FAQ’s on Celiac Plexus Blocks
The celiac plexus is a cluster of nerves in an area just about in the center of your torso. This cluster of nerves serves the organs and parts of the abdomen that provide pain signals to the brain in the case of injury or other damage to this part of your body or the organs.
What Conditions benefit from a Plexus Block?
This block is an injection of pain medications into the celiac plexus to block pain signals to your brain, especially in the case of persons with certain types of cancer especially cancer of the vital organs, such as pancreatic cancer. The celiac plexus block can also be used to treat Chronic Pancreatitis and other types of Chronic Abdominal Pain.
Here is a list of conditions that can benefit from a celiac plexus block:
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Upper Abdominal Cancers
- Any chronic abdominal pain
What can be expected when a patient receives a Celiac Plexus block?
When a patient receives a celiac plexus block they have a reasonable expectation of finding relief from pain associated with their condition.
Studies have shown that 75% of patients receive excellent pain relief from celiac plexus blocks for weeks to months and most are able to reduce the amount of opiate medications being taken. (Anesthesiology 2000)
How is the celiac plexus block performed?
The patient is placed face down on a procedure table and typically IV sedation is used along with numbing medicine through the skin and soft tissues.Vital signs will be monitored.
The area to be injected is cleansed with antiseptic solution and numbed with a topical anesthetic. A needle is inserted on one or both sides of the spine with the aid of a fluoroscope (a type of x-ray machine) to ensure proper placement of the needle. Usually it’s two sides to ensure the best chance for pain relief.
Contrast dye will be injected into the area to ensure the medications will go to the desired area and placement is satisfactory. After the contrast dye ensures proper placement of the medication a mixture of local anesthetic and corticosteroids are injected into the area (Celiac plexus block for treatment of pain associated with pancreatic cancer: a meta-analysis)..
How long do the benefits of the injections last?
The patient may experience nearly immediate relief from the local anesthetic, this is temporary and will wear off after several hours; the steroid medication may take a few days before it becomes effective but will provide longer lasting relief.
What risk or side effects are there?
Risks and side effects are minimal although possible: these include mild bruising and swelling at the injection site. Slight bleeding at the injection site (a band-aid will usually take care of this), there is a slight potential for infection but if the injection site is kept clean until healed this is very remote.
A small risk of damaging a nerve or blood vessel exists and there is a small risk of puncturing a lung.
How successful is the treatment for the relief of pain?
Most patients who receive the celiac plexus block report having significant relief from the procedure (3 out of 4 patients). Your results cannot be anticipated due to the fact that patients react differently to the medications used. Pain relief averages 4 months with the procedure (Okuyama et al).
In addition, most patients who have the procedure are able to reduce the amount of opiate medications necessary for pain relief. Considering that opiates often do not work exceptionally well for abdominal pain and can cause constipation, this is an exceptional outcome.
The Chicago pain management doctors at Premier Pain & Spine offer celiac plexus blocks at locations all over the Metro area. The pain doctors in Chicago are all Board Certified and Fellowship Trained, call today!