A selective nerve root block is most commonly used for diagnostic purposes in identifying the source of nerve root pain. It can also be used for therapeutic relief of low back or leg pain as well. This procedure is sometimes used therapeutically to treat certain types of disc herniations. During a selective nerve root block, medication is delivered into the space around the spinal nerve roots via an injection. This injection typically consists of both a local anesthetic and a steroid medication.
Why is a Selective Nerve Root Block Performed?
When a nerve root is compressed and inflamed, this can cause pain to develop in the back and/or leg. Correctly diagnosing the source of pain is the first and most important step in determining the appropriate course of treatment for each patient. The spine is a highly complex structure made up of vertebra, disks, spinal cord and nerves. This intricacy can sometimes make identifying very specific pain generators a not so easy task. Diagnostic procedures like selective nerve root blocks allow your physician to pin point suspected pain sites for evaluation.
A selective nerve root block anesthetizes specific nerve roots, delivering a numbing agent and anti-inflammatory medication directly to the nerve. This process essentially “turns off” the nerve, temporarily impeding its ability to send pain signals. If the patient experiences relief from their symptoms after receiving a selective nerve root block, then the pain source has likely been established. Using this information, your doctor can develop a suitable course of treatment based on the findings.
How is a Selective Nerve Root Block Performed?
A selective nerve root block is an outpatient procedure that is performed under the guidance of live X-ray technology known as fluoroscopy. Before the procedure, you will be positioned on your stomach or side to give the physician easy access to the injection site. The surrounding skin at the injection site will first be cleansed and anesthetized.
Once the numbing agent has taken effect, your doctor will identify the specific nerve root using the live X-ray machine. When the nerve root is located, the physician will then introduce the needle through the skin into the area adjacent to the targeted nerve. At this time, the steroid medication and/or local anesthetic will be administered into the area, effectively bathing the nerve root.
Once the injection has been completed, you will be allowed to rest for a short period of time while the medication takes effect. After about 15 – 30 minutes, you will be evaluated and questioned regarding your pain symptoms. If the selective nerve root block resolves your pain, then the culpable nerve has been established and a more targeted treatment plan can be developed. This may include further steroid injections at the pain site for longer-term relief.
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