What are the sympathetic nerves?
On the front of your spinal column are a group of nerves that control a series of body functions such as digestion, blood pressure, and heart rate. These nerves are known as the sympathetic nerves and following trauma or injury and even after it has healed, they can still transmit pain, generating a discomforting condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or commonly referred to as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).
What is a lumbar sympathetic block?
The most frequent symptoms are swelling and inflammation, changes in skin color, and a severe burning pain, and to find what’s causing a patient’s symptoms, Chicago pain doctors use a special test which in medical terms is known as a lumbar sympathetic nerve block. The procedure involves injecting an anesthetic fluid into your spine that will block the sympathetic nerves located in that area.
Following the injection, the patient is immediately evaluated and if the pain temporarily goes away, then it’s clear that symptoms are caused by these nerves and the doctor will advise you to proceed with a set of lumbar sympathetic blocks, usually one or two weeks apart.
What does the procedure entail?
The procedure itself is not very complicated and it begins with a mild dose of sedative to help the patient relax while lying on your stomach on the X-ray table. The target area will be sterilized with alcohol and then numbed.
Chicago pain management doctors use fluoroscopy to increase the accuracy of the needle insertion in the area close to the sympathetic nerves. Once the fluid is injected and it’s been confirmed as described above, that the sympathetic nerves are the source of your problem, you will feel the sensation of heat in your affected limb and also a temporary pain relief.
The special X-ray allows the pain doctor in Chicago to monitor the distribution of the medication. Once the procedure is complete, the needle is removed and a small bandage is placed over the injection site.
Are there any precautions I need to be aware of?
If you are considering this procedure, you are advised to avoid having any intervention done if there is an infection or you suffer from fever, cold, and flu or if you’re currently using blood thinners. If this is the case, please notify your doctor immediately as complications may arise.
In case you are good to go, please be aware that before the procedure you are not allowed to consume any fluids or solid food the night before, at least not after midnight. If you suffer from diabetes, do not take your medication until the procedure has been completed. Blood sugar should be checked at home, prior to arrival at the clinic. Patients taking blood thinners are to contact our staff before having the procedure done, in order to establish a suitable schedule for taking your medication.
What can I expect after?
What’s great about this procedure is that it can provide long term pain relief if the treatment is repeated one or two weeks apart. For better time management, the sympathetic nerve blocks can be scheduled the same day as your physical therapy sessions.
After completing the procedure, you will recover in a separate room for approximately 45 minutes. During this time you will have your signs monitored and they will check the temperature of your treated area.
You will be unable to drive for the rest of the day following the procedure and are therefore advised to arrange for a ride home. Other restrictions include: no baths, showers or heat sources on the injected area.