What is a lumbar sympathetic nerve block?

Lumbar sympathetic nerve blocks are used to treat pain, color changes, swelling, or sweating in the leg or legs caused by complex regional pain syndrome, shingles, or sympathetic nerve malfunction. An injection of local anesthetic like lidocaine into the sympathetic nerve on the same side of the spine as the affected leg calms this nerve and reduces the symptoms. Lidocaine is the same drug used by dentists to numb teeth and gums prior to filling a cavity.

Am I a candidate for lumbar sympathetic nerve block?

You are a candidate for a lumbar sympathetic nerve block if you have been diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome, shingles, or a sympathetic nerve malfunction that causes you to have pain, color changes, sweating, and/or swelling in your leg or legs. If you have problems with your blood clotting, an infection of your blood or the site of the injection, or are allergic to the anesthetic or contrast dye, you should not have this procedure. Be sure to tell your doctor about any allergies or medications you take – blood thinners such as heparin, Coumadin, and aspirin can cause serious problems with this procedure. You may be instructed to stop taking your blood thinner before this procedure. Never stop taking a blood thinner without discussing it with your provider first, though.

How long will the lumbar sympathetic nerve block procedure take?

The administration of a lumbar sympathetic nerve block is not a lengthy procedure; it generally takes less than a half hour for the injection itself. You may have an IV inserted to receive a mild sedative to keep you calm and comfortable during the procedure. The injection site is cleaned and numbed and a needle is inserted with the guidance of a continuous x-ray machine to find the proper spot. Contrast dye is injected to help your doctor visualize the nerve root and surrounding structures. Once the spot is confirmed, the lidocaine or other anesthetic medication is injected. Your provider will hold pressure on the spot for five to ten minutes after the needle is removed.

How long will it take to recover from a lumbar sympathetic nerve block?

Recovery is minimal with this procedure. You will need to stay in the office under observation for up to two hours. Additionally, you will need someone to drive you home, especially if you have had intravenous sedation. Advance your activity as tolerated, but plan to take it easy the day of the injection. You should be able to return to work the day after the injection.t is possible that you will experience relief immediately. However, it is also possible that you will experience some soreness at the injection site for up to two weeks. You will likely require multiple injections; some people need 10 or more. The relief experienced lasts longer and longer after each injection.


Lumbar sympathetic block. (n.d.). Ohio Health. Retrieved from http://www.medcentral.org/Main/LumbarSympatheticBlock.aspx