Peripheral Nerve Blocks
The peripheral nervous system is like a tree with multiple branches extending outward from the trunk. In this tree analogy, the spinal cord is the trunk and the peripheral nerves are the tapering branches that travel into arms, legs and all other body parts.
In certain chronic pain conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome and neuralgia peripheral nerves can become damaged or diseased, and blockade of these peripheral nerves can be used for diagnosis and therapy in the interventional pain clinic.
Types of Peripheral Nerve Blocks
Peripheral Nerve Block Procedure
Nerve blocks are performed with needles that are placed in the vicinity of the painful nerve with the help of ultrasound or x-ray (fluoroscopy) imaging. Medications such as local anesthetic-steroid mixtures are then injected into the area around the affected nerve for the purpose of anesthetizing the nerve and reducing inflammation. Sometimes when nerves are put to sleep (anesthetized) with local anesthetic, they wake up healthier and less hypersensitive. And if inflammation is playing a role in nerve pain, steroid can put out the fire of inflammation if deposited directly onto the problem nerve.
Pain doctors may sometime use peripheral nerve blocks to diagnosis the true source for pain. Nerve blocks of the occipital nerve may help determine if headache is coming from the brain or from a problem outside the skull. Similarly, groin nerve blocks may help determine if groin pain is caused by a superficial nerve injury from hernia surgery or from a visceral organ deep inside the abdominal cavity. If the pain is relieved when the nerve is anesthetized, it can be assumed that the pain is caused by the blocked nerve.
Peripheral nerve blocks are non-operative outpatient procedures that may provide relief lasting anywhere from a few weeks or months to years depending on the specific condition.