FAQ’s on Celiac Plexus Block
A celiac plexus block is a procedure in which a patient receives an injection of a mixture of a local anesthetic and drugs like epinephrine, clonidine or a corticosteroid into the celiac plexus; alcohol or phenol also may be injected to destroy the nerves.
The celiac plexus is a cluster of nerves surrounding the abdominal aorta that control basic nerve function and carry pain signals to the brain from the abdominal area and organs of the body.
What is the goal when a patient gets these injections?
The goal of these injections is to block the nerve signal to the brain and in turn provide relief from pain centered in the abdominal region. This is often done to provide relief to patients suffering from chronic pancreatitis or other chronic abdominal pain, often associated with cancer of the abdomen or of organs within the abdomen, when narcotic pain medications alone do not provide sufficient relief from daily chronic pain.
Common causes of abdominal pain include complications within the kidneys, liver, gallbladder, intestines, and the stomach itself. The nerves of the Celiac Plexus support blood vessels in each of the above areas, and a block to this area can provide great relief to a patient suffering from pain.
How is the procedure performed?
The procedure typically takes about thirty minutes. It is performed with the patient lying flat, face down, and monitored with EKG, blood pressure cuff, and 02 monitor. An intravenous drip is used to administer a sedative to help the patient relax during the procedure. Occasionally the patient will be put under (unconscious) if they cannot tolerate the discomfort of the procedure.
The area to be injected is cleaned and a topical anesthetic may be applied. A dye is first injected into the area to ensure the proper location is being injected. When the location is confirmed the anesthetic is slowly injected into the area near the spine, this injection may take several minutes. An x-ray device is used to ensure proper placement of the needle.
How long do the injections last?
Relief felt from the injections vary from patient to patient, but typically relief can be provided for several days to several weeks. The relief duration will usually increase after multiple injections.
What are the risks or side effects?
As with any medical procedure there can be risks involved. Pain, bruising and soreness at the injection site are the most common side effects. More serious side effects that may occur include nerve damage, collapsed lung, and infection at the injection site is possible as are adverse reactions to the drugs used. Injury to blood vessels in the injection site resulting in bleeding can occur as well. The most severe risk, paralysis, is also the least occurring side effect.
What conditions are treatable with this?
Conditions most commonly treated by Celiac Plexus Block are chronic abdominal pain and pain associated with pancreatitis and cancer. Celiac Plexus Blocks are effective for any condition of the abdomen that is related to pain caused by one or more of the areas governed by this nerve cluster. This may include conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disorder, pancreatitis, certain cancers, and many other conditions of upper abdominal pain
How successful are they for the relief of pain?
Generally each person reacts differently to drugs and so each person will experience different levels of relief with the celiac plexus block procedure. However everyone will experience some level of relief from this procedure. Often the level of relief goes up with each treatment; and so full relief is usually not experienced with the first treatment, but rather after several treatments have been performed.