FAQ’s on Lumbar Sympathetic Block

What is a lumbar block?

Lumbar Sympathetic Block

A lumbar sympathetic block is the injection of a local anesthetic into or around the nerves which are part of the sympathetic nervous system. These nerves are located on the sides of the spine, in the lower back.

The sympathetic nerves control basic functions like regulating the flow of blood and carrying pain information from the peripheral tissues back to the spinal cord.

What conditions are treatable with the lumbar sympathetic block procedure?

It is usually performed as a treatment for the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Sympathetic Maintained Pain, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy as well as Herpes Zoster involving the legs. It may also be used on patients with peripheral vascular disease or neuropathy. The lumbar sympathetic block is normally administered so as to block the sympathetic nerves that are on the same side as the injection, particularly the legs.

What can the patient expect when getting the lumbar sympathetic block treatment?

This procedure involves the insertion of a needle through the skin into the deeper tissues. The patient may therefore experience some pain. However, it is possible to numb the skin and the deeper tissues using a thin needle before inserting the block needle. The patient may also receive intravenous sedation, which makes the procedure more tolerable.

After the lumbar sympathetic block injection, one may feel the lower extremities getting warm. Temporary numbness or weakness in the legs may also be experienced.

How is the lumbar sympathetic block treatment performed?

Lumbar Sympathetic BlockThe procedure is performed when the patient is lying on the stomach. He/she is monitored using an EKG, an oxygen-monitoring device and a blood pressure cuff. Temperature sensing probes may be placed on the patient’s feet. The procedure is performed under sterile conditions. First, the skin on the back is cleaned using an antiseptic solution. It is then numbed with a local anesthetic.

An X-ray is used to guide the needle into the appropriate position along the spine. Once it is in place, a test dose of dye is used to confirm whether the injected medication will spread in the right area. After confirmation, the injection is administered gradually and it may take several minutes. The X-ray is used to evaluate the spread of the injected medication until a sufficient area is covered. Once this is done, the needle is then removed and a bandage is applied.

How Long Does the lumbar sympathetic block Treatment Last?

The actual lumbar sympathetic block injection may take 10 to 30 minutes to be completed. The response to these injections varies from patient to patient and one may need to go for repeat injections for continued relief.

What Risks or Side Effects are involved with lumbar sympathetic blocks?

Lumbar Sympathetic Block

The lumbar sympathetic block is generally safe. However, just like any other procedure,
there may be risks, side effects or complications. Soreness and temporary pain at the injection site are the most common side effects.

Some of the less common risks involve bleeding, epidural and spinal block and infections of the surrounding organs or blood vessels. Fortunately, serious complications and side effects are very rare.

How successful is the lumbar sympathetic block procedure in Relieving Pain?

The lumbar sympathetic block procedure is very effective in relieving pain. After a successful treatment the patient may realize that the pain is significantly reduced or even completely gone.

The Bottom Line on a lumbar sympathetic block

Lumbar sympathetic block are an effective pain management solution. It is however not advisable for patients with allergies to the administered medication, active infections, those on blood thinning medication or those with poorly controlled diabetes or heart diseases.