FAQs on Lumbar Sympathetic Block in Atlanta

A lumbar sympathetic block is an injection of local anesthetic into the spinal region using x-ray guidance. The Georgia pain management doctor does this to block the sympathetic nerves that run from the lower back to the leg. These nerves are associated with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), post-herpetic neuralgia, and nerve injury.

Why is a lumbar sympathetic block done?

Lumbar sympathetic blocks have either diagnostic or therapeutic value. When a person has a lumbar sympathetic block, one of two things will happen:

  1. The pain does not go away, showing that the pain is not related to the sympathetic nerves.
  2. The pain goes away and stays away for a while, which means the block was of therapeutic value

How many lumbar sympathetic injection procedures will I need?

Depending on the condition, the procedure will need to be repeated to produce a long-lasting benefit. You will experience a longer benefit after the second injection, and the doctor may decide to use radiofrequency energy to destroy the nerves.

How do I prepare for the procedure?

The procedure will not be performed if you have a fever or active infection, or if your blood pressure is elevated. If you are on blood thinning medications (Coumadin, aspirin, and Plavix), the medicine must be stopped 5-7 days before the procedure.

After you check in at the medical facility, the staff will explain the procedure with you and have you sign a consent form. A nurse will place an IV catheter in your hand or arm. Please wear loose-fitting clothing, as you will change into a hospital gown for the procedure.

What happens during the lumbar sympathetic block?

In the procedure room, the medical staff will position you on your stomach and place monitors on you for vital sign monitoring. The doctor will cleanse the skin with an antiseptic solution and numb the skin and deeper tissues with a small needle.

Using x-ray guidance, the Atlanta pain doctor will advance a needle into the proper region and inject a dye to verify placement. Once the medication is instilled near the sympathetic nerves, the needle is removed and a bandage is applied.

What should I expect after the lumbar sympathetic block?

After the block, you will be taken to a recovery room to be monitored for 15-30 minutes. Once you are able to walk without weakness, you are discharged to home. Be sure to have someone with you to drive you home. You are not allowed to do physical activity or drive for the remainder of the day, and you must avoid swimming, soaking in a tub, or taking a shower this day.

What risks are associated with the lumbar sympathetic block?

While complications rarely occur, they include bleeding, infection, pain at the injection site, and allergic reaction to medications. As with any minimally invasive procedure, nerve damage and vessel injury could occur, but these risks are not likely.

Is the lumbar sympathetic block effective?

A number of clinical trials have examined the efficacy of sympathetic nerve blocks. In one Japanese study, patients had significant improvement of pain intensity as well as lowered opioid consumption.

Other studies report efficacy rates of 70-80%. In addition, lumbar sympathetic blocks were found to boost quality of life and lessen pain in a study of patients with severe abdominal and pelvic pain.