What is a splanchnic nerve block?

A splanchnic nerve block is an injection of medication that helps relieve upper abdominal pain, commonly due to cancer or chronic pancreatitis.

The splanchnic nerves are located on both sides of your spine. They carry pain information to your brain from organs in your abdomen. Blocking these nerves can help you stop feeling abdominal pain.

How is a splanchnic nerve block done?

First, you’ll be given an intravenous medication to relax you. Then, you’ll lie on your stomach on an x-ray table.

Your doctor will numb an area of your back with local anesthetic. Then, guided by an x-ray, he or she will insert a thin needle into the area of your splanchnic nerve and inject anesthetic.

Usually, the procedure takes about 45 minutes, and you can go home the same day.

What are the risks?

The risk of complication from a splanchnic nerve block is very low. However, there could be bruising or soreness at the injection site. Serious complications, including infection and bleeding, are uncommon.

Side effects of the injected medication may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea

These effects will subside in a few hours.

What happens after the procedure?

Your abdomen may feel numb or “different,” but this feeling will subside when the anesthetic wears off.

Do not drive or do any rigorous activity for 24 hours after your splanchnic nerve block. Take it easy. You can return to your normal activities the next day.

You can continue your regular diet and medications immediately.

Is a splanchnic nerve block right for you?

A splanchnic nerve block may be right for you if you have chronic abdominal pain — especially linked to abdominal cancers — which does not respond to other treatment.

Talk to your physician about it. To schedule an evaluation at Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Pain Management call 216.444.PAIN (7246) or 800.392.3353

Reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional.

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