Celiac plexus and splanchnic nerve blocks can be used to treat abdominal pain caused by irritation, the compression or entrapment of nerve bundles located in various abdominal organs, or chronic inflammation from medical conditions such as pancreatic cancer or Crohn’s disease.
The celiac plexus and splanchnic nerves are dense clusters of nerve cells located behind the stomach, just under the diaphragm. The celiac plexus surrounds the aorta which is the main artery in your abdomen. The splanchnic nerves are located on both sides of your spine. Nerve signals to the majority of abdominal organs flow through these nerves.
The celiac plexus and splanchnic nerve blocks treat abdominal pain that’s caused by:
Compression or entrapment of nerve bundles of abdominal organs
Chronic inflammation from conditions such as pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease, pancreatic cancer
These nerve blocks can help diagnose and reduce abdominal pain by blocking pain signals from the organs in the abdomen from reaching the brain. This outpatient procedure can help reduce your pain without a long recovery or rehabilitation, such as physical therapy.
Before the procedure, your doctor will discuss your medication schedule with you, as you may be asked to stop taking blood thinners or immunosuppressant medication to reduce your risk of injections or complications.
During the procedure, you’ll be asked to lie on your stomach, and the medical professional administering the nerve block will inject a local anesthetic to numb your skin. Using x-ray guidance, they will guide the needle to the targeted vertebral body and inject a contrast dye. This allows the medical professional to confirm they’re injecting the medication into the right place. Then, they will inject the medication into the nerve plexus before removing the needles and applying a bandage to the injection site.
This procedure takes less than 30 minutes, and you’ll be able to go home the same day.
Following your celiac plexus or splanchnic block, you should rest for 24 hours, but you’ll need someone else to drive you home from your procedure. Your doctor will direct you as to when you can return to normal activities and recreation and begin your normal medication schedule.
You may experience some bruising or soreness at the injection site following the procedure, but this will dissipate over 2-3 days. You may feel numbness or weakness in your abdominal wall or legs which will dissipate once the anesthetic wears off.
The length of pain relief provided by these nerve blocks varies by person. Some feel short-term pain relief while others feel long-term relief. Some will need a series of injections to continue experiencing the benefits of these blocks.
With every procedure, there is always a risk for complications, but your doctor has determined the benefits of this nerve block outweigh the potential risk. Serious complications or side effects are rare but may include:
Bleeding or infection at the injection site
The medication is injected into your blood vessels and surrounding organs
Potential injury to kidneys or urethra
Low blood pressure
If you have further questions or concerns about the risks of this procedure, talk to your doctor.