The sympathetic nervous system is a part of the autonomic nervous system that controls the body’s involuntary activities. A sympathetic nerve block can be used to diagnose or treat pain involving the nerves of the sympathetic nervous system. It can also help provide control over involuntary body functions. Depending on the location of your pain, your physician will decide to perform one of the following procedures:
- Stellate Ganglion Injection (targets pain in the face and upper body)
- Lumbar Sympathetic Injection (targets pain in the lower body)
- Hypogastric Plexus Block (targets chronic stomach pain)
- Ganglion Impar Block (targets visceral, pelvic, genital, perianal and anal pain)
Who can benefit
Sympathetic nerve blocks can provide pain relief to patients suffering from blood vessel spasms, some types of chronic stomach pain, Raynaud’s syndrome, excessive sweating and complex regional pain syndrome.
What to expect
Prior to this procedure, you will be asked to fast for about 6 hours. Our pain specialist will perform this procedure with you under appropriate sedation if necessary. Our medical team may start an intravenous line and monitor your vital signs for the duration of the procedure. Once you are sedated the doctor will insert a thin needle directly into the nerve ganglion guided by the fluoroscopy machine (a type of x-ray). A dye may also be injected to further ensure that the needle is at the correct spot. Once the doctor is sure that the needle is correctly placed, the medicine will be injected.
After the procedure
Once the procedure is completed, you will be monitored for up to 30 minutes. When you are ready to leave, our staff will provide you with discharge instructions.
A sympathetic nerve block is a relatively safe procedure. You can usually go home afterward and return to your normal activities after a day of rest. If you had IV sedation, you’ll probably need to have someone to drive you home.
Side effects after a sympathetic block may include temporary soreness, a feeling of warmth, or some weakness. If you’ve received a nerve block in the stellate ganglion, you may experience some temporary voice changes, eyelid droop, or difficulty swallowing. Until swallowing is back to normal, avoid large bites of food and sip liquids carefully.
Physical therapy, talk therapy, and pain medicine may all be part of your treatment along with sympathetic blocks. In most cases, you will be given a series of blocks to get the best possible response. The level of pain relief a patient observes varies from case to case with some patients experiencing several weeks or months of pain relief. The effect of the medication will lessen with time, and you may consider returning for a subsequent dose for continued pain relief.