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Lumbar Sympathetic Nerve Block

What is a lumbar sympathetic nerve block?

The sympathetic nerves are a group of nerves found along the front side of the spinal column. They are part of the autonomic nervous system and control many bodily functions including sweating, heart rate, digestion, and blood pressure. Sometimes these nerves can continue to transmit pain following an injury even after the injury has healed. This can result in a condition known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Symptoms of CRPS include severe burning pain, swelling, and skin color changes.

A lumbar sympathetic nerve block is a special test to help your doctor find the cause of your symptoms. During the test, an anesthetic (numbing) medication is injected near your spine. This “blocks” the sympathetic nerves in that region. If these nerves are causing your symptoms, the injection may offer relief for a while immediately after the procedure. If effective, your doctor may recommend a series of these blocks 1-2 weeks apart which may help give you more long term pain relief.

What are the risks of the procedure?

Complications are rare but can include infection, bleeding, spinal or epidural block and injection into a blood vessel.

How do I prepare for my procedure?

No solid food or fluids after midnight prior to the procedure unless directed otherwise. You may take your medications with a small amount of water. Diabetics should not take their medication for diabetes until after the procedure is complete. Please check your blood sugar at home before arriving at the PMC. If you are taking any blood thinners such as Coumadin, Warfarin, Plavix, or any others, these medications must be discontinued well before the procedure. You will be directed by our staff as to when you should stop this medication. Please make your Pain Management doctor aware that you are taking a blood thinner, and contact your primary care physician or prescribing physician before stopping this medication.