A nerve root block is a treatment that involves injecting local anesthetic and steroid medication under X-ray guidance into the area where the nerve exits the spinal column. A nerve root block procedure can be diagnostic or therapeutic. The procedure may also help determine whether or not surgery could help alleviate the pain.
Benefits of a Nerve Root Block
A nerve root block injection can help:
Risks and Side Effects
There is a low risk of bleeding, nerve injury, infection or allergic reaction to the medication used. Temporary side effects may include weakness, numbness that follows the path of the nerve that was blocked, localized pain at the injection site and a spike in blood sugar levels for diabetics.
How to Prepare for Treatment
Individuals with diabetes should not take medication for the condition until the procedure is finished. Patients taking blood thinners such as Coumadin, Warfarin or Plavix will be required to stop taking them well before the procedure.
Patients allergic to X-ray dye or shellfish need to let their doctor know in advance.
What to Expect During Treatment?
The procedure will take place in the x-ray room while the patient is lying on their stomach. The patient will be given intravenous medication to help them relax and the injection site will be cleansed to help reduce the risk of infection. Next, the physician will use an x-ray to guide the insertion of the needle. The anesthetic and pain-relieving medication will be injected into the target area.
Patients may feel a stinging or burning sensation caused by the numbing medicine. However, this only lasts a few seconds.
The entire procedure typically takes less than 30 minutes and patients are allowed to go home the same day. They will be monitored in the recovery room for a short period of time to ensure they are not experiencing any severe side effects. Patients will be allowed to return home with their driver once the doctor authorizes discharge.
After the Procedure
The injection may offer immediate relief as a result of the local anesthetic. The steroid will offer pain relief in two to three days, peaking in about two weeks. Some patients will need multiple rounds of nerve blocks before they can experience long term pain relief.
After the procedure, patients may experience some local tenderness for a few days after the injection and should use an ice pack to help alleviate this.
Patients should not apply any heat to the injected area for one day after the procedure. This means no hot baths, showers or soaking in pools or hot tubs.
Patients are allowed to take their pain medication after the procedure but should keep track of the amount of pain relief they experience and how long the pain relief lasts.