Adam Sewell MD


A sympathetic nerve block is the injection of a local anesthetic into a sympathetic ganglion to diagnose and/or treat pain disorders involving the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is a collection of nerves that spread tall areas of the body but that originate in the spinal cord. They branch out, influencing many bodily functions, such as blood pressure, urination, defecation, and sexual arousal. 

A ganglion is a bundle of nerves that come together. The stellate ganglion (upper body) as well as the sympathetic chain (lower body) supply the entire body’s sympathetic nervous system. The blood supply to your hands, feet, or other areas may be affected and can produce pain or sensory changes when these nerves are irritated or injured. Headaches, neck pain, and facial pain can be a result of sympathetic nerve dysfunction.


A sympathetic nerve block involves injecting a local numbing anesthetic (lidocaine, bupivacaine) and a corticosteroid into the space where the sympathetic nerve ganglion are located. A local skin anesthetic will numb the area, and then a needle is inserted near the ganglion. X-ray guidance will ensure proper needle placement, and your doctor may offer you IV sedation. The procedure takes less than 20 minutes to perform.


Sympathetic nerve blockade is commonly used techniques for a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic purposes (Elias 2003). The block may offer complete pain relief, but if the pain does not go away, your physician may determine that your pain is not originating from the sympathetic nervous system and the block has had diagnostic value instead of therapeutic.

Regardless of the outcome, sympathetic nerve blockade is a minimally invasive treatment that has relieved pain for many people with chronic pain.  One of the most successful aspects of the block is its ability to immediately relieve pain in some patients.


Sympathetic ganglion blocks are considered an appropriate and safe non-surgical treatment for many patients who suffer from pain. Complications of the ganglion block include infection, bleeding pneumothorax (collapsed lung), nerve damage, and pharmacological complications related to the drugs utilized (Elias 2000). Some temporary symptoms may include, drooping of the eyelid and stuffy nose, but these usually resolve within a matter of hours.


Sympathetic nerve blocks are effective in relieving some chronic pain conditions, especially, where Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is concerned.

Pain that originates from the sympathetic nervous system, that is not easily treated by oral pain medications, may respond well to a sympathetic nerve block.

If you are suffering from chronic pain and are in need pain relief, call Arkansas Pain today to see what they can do for you.


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