FAQ’s on Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block

What is a Sphenopalatine ganglion block?

A Sphenopalatine ganglion block is a minimally invasive procedure for treating acute head and facial pain. There are actually three types of this procedure, transnasal, transoral, and lateral. This procedure can be used to treat episodic cluster headaches, pain due to conditions such as head, facial, and neck cancer, trigeminal neuralgia, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain, pain caused by herpes zoster, as well as other causes of chronic head and facial pain. The Sphenopalatine ganglion block procedure is also used for preoperative and postoperative anesthesia during oral and maxillofacial surgery.

What are expectations when a patient gets Sphenopalatine ganglion block?

When a patient receives a Sphenopalatine ganglion block treatment they can usually expect to experience immediate relief on some level. However, as with any medical procedure, the Sphenopalatine ganglion block may provide better results for some patients than for others due to the fact that the medications used will affect people differently and some conditions may be more severe than others.

How is the Sphenopalatine ganglion block performed?

In the transnasal method (the most common, least invasive, and most simple of the three methods), the procedure is as simple as having a cotton swab (Q-tip) soaked in a solution of 2% viscous lidocaine and left in place inside the sinus cavity for a period of time up to thirty minutes. The other methods of the procedure require injection of a mixture of medications (A novel revision to the classical transnasal topical sphenopalatineganglion block for the treatment of headache and facial pain. 2013).

For these methods the procedure is performed by first using a topical anesthetic to numb the injection site. The physician will then perform the injection with the aid of a fluoroscope, (a type of x-ray machine), in order to determine exact location of the injection. This procedure can take up to a half hour to perform. The procedure may cause minimal discomfort at first, but then when the medication is injected there will be almost immediate relief. Some patients may require intravenous sedation prior to the procedure.

How long does the Sphenopalatine ganglion block last?

The duration of the effects of the Sphenopalatine ganglion block will vary from patient to patient. Some patients may experience immediate relief that lasts weeks after the first procedure while others may require multiple procedures to experience the maximum benefits of the procedure. Relief is usually immediate, or shortly following the procedure and after a few procedures are performed can be felt for several weeks after the last procedure was performed.

What risk or side effects are there for Sphenopalatine ganglion block?

Risks and side effects of the Sphenopalatine ganglion block procedure are very low. These could include a bitter taste and numbness in the mouth and back of the throat from the medication used in the transnasal method, a slight nosebleed from the injection site in procedures where an injection was performed, dizziness or light headedness from the medications used in the procedure, infection or bruising at the injection site. In the worst case scenario during the first procedure the patient could experience an allergic reaction to the medications used.

How successful is a Sphenopalatine ganglion block for the relief of pain?

The Sphenopalatine ganglion block procedure is a very effective method of providing pain relief and most patients that have the procedure performed will experience some level of pain relief. However due to the nature of medication and that it affects different people differently, the level of relief of any one patient cannot be pre-determined. Speak to your pain management specialist to determine if you could benefit from a Sphenopalatine ganglion block procedure.