Pain following knee or hip surgery can slow recovery and introduce further complications. It can also be quite debilitating. In times past, opioid pain medications were used to manage postoperative pain. Today, we have another option in a procedure known as the fascia iliac block.
Fascia iliac block is an injection therapy not completely dissimilar from other types of blocks that pain specialists use. The goal is to utilize anesthesia to temporarily disable targeted nerves so they can no longer send pain signals to the brain. Though the procedure is comparatively new, it has proven effective for alleviating postoperative pain. It can also be used to relieve hip and knee pain caused by other conditions.
Fascia iliac block is most commonly performed using a needle. The doctor inserts the needle and guides it to the femoral nerve. Anesthesia is then injected. It bathes the nerve and stops it from sending pain signals to the brain. As effective as the needle procedure is, it may not be enough for patients requiring more long-term pain relief. In such a case, medication can be delivered via catheter.
A catheter is a soft tube that can be inserted under the skin and directed to the femoral nerve. Outside, it is connected to a pump that delivers medication at regular intervals. In a catheter procedure, doctors pursue analgesia (inflammation reduction) in addition to anesthesia.
The main benefit of the catheter procedure is that it provides continuous pain relief 24 hours a day. It may be the better option if postoperative pain lingers for longer than the patient was anticipating.
Fascia iliac block generally works quite well for most postoperative patients. Patients can expect minor discomfort during needle placement or catheter insertion. Pain relief will last as long as the effects of the anesthesia. Thus, pain relief from an injection procedure is more temporary while the relief afforded by the catheter procedure is continuous.
In cases where the procedure is used to treat pain caused by something other than surgery, fascia iliac block is a good alternative to invasive surgery. Doctors sometimes rely on the needle procedure to diagnose the source of a patient’s pain. In such a case, fascia iliac block becomes a diagnostic tool rather than a treatment option.
Patients should be prepared to follow physician instructions to the letter immediately after this procedure. It may be necessary to readjust position every now and again in order to not put too much pressure on the affected joint. In the days immediately following the procedure, patients may need help getting out of bed or moving around.
Regardless of how the procedure is utilized, patients can expect at least minor bleeding or bruising at the treatment site. Some swelling is also likely. Though rare, complications can occur. These include injection site infection, nerve damage, allergic reaction, and a failure to relieve pain.
Fascia iliac block is a very targeted treatment intended to alleviate a specific kind of pain. However, it may be appropriate even if you are not having hip or knee surgery. The only way to know is to consult with a pain specialist. We invite you to contact us to make an appointment. We would be happy to discuss your pain and how to best treat it.