Nerve root blocks are performed to accomplish one of two things. They can be used to treat nerves that cause pain or to identify particular nerves that are causing pain.
The procedure lasts between 10 to 20 minutes, and patients can be awake or asleep for the entire process.
For the procedure, a patient will lie down, and a doctor will use an x-ray machine to obtain a live video feed of their spinal cord. The doctor will sterilize the area in which the injection will occur, and they will pinpoint the location of the nerve that is causing pain to the patient.
At this point, the doctor will inject contrast dye into the nerve. This will allow them to confirm the location of the nerve through a colored appearance on the x-ray machine. Once confirmed, the doctor will inject a medication that is made up of anti-inflammation and steroid formulas. The medication can change, and this will depend on what type of treatment the patient is seeking. It can either be a diagnostic test to determine the specific nerve that is causing pain, or it can be a therapeutic test to reduce discomfort that the nerve is causing.
After the injection of the medication into the dyed nerve, the needle is removed and a bandage is applied to the injection site. The patient may be asked to stay under observation for a small time. They will then continue with their daily activities and watch for pain levels for the next seven days.
What to Expect After a Nerve Root Block
Although every patient is different, pain levels should subside between three to seven days after the procedure. The medication can take a few days to fully activate in order for noticeable relief to occur. In addition, this pain relief can range from helping short-term or long-term. If no pain relief occurs, the doctor may inject a different nerve with medication or the same nerve again. In the event that the treatment only helps in the short-term, professionals may suggest a different procedure that can offer a solution with a permanent nature.
Although the procedure has few risks, possible side effects can include headaches, infection, bleeding, nerve damage, and allergic reactions. Patients should not undergo this procedure if they are on medication that causes blood thinning or have active infections. Additionally, medications that are currently taken should be disclosed to the doctor prior to the treatment to ensure complications are avoided.
Nerve root blocks are considered safe, and patients are usually able to go to work the next day. Since they can choose to be sedated during the procedure, discomfort can be at a minimum level while the dye and medication are administered to the nerve. The effects can range from being very effective to not very effective, so communication to a patient’s doctor is critical to treating pain effectively and without any complications.