A celiac plexus block is performed for treatment of abdominal pain. The celiac plexus is a bundle of nerves located behind the stomach and at the front of the diaphragm. These nerves supply the pancreas, gallbladder, liver, stomach, spleen, kidneys, intestines, adrenal glands, and blood vessels. The block is used to treat intractable pain related to abdominal cancers and other disorders.
Before the procedure, be sure to discuss your medications with the doctor. Because of bleeding risks, you may have to stop taking blood-thinning agents (Plavix, Coumadin, aspirin) before the procedure. In addition, you will have a blood test to check to make sure your blood clots properly. The doctor/nurse will review complications with you prior to the procedure, so you should arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time. You must have someone to drive you home and should not eat or drink anything at least 6 hours before the procedure. After you sign the consent form, a nurse will start an IV catheter in your arm.
The doctor will use either general anesthesia (put to sleep), or you will be given a mild sedative. The celiac plexus block is usually performed via the posterior approach. The patient lies down on his/her abdomen, and the skin is injected with a numbing agent. Afterwards, a needle is inserted to the side of the affected vertebrae. To assure correct positioning, x-ray guidance is used. A local anesthetic is instilled onto the nerves, and to destroy nerves and for prolonged pain relief, a neurolytic agent (phenol or alcohol) is used. This procedure takes around 30 minutes.
The celiac plexus block helps relieve pain due to certain types of cancer and other disorders. Research studies show that nerve blocks reduce pain medication and improve pain control. In addition, celiac plexus blocks are a minimally invasive treatment technique used to relieve severe pain for numerous health problems. Pain relief allows the patient to resume his or her normal activities.
The celiac plexus block is considered a safe and appropriate non-surgical treatment for someone with severe abdominal pain. The risks for this procedure include misplaced needle, infection, bleeding, collapsed lung, puncture of vessels, nerve damage, nerve paralysis, and puncture of organs.
Once the procedure is over, a nurse will monitor you for 15-30 minutes. You will feel sore at the injection site for a few days, and dizziness is quite common during the recovery period. Many patients report feeling warm and full in the abdomen, feeling queasy and like you may vomit, as well as having loose or watery bowel movements.
The celiac plexus block is effective for treating pain associated with the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, omentum, mesentery, and alimentary tract, which extends from the stomach to the large colon. This block is capable of relieving pain for many patients for extended periods of time. The success rate for pain alleviation is 72-80%, according to two major studies.