FAQ’s on Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block 

What is a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block?

Located behind the nasal cavity is a cluster of nerves, known as a ganglion, which provides sensation to the surrounding areas of the face. This is the sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) and is composed of three separate nerve types: Sympathetic, Parasympathetic, and Sensory. Each of these nerves provides a different service to the face and the head, but none of the three are involved in movement.

Complications with this ganglion can potentially result in a large amount of pain felt in the face or head, and may create headaches for the patient. A Sphenopalatine ganglion block works by numbing the nerve cluster to provide relief for the patient.

 What will a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block treat?

Nearly every painful condition of the head and face can have some degree of relief obtained through the use of a sphenopalatine ganglion block. Conditions directly affected by this block include the symptoms of TMJ, cluster and acute headaches, shingles, RSD, and pain in the head or neck resulting from cancer. Atypical facial pain without a known cause may also potentially be treatable through the use of this block.

 How is a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block performed?

Three of the most used methods for administering a sphenopalatine ganglion block include the lateral approach (injection through the cheek), the transnasal, and the transoral approaches. Of these, the transnasal is used most due to both the simplicity of the approach and the ease of reception by patients.

For the transnasal approach, patients will be asked to lie on their back with their head extended, typically into a cushioned addition to the table. An anesthetic gel will be administered to the nostril in preparation for the injection. Once numbed, an applicator device will be inserted into the nostril and placed to the nasopharnyx to numb it. The entire procedure should take no more than half an hour for the patient, and is largely painless.

 The Lateral Approach

For patients who opt to receive a sphenopalatine ganglion block via lateral injection, the procedure is altered significantly. First, the entirety of the cheek will receive a numbing anesthetic in preparation for the injection needle. Following this, fluoroscopic imaging (a technique using rapid X-rays to create a current picture of where the needle is) will be sued to guide the needle into the correct area of the face and to insure that the needle resides in the sphenopalatine ganglion prior to injection. Once properly inserted into the SPG, a numbing agent will be injected.

The purpose behind each approach is the same: to numb the ganglion and provide pain relief to the patient. Numbing the ganglion in this manner will cease the nervous activity in it, stopping the transmission of pain signals to the brain from the nerve bundle.

 How well does a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block work?

Extensive testing has been made into the effectiveness of a sphenopalatine ganglion block; with consensus made that as a whole they are effective in the treatment of facial conditions. For many patients, the block will provide relief for pain felt in the face and may also reduce both the frequency and the duration of headaches. Patients who obtain relief through this block may be able to repeat the procedure as often as needed to maintain their relief.

 What are the risks of a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block?

The risks of this block vary slightly based on the application method used. The only real risk present during a transnasal approach is that the numbing agent may drip into the mouth or throat. Patients who are receiving injection through the cheek may experience bleeding, pain, or swelling at the injection site.