What is a Celiac Plexus Block?
A celiac plexus block involves the injection of local anesthetics into the nerves of the sympathetic nervous system in both sides of the mid back that supply the abdomen. Because nerves cannot be seen under fluoroscopy (X-ray), special needles are positioned using bony landmarks, which indicate where the nerves should be. Local anesthetic is injected to “numb” the nerves, providing only temporary relief.
This is only a diagnostic test; therefore, only temporary pain relief may be obtained. Celiac plexus blocks may be helpful with acute pancreatitis and upper abdominal pain resulting from cancer.
Celiac plexus blocks are performed at WellStar Cobb hospital on an outpatient basis. Patients are required to check in 30 minutes prior to their scheduled appointment time. Once taken back to the preparation area, a small IV catheter will be placed in your hand or arm. This catheter may be used to administer light sedation for the procedure. When taken to the procedure room, you will be placed on your stomach with a pillow under your hips. Blood pressure and oxygen saturation monitors will be applied. The injection sites will be cleansed with an antiseptic solution and draped in a sterile manner. Using a small, thin needle, local anesthetic is injected to numb the skin and deep tissue, which may feel like a stinging and/or burning sensation. Assisted by fluoroscopy (X-ray), the physician is able to accurately place the needle and inject local anesthetic around the sympathetic nerves. You may experience a pressure sensation as the medication is injected. The procedure will take approximately 45-60 minutes to complete.
The local anesthetic used for the celiac plexus block will wear off in a few hours. However, the sympathetic block may last longer. You may experience “soreness” of the injection site for 1-3 days following your procedure. We advise patients to “take it easy” for the remainder of the day. You may perform activities as tolerated.
Once the procedure is over, you will be taken to a recovery area, where you will be monitored for 15-30 minutes and released to go home. You MUST have someone available to drive you home. Failure to have a driver may result in your procedure being rescheduled. You should be able to return to work the next day.
Celiac plexus blocks are commonly performed procedures. Because of the low risk and low incidence of any significant problems or side effects, this is felt to be a reasonable procedure to follow when other conservative therapies have failed to produce improvement. Possible side effects may include infection, bleeding, hematoma, pain at the injections site, headache and temporary increase in pain. You may feel lightheaded and/or unsteadiness, this is usually due to the sedation you were given during the procedure.