What is lumbar sympathetic block?
A lumbar sympathetic block is an injection of local anesthetic into or around the sympathetic nerves. Sympathetic nerves are a part of the sympathetic nervous system and these are located on the either side of spine, in the lower back. Usually these nerves control basic functions like regulating blood flow. In certain conditions, these sympathetic nerves can carry pain information from the peripheral tissues back to the spinal cord.
It can be used to treat:
- Reflex sympathetic dystrophy
- Complex regional pain syndrome
- Herpes zoster infection (shingles) involving the legs
- Vascular insufficiency
- Peripheral neuropathy
How lumbar sympathetic block is done?
Usually, the procedure takes less than 30 minutes, and you can go home the same day. First, you’ll be given an intravenous medication to relax you. Then, you’ll lie on your stomach on an x-ray table. The doctor will numb an area of skin on your lower back with a local anesthetic. Then, guided by an x-ray, doctors will:
- Insert a needle into your back, along the outside of your spine
- Inject dye to confirm that medication will go to the correct spot
- Inject a steroid medication
What should patient feel or expect after the lumbar sympathetic block?
Patients may feel lower extremity getting warm immediately after the injection. In addition, he or she may notice that pain may be gone or quite less. Patients may also notice some temporary weakness or numbness in the leg, although this is actually not a desired effect of a lumbar sympathetic block.
What are the risks and side effects of a lumbar sympathetic block?
This procedure is very safe. However, with any procedure there are risks, side effects and possibility of complications. The most common side effect is temporary pain or soreness at the injection site. Uncommon risks involve bleeding, infection, spinal block, epidural block and injection into blood vessels and surrounding organs. Fortunately, the serious side effects and complications are uncommon.
Who should not have a lumbar sympathetic block?
If you are allergic to any of the medications to be injected, if you are on blood thinning medications, if you have an active infection going on, or if you have poorly controlled diabetes or heart disease, you should not have the injection or at least consider postponing it if postponing would improve your overall medical condition.