The lumbar sympathetic block is a pain treatment procedure focused on relieving leg pain due to complex regional pain syndromes (CRPS.) Such conditions are usually due to injury of a nearby joint or limb. Oftentimes, a patient starts feeling chronic pain because of pain signals transmitted from pressed nerve roots, traveling from the affected area to the brain via the sympathetic nerve. With the right mixture, a pain doctor can “block” these signals from reaching the brain, bringing relief to the patient.
Patients who come to the pain clinic for a scheduled lumbar sympathetic block will be asked to lie on their side or stomach on a table. This desk is equipped with a special fluoroscopic x-ray and an IV line. A lumbar sympathetic block is carried out through injections, meaning a needle often has to puncture skin more than once during the procedure. To minimize discomfort, the doctor will apply a local anesthesia that numbs the skin down to the sympathetic nerves. It is rare for a patient to be completely “knocked out” during this treatment.
After applying the anesthesia, the physician slides a needle through the anesthetized track. This first injection contains a contrast solution that helps the doctor see the sensitive areas through the fluoroscopic x-ray. Once he confirms the area that needs treatment, the next needle injection will contain a mixture of saline, anesthetic, and anti-inflammatory medicine. This medicine surrounds the sympathetic nerves that are sending the pain signal, building a “wall” that prevents communication with the brain.
After treatment, a patient’s legs are likely to feel numb or weak for several hours. As the numbness subsides, so too should the pain the patient felt before the block. Depending on the severity of the pain, some patients may need several injections before the discomfort is completely removed. Such doses are administered once per week.
Lumbar sympathetic blocks are not the answer for every patient. This procedure is not recommended for patients who have an infection, or who take medication that thins the blood. There are many other treatments available for people who experience chronic pain in their legs. For an accurate pain assessment in New Jersey, contact the experts at Garden State Pain Center.