Celiac plexus block is an injection containing a numbing agent given to patients to help relieve abdominal pain related to cancer or chronic pancreatitis. The numbing agent is usually injected into the spinal area.
The celiac plexus is a group of nerves that surrounds the aorta while the aorta is the main artery that goes into your abdomen.
The celiac plexus nerves connect the pancreas, gall bladder, intestines, liver and stomach to the brain and spinal cord and they are responsible for transferring pain signals to the brain.
A patient with abdominal cancer or pancreatic tumors may often feel severe pain when the tumors press on the celiac plexus nerves, irritating or injuring them.
Celiac plexus block is used to block the celiac plexus nerves from transferring pain signals from the abdomen to the brain. It helps to reduce severe pain in the abdomen and reduce the need for oral pain medications.
How is a celiac plexus block performed?
During a celiac plexus block;
You’ll be given an intravenous medication to help you relax throughout the procedure but you will be awake.
You will lie on your stomach on an x-ray table.
Your doctor will numb the injection site with a local anesthetic so that you don’t feel pain.
Using x-ray guidance, your doctor will insert a thin needle into your back, next to your spine.
A contrast dye will be injected into the area so that your doctor can see the area more clearly to confirm that the needle is exactly at the right spot.
The numbing medicine will be injected into the area.
A second needle will be inserted on the other side of your spine and the numbing medicine will be injected.
Your doctor may also inject a pain medication such as epinephrine, clonidine or steroid to reduce inflammation and provide longer-lasting pain relief.
What happens after the procedure?
You will be monitored for a few minutes. Your abdomen may feel warm from the pain medicine injected. You may start experiencing less abdominal pain. Your abdominal wall or leg may feel numb or weak temporarily.
You can go back home but you’re not allowed to drive. You can book a cab or someone else can drive you home. You can continue your normal activities the next day. Avoid strenuous and rigorous activities for the next 24 hours following your treatment.
How long does celiac plexus block last?
The result of diagnostic celiac plexus block can last for 6-24 hours while the neurolytic celiac plexus block can last for a minimum of 2 months.
What is a diagnostic celiac plexus block?
The diagnostic celiac plexus block involves the use of only a numbing agent (local anesthetic). When the anesthetic is injected and the patient experience at least 60 percent pain relief, then a longer-lasting neurolytic celiac block will be performed. But, if the patient doesn’t experience any pain relief or experiences negative reactions, the treatment will be stopped.
What is a neurolytic celiac plexus block?
The neurolytic celiac plexus block is used to provide longer-lasting pain relief. It involves injecting concentrated alcohol with some numbing agent into the spine area. While the numbing agent provides immediate pain relief, the alcohol will destroy the nerve fibers so that they can’t transfer pain signals for a longer time. You will feel pain relief for a longer period of time.
When will I have some pain relief?
You will experience immediate pain when the anesthetic is injected. You might experience some discomfort after the alcohol is injected after the first day for about up to seven days. This is because the alcohol can sometimes irritate structures in your abdomen, causing discomfort. When this discomfort subsides, you will begin to experience pain relief that can last for a minimum of two months.
What if I did not experience any pain relief from the diagnostic celiac plexus block?
If you don’t experience any pain relief when the anesthetic is injected, it means you’re not an ideal candidate for the treatment. There will be no need to go on with the neurolytic celiac plexus block. Other treatment options that are best for you will be discussed.
Will I need to take pain medication after the procedure?
Even after the celiac block treatment, you might still need to continue taking some of your pain medications. You don’t need to suddenly stop taking your medications that were already prescribed by your doctor. Your doctor will inform you if you can stop taking your medications or not.