A celiac plexus block is an injection that is used to reduce painful symptoms in the abdominal region.
The celiac block is a bundle, or ganglion, of nerves that surrounds the main artery that goes into the abdomen, called the aorta. These nerves can carry pain signals to the brain from the organs that are located in the upper abdominal region. Generally located in the upper abdomen, the celiac plexus is also referred to at times as the solar plexus due to the way the nerve fibers radiate out from the nerve bundle.
When Is a Celiac Plexus Block Used?
Because the celiac plexus carries pain signals from the organs, such as the kidneys, spleen, gallbladder, and pancreas, a block is used to control severe pain in this region. It is indicated for use in patients with certain types of cancer that affect organs within the abdominal region. A celiac plexus block may also be ordered for a patient who has painful symptoms due to chronic pancreatitis.
How Is the Procedure Done?
A celiac plexus block is typically performed as an outpatient procedure. You will be given medication through an IV that is designed to help you relax. You will have to lie on your stomach throughout the procedure. Although it might seem odd, the injection is not given through the abdomen, but rather through the back. A local anesthetic will be used to numb the skin on your back. An anesthetic will be injected next to the spine on one side. Following this, another needle will be placed on the opposite side of your spine where the medication will be injected.
The placement of the needles will be guided through the use of x-rays, ultrasound, or CT scans. A dye might be inserted prior to the pain medication to ensure that the right region will be treated. Medications that are used in a celiac plexus block include steroids, clonidine, or epinephrine. If your physician desires to destroy these nerves, phenol or alcohol may be used instead. The procedure typically takes anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes.
The most common side effects that may occur as a result of a celiac plexus block include diarrhea and low blood pressure. There is always a risk of infection at the site of the injection, though this is less common.
While serious complications are rare, they may still occur. This can include an allergic reaction to the medication used in the celiac plexus block. You might also be at risk for a collapsed lung, nerve damage, or bleeding, including bloody urine. You may experience damage to major blood vessels or other organs, such as a kidney. There is also a chance that your pain may not be alleviated after just one celiac plexus injection. You may have to undergo the procedure on multiple occasions to get any relief. However, it is good to know that the large majority of patients do notice a great improvement in pain following the procedure.