Sympathetic Blocks

Sympathetic nerves are part of the sympathetic nervous system. They are located on either side of the spinal column. They are present in the cervical, thoracic and lumbar areas of the spine. They do not work in a sensory, motor or movement capacity. Normally, they help control the body’s organs, regulating basic functions such as blood flow, heart rate, sweating and play a major role in the fight or flight response. In certain conditions, the sympathetic nerves can carry pain information back from the peripheral tissues.

Syndromes that may produce pain, swelling, changes in color, sweating and other unusual changes may benefit from the use of sympathetic blocks.

This procedure consists of placement of an anesthetic as well as a corticosteroid solution on the sympathetic nerves or ganglions that rest on the anterior aspect of the spine. The purpose of this injection is to diagnose and treat sympathetic-mediated pain, which may be seen in disorders such as complex regional pain syndrome (RSD), shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia) and trauma, as well as other neurological conditions.

The procedure can be performed in the cervical (stellate ganglion block), thoracic or lumbar regions. All procedures are done under fluoroscopic guidance (X-ray-guided) to ensure proper placement of the medication and may be performed in an ambulatory surgical center, fluoroscopy suite or hospital setting.

Following the procedure, you may feel warmth in your extremities, and your pain and symptoms gone or diminished. If there is a positive response to the procedure further injections may be recommended.

Common Syndromes or Indications

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
  • Shingles (post herpetic neuralgia)
  • Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
  • Neuropathy
  • Peripheral Vascular Disease
  • Neurological symptoms due to trauma