A celiac plexus block is a procedure that involves injecting medication to the celiac plexus to help relieve abdominal pain that may be caused by cancer or chronic pancreatitis. The celiac plexus is a bundle of nerves that surrounds the aorta, which is the main artery in the human body. The celiac plexus makes it possible to feel sensation in the liver, gallbladder, stomach, spleen, pancreas, kidneys and intestines.
A celiac plexus injection blocks nerves from delivering pain information to the brain and helps an individual stop feeling pain in their abdomen.
Risks of a Celiac Plexus Block Procedure
Risks of the procedure are very low, but may include:
- Bruising or soreness at the injection site
- Low blood pressure
- Bloody urine
- Pain during the procedure
Serious and rare complications such as:
- Collapsed lung
- Nerve damage
Benefits of a Celiac Block
A celiac block can help treat the following conditions:
- Recurrent abdominal pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Pancreatitis (acute pancreatitis and chronic pancreatitis)
Patients should speak to their physician to find out how a celiac block can help them manage pain and to see if they are a candidate for the procedure.
How to Prepare for the Procedure
Patients should not eat or drink after midnight the night before the procedure. Patients should not take long acting medication the morning of the procedure, but are allowed to take their short acting medication. The physician will ask the patient to rate ther pain before beginning the procedure.
What to Expect During Treatment
Before the procedure can begin, the patient is given intravenous medication to help them relax. The patient will then lie on their stomach on an x-ray table.
The physician will be guided by an x-ray as they insert a thin needle into the patient’s back and inject the anesthetic. A second needle will be inserted on the other side of the spine and a contrast dye will be used to confirm the medication has been delivered to the correct spot. The medication may include epinephrine, clonidine, alcohol, or phenol.
How Patients Will Feel After a Celiac Block
A patient’s abdomen may feel warm and they may experience less abdominal pain. In addition, their abdominal wall or leg may temporarily feel numb or weak as a result of the anesthetic. The nerve block may last several days or longer, depending on how many injections the patient has received.
Patients should avoid driving or engaging in rigorous activities for 24 hours after the procedure. Patients are allowed to resume their regular diet and take medications right after the procedure.
What is a diagnostic celiac plexus block? During a diagnostic celiac plexus block, the physician will only use local anesthetic in order to determine if a celiac plexus block will relieve at least 60 percent of the patient’s pain.
What is a neurolytic celiac plexus block? During a neurolytic celiac plexus block, the physician will use a concentrated alcohol to destroy the nerve fibers. The patient will not feel pain for a significant period of time after the procedure.