A lumbar sympathetic block is an injection of local anesthetic into the back using X-ray guidance. With this procedure, we are blocking the sympathetic nerves to your leg. These nerves typically are not responsible for sensation, but they can be "turned on" in certain pain syndromes.
This procedure is typically ordered by your doctor for pain located in the buttocks and/or legs that is caused by sympathetically maintained pain, or complex regional pain syndrome, formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). It may also be ordered for nerve injury or post-herpetic neuralgia (herpes zoster, shingles). Lumbar sympathetic blocks are also used with circulation problems (e.g., vascular insufficiency) to see if blood flow can be improved.
Lumbar sympathetic blocks may have therapeutic or diagnostic value. One of two things will happen:
This procedure will most likely have to be repeated to produce a long-lasting benefit. The spacing of injections will be based on how long the pain relief lasts between injections. Typically, you will experience a longer benefit following each subsequent injection. We also may decide to "destroy" the sympathetic ganglion using radiofrequency energy if you obtained excellent, but temporary, relief.