A neurolytic block is a form of nerve block that involves the use of alcohol to damage the nerves to achieve pain relief. It involves injecting alcohol into the nerves to damage the nerves to stop the transfer of pain signals to the brain.
A neurolytic block is used to achieve long-term pain relief of areas in the torso such as the chest, back, and abdomen.
Patients diagnosed with advanced stages of various types of cancer such as colon cancer, gallbladder cancer, ovarian cancer, and pancreatic cancer may experience significant pain relief from a neurolytic block.
Neurolytic block injections differ from nerve block injections. While nerve block numbs the nerves to provide temporary pain relief, neurolytic block damages the nerve to provide long-term pain relief.
Neurolytic block prevents the long-term use of opioids and strong pain medications that could cause severe side effects.
Preparations for a Neurolytic Block
Before undergoing a neurolytic block, you may be asked to discontinue the use of certain medications such as blood thinners, for a few days to reduce the risk of bleeding.
Avoid taking anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen or naproxen for 24 hours before your procedure.
Your doctor might have some specific instructions for you if you’re having a neurolytic block for a surgery. You may be asked not to eat or drink anything for 6-12 hours before your surgery.
Inform your doctor about any medications you’re currently taking or any allergies that you may have.
Arrange for someone that will take you home after the procedure because you won’t be allowed to drive after your procedure.
How a Neurolytic Block Procedure is done
A neurolytic block is administered in a similar way as a nerve block injection.
You will be asked to lie down on your stomach on an X-ray table. Your doctor will first clean the area where the needle will be inserted with an antiseptic solution. A topical anesthetic will also be used to numb the area so that you don’t feel pain.
Your doctor will then insert the needle with the use of fluoroscopy or ultrasound guidance to ensure that the needle is in the right position. Your doctor will then inject the medication containing alcohol or chemicals such as phenol to the target nerves to destroy the nerves.
When this is achieved, the nerves are unable to transfer pain signals to the brain, causing pain relief.
After Neurolytic Block Procedure
You may experience soreness in the injection site for a few days.
Neurolytic block injections are considered a long-term treatment and can provide pain relief for years. However, nerves may begin to repair themselves and regrow after several months or years. When the nerves grow back, the pain may return as the nerves begin to transfer pain signals again. It is also possible that the nerves won’t grow back.
Risks Associated with Neurolytic Blocks
Risks associated with neurolytic blocks may include:
- Bleeding at the injection site
- Bruising at the injection site
- Allergic reaction to the anesthetic used