Floor, Suite 1400 
Chicago, Illinois 60611

Phone: 312.695.2500
Fax: 312.695.7605

We see patients 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday. We do not have weekend or evening hours.

Our telephone hours are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

If you have a medical emergency, dial 911.

14. Do you pay for parking?

We validate parking so you pay a reduced rate.

15. What types of physicians are in the pain practice?

Our practice is staffed by board-certified anesthesiologists with additional board certification in pain management. We are also a training institution with an active clinical fellowship program. These fellows have already completed residency training and are completing an additional year of specialized training in pain medicine.

16. What happens at the first appointment?

At your first visit, you will meet with a fellow or resident who will review your pain problem and medical history with you and perform a physical exam. You will then meet with the attending physician to discuss your pain problem and possible treatment options.

17. Do you offer "radiofrequency ablation?"


18. Will my pain physician act as my primary care physician?


19. Do you detox?


20. What should I bring to my appointments?

When you come for your visit you should bring all the medications you are currently taking in their original bottles or an accurate, updated list. Bring all your medical records with you. Bring the films or CDs of any X-rays, MRIs or CT scans that you have had recently. You should have your valid picture ID, insurance information, and form of payment. We collect all co-pays at the time of the visit and accept credit cards or cash.

21. I have heard a lot on the news about meningitis from steroids. Am I at risk if I get an injection?

In 2012, many cases of meningitis were reported following steroid injections around the United States. The cause of these serious and sometimes fatal infections was contaminated steroids from a single compounding pharmacy, New England Custom Compounding (NECC), which is now closed. We have not used medications from this company and no patient in this practice was ever exposed to contaminated medications. We do not use medications from custom compounding companies.