The sympathetic nerves are a network of nerves extending the length of the front side of the spinal column. Part of the autonomic nervous system, the sympathetic nerves control involuntary functions of the body including sweating, heart rate, digestion and blood pressure.

These nerves can transmit pain following an injury – and, even after an injury has healed – resulting in a condition known as Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). Symptoms of CRPS include severe burning pain, swelling and skin color changes.

What It Is.

A sympathetic nerve block is a special test that is performed to determine if there is damage to the sympathetic nerve chain.  During the test, an anesthetic (numbing) medication is injected near the spine  ̶  “blocking” the sympathetic nerves in that region. If these nerves are causing the symptoms, the injection may offer temporary relief immediately following the procedure. If effective, a series of these blocks may be administered 1 to 2 weeks apart – providing more long-term pain relief.

What To Expect:

During the procedure, the patient may be given an IV line to receive fluids and a mild sedative to relax.  While lying face down on a fluoroscopy table, X-ray imaging is used to guide placement of the needle near the sympathetic nerves and the numbing medication is injected into the skin.  If the sympathetic nerves are causing the problem, the patient may experience temporary relief.  For treatment of long-term pain relief, a series of this sympathetic nerve blocks can be given 1 to 2 weeks apart.

Recover usually takes from 30-45 minutes. The patient must arrange to have another driver take them home.