Lumbar Sympathetic Block

Information for Patients

A lumbar sympathetic block is a procedure used to manage painful conditions of the legs, it can also be used to improve blood flow in the legs. It is only used once conservative treatment (education, rehabilitation and medication) has not been successful.

The procedure involves an injection of local anaesthetic and steroid into a group of nerves in the spine. This group of nerve cells is responsible for blood flow, sweating and pain in the lower limbs and pelvis.  It is thought that the local anaesthetic and steroid alters the transmission of painful nerve messages, decreasing pain. If this helps a more permanent procedure may be performed (usually in those patients with severe lower limb vessel disease) by injected alcohol or phenol into this nerve group.

It is difficult to predict the length of time the procedure will gain pain relief in any one patient. Most trials using this technique are show varying period of pain relief. The procedure is to be used in conjunction with rehabilitation. During the time the injection works exercise and other techniques are used to improve and consolidate any physical gains.

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 anaesthetist will place canulae in your arm and sedative drugs will be administered.  

The procedure is performed under sterile conditions.  A needle will be advanced under image guidance (x- ray) and once the ganglion is reached local anaesthetic and steroid is injected.

Lumbar Spine

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 me 2 – 4 weeks after 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)
  • Potential risk of damage to the spinal cord and nerve roots
  • Bleeding
  • Infection