Sympathetic Block

Why is this procedure done?

The procedure is used to treat and diagnose pain that comes as a result of dysfunction of the sympathetic nervous system . Some patients can develop a pain syndrome of the arms or legs following an injury or surgery. This is known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) or formerly reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).  This pain syndrome has specific symptoms that can help lead to the diagnosis of CRPS, and a sympathetic block can help confirm and treat this pain. 

How is a sympathetic block done?

A small needle is advanced with the help of a fluoroscopy ( x-ray ) machine. Brief x-rays are taken to help direct the needle to the correct location. A small amount of x-ray contrast will be used to confirm the appropriate needle position. Local anesthetic and steroid will then be administered slowly.

What are my risks? What are common complications?

Risks of this procedure are generally small, and most patients tolerate the procedure very well. All interventions include the risk of bleeding and infection. The entire procedure is performed using sterile technique; therefore, the risk of infection is very low. If you are taking blood thinners, our office will coordinate with your prescribing physician to limit the risk of bleeding. Some patients have some discomfort from the needle placement during the procedure. Our physicians use a local numbing agent to help your comfort during the procedure. You may feel dizzy or weak after the procedure.

What do I need to know before the procedure?

You will be required to have a driver for your procedure. If you are taking blood thinners, our office will coordinate an appropriate date for holding this medicine. You will stay for approximately 15 – 20 minutes after your procedure.

General discharge instructions

A follow-up appointment will be scheduled after your procedure. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your procedure, please do not hesitate to contact your physician’s office.

What should I expect while recovering?

Some injections may take 5 – 10 days before you have significant pain relief because the effect of the injected steroids is not immediate. For the first few days, there may be an increase in the pain until the steroids take effect. You may need several injections to produce long-term relief in this situation. This will be determined with your physician.  


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