Peripheral Nerve Blockade

What is the purpose of it?
Pheripheral nerve blockade (nerve block), is usually used as a diagnostic test to help determine the source of pain. The area surrounding the nerve is injected with local anesthetic, resulting in numbness of the area of the body which is served by that specific nerve.

How long does the injection take?
The injection usually takes 10-15 minutes to perform.

What is actually injected?
The injection consists of of local anesthetic (such as lidocaine or bupivacaine) and sometimes contains a steroid medication (such as methylprednisolone – Depo-medrol®).

Will the injection(s) hurt?
The procedure involves inserting a needle through skin and deeper tissues (like a “tetanus shot”). So, there is some discomfort involved. However, we numb the skin with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle prior to placing a larger needle. Most of the patients also receive intravenous sedative and analgesic medication, which makes the procedure easier to tolerate.

Will I be “put out” for this procedure?
No. This procedure is done under local anesthesia. Most of the patients also receive intravenous sedative and analgesic medication, which makes the procedure easier to tolerate. The amount of sedation given generally depends upon the patient tolerance.

How is the injection performed?
It is done with the patient lying in a position which allows access to the involved nerve. The patients are monitored with EKG, blood pressure cuff and blood oxygen-monitoring device. Sometimes an electrical stimulation device or ultrasound may be utilized to help identify the nerve. The skin is cleaned with antiseptic solution and then the injection is carried out. After the injection, you are placed on your back or on your side.

What should I expect after the injection?
Immediately after the injection, you may feel that your pain may be gone or reduced as the area becomes numb. This is due to the local anesthetic injected. This may last from few hours up to 2 days. If the involved nerve also is responsible for providing strength to muscles, you may notice temporary weakness of those muscles until the nerve fully regains function.

What should I do after the procedure?
You should have a ride home. We advise the patients to take it easy for a day or so after the procedure. If you develop any muscle weakness, you should be careful when using the affected portion of the body. You may be provided with a sling (for upper extremity nerve blocks) or advised to avoid weight-bearing (for lower extremity nerv blocks).

Can I go to work to work the next day?
Unless there are complications, you should be able to return to your work the next day.

How long does the effect of the medication last?
The local anesthetic may last for several hours to a few days, depending on the specific drug which is injected. If steroid (cortisone) is injected, it starts working in about 5 to 7 days and its effect can last for several days to a few months.

How many injections do I need to have?
This depends on the reason that the nerve block was performed, and is individualized. This should be discussed with your doctor.

Will the Peripheral Nerve Injection help me?
It is very difficult to predict if the injection will indeed help you or not. Keep in mind that the purpose of the nerve injection may be for diagnostic purposes, and may not, by itself, prove to be all that is necessary to treat your pain.

What are the risks and side effects?
Generally speaking, this procedure is safe. However, with any procedure there are risks, side effects, and possibility of complications. The most common side effects are pain – which is temporary, and numbness and/or weakness – which are to be expected.. The other risks involve, infection, bleeding, and worsening of symptoms. The other risks are related to the side effects of cortisone: These include weight gain, increase in blood sugar (mainly in diabetics), water retention, suppression of body’s own natural production of cortisone etc. Fortunately, the serious side effects and complications are uncommon.

Who should not have this injection?
If you are allergic to any of the medications to be injected, you should not undergo the procedure. If you are on a blood thinning medication (e.g. Coumadin®), you may be advised to discontinue this medication before the procedure. If you have an active infection, you may be advised not to have the injection.