As the name suggests, the sympathetic nerves are a part of the sympathetic nervous system. The sympathetic nerve chain runs through the entire spine on both sides, so it is possible to have a sympathetic nerve block in the cervical or thoracic spine in addition to the lumbar spine.
A lumbar sympathetic block is generally used as a diagnostic tool. If pain subsides after receiving a lumbar sympathetic block, then the physicians can determine that a patient's back pain is most likely originating from a nerve in the sympathetic nerve chain.
However, it can be used as a form of pain treatment as well. In fact, it can be used to treat pain stemming from conditions such as shingles and other conditions affecting the lumbar spine.
What to Expect
During the procedure, patients can expect to be lying on their stomachs or their side. After the patient is relaxed, the tissues surrounding the sympathetic nerves are numbed via an anesthetic injection. Next, using a fluoroscope, the physician will guide the needle toward the sympathetic nerves. The physician might use a special dye that the fluoroscope can see to confirm that the injection is going into the right place. The dye is not harmful and is not visible on the outside of the skin. Finally, keeping the hollow needle in place, a mixture of an anesthetic and steroid solution is injected.
After the Procedure
Once the procedure is over, we may ask patients to stay in the office for a little while as the anesthesia wears off. Once patients return home, they made experience a few side effects, including numbness in their legs or weakness. Additionally, patients may feel a little tender around the injection site, but the side effects should not last more than a few hours. If the lumbar sympathetic block was used diagnostically, the patient may be asked to return in a few days to monitor the success of the nerve block. If the cause of pain was indeed the sympathetic nerves, our physicians can start treatment as soon as possible.