Lumbar sympathetic block is a procedure that involves the use of local anesthetics that are applied to the sympathetic nerves, located in the lower back by the spine. Part of the sympathetic nervous system, they are responsible for maintaining blood flow and carrying pain signals between the spinal cord and the peripheral tissues.
This procedure is done with the specific intent of blocking the sympathetic nerves that branch out to the leg, on the side where the injection is performed. What this does is to help reduce the pain and any swelling that may have taken place while simultaneously improving mobility in the legs. This procedure is done to treat various other chronic conditions, such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), and Sympathetic Maintained Pain.
The procedure, on average, takes approximately 10-30 minutes to perform and involves the use of local anesthetics. On some occasions, other medications may be used in order to extend the duration of the lumbar sympathetic block, such as a steroid medication, clonidine, or epinephrine.
Patients can expect to experience some pain as the needle is inserted into the skin for the injection. Some anesthesia can be applied to help reduce the effects of the pain experienced. The procedure is performed with the patient lying face down on their stomach, as devices such as an EKG, blood pressure cuff, and oxygen-monitoring machines are utilized to monitor the patient’s condition status. An X-ray is also used to help make sure that the needle is properly inserted into the area that is outside of the spine. Following the insertion of the needle, a small dose of dye is applied to help ensure that the medication being used will reach the correct area. Once that is ascertained, the injection will take place for a few minutes and the procedure will be completed.
Following the procedure, patients can expect to feel some numbness/weakness in the leg, as well as the possibility of the pain diminishing. Patients are encouraged to arrange for transportation following the procedure and proceed with their regular daily activities the next day (i.e. returning to work).