The celiac plexus nerve block is a procedure that is done to treat chronic conditions such as chronic pancreatitis, chronic abdominal pain that can be caused by cancer, as well as adhesions. The procedure involves an injection of local anesthetics into a group of nerves that surround the aorta known as the celiac plexus. While these nerves do maintain control over basic functions of the nerves, they also help relay pain signals from organ tissues in the abdomen and gut up to the spinal cord and the brain. As the name of the procedure suggests, the main objective is to block the relaying of the pain signal from the celiac plexus of nerves to the brain.
The procedure typically lasts anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes and necessitates the usage of local anesthetics. For the block to be prolonged in duration, other medications may be applied such as epinephrine, clonidine, or another form of steroid medication. As with any other procedure that involves the use of injection, some degree of pain may be experienced with the insertion of the needle. Local anesthetics are applied to the skin and the underlying tissues in an effort to reduce the feeling of pain. In some instances, patients may also be sedated via IV in order to make the procedure more tolerable for them. However, it should be noted that patients may not remember parts of or the whole procedure due to possible amnesia.
Patients undergoing the procedure will be directed to lay down on their stomachs with devices such as an EKG, blood pressure cuff, and oxygen-monitoring machines are utilized to aid in monitoring the patient’s condition. In addition to numbing the area of the injection, the skin will be sterilized using an antiseptic solution. With the assistance of an x-ray guiding machine, the needle(s) will be inserted into an area that is just outside of the spine. A dye-like material is injected in order to ascertain the medication will spread to the appropriate area. Once that is done, the injection will proceed over the course of a few minutes.
Following the procedure, patients may experience less pain and possible weakness and numbness of the abdomen or leg. It should be noted that this is not the intended result of the celiac plexus nerve block. Patients can return to work the following day and can expect some soreness in the back where the injection took place. The anesthetic will wear off after a few hours but the actual block may last longer in duration, possibly after a few more hours or even days. If there is a response to the first injection, patients may be recommended to undergo a further series of injections.