FAQs on Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block in Atlanta

The sphenopalatine ganglion is a bundle of nerves located at the base of the brain in the back of the throat and behind the nose. With a sphenopalatine ganglion block, small electrical currents are administered through a needle resulting in heating of the nerve mass to stop pain signals from reaching the brain.

What conditions are treated with the sphenopalatine ganglion block?

This outpatient procedure can help relief the pain associated with:

  • TMJ syndrome
  • Acute and cluster headaches
  • Cancer pain
  • Shingles pain
  • Atypical facial pain
  • Vasomotor rhinitis
  • Sluder’s neuralgia
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Who cannot have a sphenopalatine ganglion block?

There are certain situations that your doctor should be aware of before you undergo any medical procedures. These include:

  • Pregnancy – Because x-ray equipment is used, pregnant women are not candidates for this procedure.
  • Fever – If you are ill or have an infection, you cannot undergo the sphenopalatine ganglion block.
  • Allergies – If you have an allergy to contrast materials, iodine, betadine, anesthetics, or other surgical materials, be sure to notify the doctor of this.
  • Blood thinning medications – Any medications that thin the blood could interfere with the procedure, so make your doctor aware of your prescriptions and any OTC medicines you take.

What should I do to prepare for the sphenopalatine ganglion block?

There are no special preparations necessary because the procedure is carried out as an outpatient method. You can eat and take your normal medication before the sphenopalatine block, but discuss any blood thinning medications with your doctor. Be sure to bring someone with you to drive you home, because you are not permitted to drive for 24 hours.

What happens during the sphenopalatine ganglion block?

You will arrive at the medical facility and sign a consent form. In addition, a nurse will have you change into a surgical gown, position you on the treatment table on your back, and connect monitoring devices to your arm and body. The nurse will start an IV catheter in your hand for a sedative, should it be necessary. The surgical area is cleansed with an antiseptic, and the doctor uses an anesthetic to numb the skin and deeper tissues. With x-ray guidance, the doctor inserts the needles and injects some contrast material to ensure correct positioning. When electrical current is administered, you may feel a slight tingling sensation. The blocking medication is injected, and the needle is removed.

What are the risks and side effects of the sphenopalatine ganglion block?

As with any minimally invasive procedure, there are some rare risks associated with the block. A small blood vessel can be grazed by the needle, resulting in bleeding of the nose or cheek. In rare cases, infection or nerve damage occurs. Side effects include allergies to any of the medications used during the sphenopalatine ganglion block.

Does the sphenopalatine ganglion block work?

According to clinical research studies, the sphenopalatine ganglion block is a proven safe and effective procedure. In a recent trial, the use of radiofrequency ablation of the sphenopalatine ganglion worked well for patients with intractable chronic cluster headaches. The efficacy rate was reported as 67% in a 2006 clinical study, with patients reporting improved symptoms within 7 days of the procedure, with pain relief lasting for more than a month.