A lumbar sympathetic block is an injection of local anesthetic into or around the sympathetic nerves. These sympathetic nerves are a part of the sympathetic nervous system. The nerves are located on the either side of spine, in the lower back. Normally these nerves control basic functions like regulating blood flow. In certain conditions, these sympathetic nerves can carry pain information from the peripheral tissues back to the spinal cord.
What is the purpose of a lumbar sympathetic block?
A lumbar sympathetic block is performed to block the sympathetic nerves that go to the leg on the same side as the injection. This may in turn reduce pain, swelling, color, sweating and other unusual changes in the lower extremity and may improve mobility. It is done as a part of the treatment of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Sympathetic Maintained Pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Herpes Zoster (shingles) involving the legs. Certain patients with neuropathy or peripheral vascular disease may also benefit from lumbar sympathetic blocks.
How long does the lumbar sympathetic block take?
The actual injection takes from ten to thirty minutes.
What is actually injected?
The injection consists of a local anesthetic. On occasion, epinephrine, clonidine or a steroid medication may be added to prolong the effects of the lumbar sympathetic block.
Will the lumbar sympathetic block hurt?
The procedure involves inserting a needle through skin and deeper tissues. So, there is some pain involved. However, we may numb the skin and deeper tissues with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle before inserting the actual block needle. Most of the patients also receive intravenous sedation that makes the procedure easier to tolerate.