Coeliac Plexus Block

Information for Patients

A coeliac plexus block is a pain medicine procedure used for chronic abdominal pain. Patients who experience chronic abdominal pain related to cancer, chronic pancreatitis or persistent post operative pain may benefit from this procedure.  It is only used once conservative treatment (education, rehabilitation and medication) has not been successful.

This procedure involves the injection of local anaesthetic and steroid or alcohol (for cancer related pain) into the nerve group that supplies sensation to the abdomen.   The local anaesthetic and steroid is thought to act in a variety of ways to alter the pain signals and decrease inflammation. For patients requiring this procedure for cancer pain the alcohol destroys the nerve group so that sensation is reduced or absent.

There is excellent evidence from the medical literature that this procedure is very useful in relieving pain and discomfort in those suffering cancer related pain. Open trials have shown that patients with non cancer pain also benefit from this procedure.

This procedure is performed as a day patient. You will be prepared for theatre and placed in a theatre gown. Once you are on the operating  table  the anaethetist will place a canulae in your arm and sedative drugs will be administered.

The procedure is performed under sterile conditions. The area around your middle back is injected with local anaesthetic.   A needle is then advanced under Xray guidance to the abdominal nerve bundle (coeliac plexus).  Local anaesthetic and steroid or alcohol (for cancer related pain) is then injected. 

Before your procedure

  • Have nothing to eat or drink for 6 hours prior to the procedure
  • Arrange for an adult to escort you home by car
  • Please notify your doctor if you are taking any blood thinning medications

Following your procedure

  • You will usually be discharged after two – three hours
  • Do not drive or operate machinery
  • You will have minor bruising and pain around the injection site
  • Please make an appointment to see the doctor two to four weeks following the procedure

Complications and Side Effects

  • Pain and bruising around the injection site
  • No or partial response to the procedure
  • Low blood pressure (you may need some intravenous fluid in recovery if this happens)
  • Collapsed lung (pneumothorax)
  • Potential risk of damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots