A splanchnic nerve block is a minimally invasive treatment for individuals suffering from chronic abdominal pain that does not require surgery. It is an injection of medication that helps relieve upper abdominal pain, which is associated with patients who have pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, and other conditions that affect the gallbladder, liver, kidneys, stomach, and small intestines.
The splanchnic nerves are located on both sides of your spine. Specifically, they originate in the thoracic vertebrate and extend down the spinal column on both sides into the celiac plexus in the abdomen. These nerve carry sensory information, like pain, to your brain from organs in your abdomen. Blocking these nerves can help you stop feeling abdominal pain. Therefore, the main purpose of the splanchnic nerve block is to reduce the nerves from transferring the pain signal to reduce or alleviate abdominal pain.
A splanchnic nerve block is not a surgical procedure and can be performed with local anesthesia. There are a variety of techniques that can be used to deliver the anesthesia to the splanchnic nerves that are causing pain. The most common technique begins with the patient lying on his/her abdomen. A contrast dye is injected to help ensure proper needle placement and medication distribution. Then, a local anesthetic will be administered using an imaging machine or x-ray machine to guide the thin needle directly into the thoracic vertebrae closed to the affected nerves.
Usually, the procedure takes about 45 minutes. The patient can normally go home the same day.
Risks and/or Side Effects
The risk from this procedure are very low. With any procedure, there are risks, side effects and the possibility of complications. The most common side effect is a temporary pain, bruising and soreness at the injection side. Some patients experience dizziness and diarrhea but these side effects will subside in a few hours. Serious complications including infection and bleeding are uncommon. Fortunately, serious side effects and complications are uncommon.
After the procedure the patient’s abdomen may feel numb, but will subside once the anesthetic wears off. It is important to get rest, take it easy and do not drive or do any rigorous activity for 24 hours.