When cancer or chronic pancreatitis leads to pain in the abdomen, we can use a procedure known as celiac plexus block to relieve that pain. The procedure focuses on a group of nerves that surround the aorta and extend outward from your spine. Those nerves are known as the celiac plexus.
Unfortunately, both pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer create pain by sending signals through the celiac plexus to the brain. A celiac plexus block relieves pain by interrupting those signals. Some patients are fine after a single procedure. Others require repeat procedures to keep abdominal pain in check.
Blocking pain signals is the key to making the celiac plexus block procedure work. In order to affect a proper procedure, a doctor may recommend the patient be given a medication to induce relaxation. The patient is then asked to lie on a treatment table, face down.
Next, the area of the injection site is treated with a local anesthetic. Then a needle is inserted into the site and guided toward the celiac plexus. To ensure proper injection location, doctors often use either a CT scan or a fluoroscope to follow the needle. A dye may be injected as well, making it easier for the doctor to choose the perfect location for pain medication.
Once the right location is found, anesthetic is injected. In some cases, doctors recommend an additional medication that actually destroys the nerves. Should you elect to have the procedure done, your doctor will discuss the best option for you.
From start to finish, a celiac plexus block takes about 30 minutes. You may need additional time for recovery. Nearly all patients return home the same day. As for returning to normal activity, that varies from one patient to the next. Most patients do experience at least some pain and discomfort at the injection site. That is normal for therapies involving needles.
Pain relief will vary from patient to patient as well. On the low side, a single celiac plexus block offers pain relief for several weeks. On the high side, some patients report pain relief that can last for months or years. There is no way to know for sure how your body will respond. Just know that most patients need a minimum of two injections.
Patients often report feeling numbness or weakness in the abdomen or legs immediately following the procedure. This is a normal side effect of local anesthetic. The numbness and weakness will fade as the anesthetic wears off.
As for side effects, they are usually minor and limited to bruising and soreness at the injection site. Some people also experience diarrhea and a temporary drop in blood pressure. Though rare, serious side effects are possible. These include infection, bleeding, lung collapse and nerve damage.
Celiac plexus block is a tool we can use to relieve the pain caused by cancer or chronic pancreatitis. If you are experiencing abdominal pain, please get in touch with our office. Lone Star Pain Medicine may be able to help you find lasting relief.