A nerve root block is an injection of local anesthetic and sometimes a steroid under the directed vision of an x-ray machine (C-Arm) into the areas where the nerve root exits the spinal column. A nerve root block (injection) follows the path of a single nerve to block pain emitted into an arm, leg or back.
A nerve root block may be used by your Doctor to diagnose (try to determine at which level in your spine the pain is coming from) and provide therapeutic relief at this level with medication.
One of three things may occur:
The pain does not go away. Which means the pain is not coming from the nerve at that level of the injection. This provides the Doctor with information about which levels are not causing the pain and help them locate the specific areas which are causing your pain.
- The pain goes away and stays away for a few hours but the original pain comes back and doesn’t get better. In this case the block was of diagnostic value. The pain is probably coming form the nerve at the level of the injection,but the steroid was not of benefit to you.
- The pain goes away after the block, but comes back later the same day. Then the pain subsides over the next several days. In this case the block was of therapeutic value and may have a long lasting effect on treating your pain.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF THE PROCEDURE?
There is always a risk of bleeding, infection, nerve injury or an allergic reaction to any of the medications used during the injection. These risks are present but the probability of occurrence is fairly low.
Risks and short term side effects may occur and should be reported to the physician. You should get some numbness that follows the path of the nerve that the physician blocked. You may also experience some weakness and increased pain for a few days after the injection, including localized pain at the injection site.
If you are a diabetic, your blood sugar may be elevated after the procedure for a short time. Continue to monitor your blood sugar as usual. Report any loss of control with the blood sugar levels to your physician immediately.
WILL THE INJECTION HURT?
The most uncomfortable part of the injection is the stinging and burning of the medication used to numb the skin. Every person’s response to the injection is individual. Most patients will receive an intravenous injection of a sedating medication to help them fall asleep during the injection process and may feel a sharp burning sensation in the arm where their IV needle has been placed. This sensation is temporary and will go away within two minutes.
HOW IS THE PROCEDURE ACTUALLY PERFORMED?
You will be positioned on the procedure table so that you are as comfortable as possible. It is normal to feel anxious at this time. Be assured the nurses will help you relax by explaining what will happen next. Your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing will be monitored at all times during the procedure. A small plastic oxygen cannula will be placed on your nose and the tubing will fit around your ears like glasses. This may smell like plastic and the oxygen may tickle your nostrils a little. The physician will then tell you that the medication will be injected into your IV and that it will burn. Gradually you will fall asleep. After you are comfortably asleep the physician will cleanse your injection site with an antiseptic. The x-ray machine will then be positioned over the location to be injected and the physician will take an x-ray of your body at the injection level. The procedure only takes a few minutes. At the end of the injection(s) you will gradually wake up and be asked to move yourself on to a stretcher to be taken back to a recovery room. Your family member or friend will be asked to join you when the nurse feels you are awake. You will be offered something to drink. It will be important for you to drink some fluids and go to the bathroom before you are discharged from the facility.
WHAT RESTRICTIONS WILL I HAVE ON THE DAY OF THE PROCEDURE?
You should not drive for the remainder of the day after your procedure. A responsible adult should accompany your to your home. This person should be available to you during the remainder of the day should you need assistance. The procedure will be cancelled if you do not have a responsible adult with you. This is the facility policy and it was written for your safety.