The splanchnic nerves communicate pain signals from the abdominal organs (stomach, small intestine, kidneys, gall bladder, liver, pancreas, spleen and adrenal gland) to the spinal cord where they continue on to the brain. Patients suffering from cancer-related abdominal pain, chronic pancreatitis or chronic abdominal pain (non-cancer) receive pain relief from a splanchnic nerve block.
The patient is instructed to lie on the stomach and local anesthesia is injected to numb the skin and make the procedure more comfortable for the patient. Neurolytic splanchnic nerve block gave effective relief to patients with refractory abdominal pain related to upper abdominal malignancies.
Radiofrequency is another option that is safe and effective. During this procedure, needles that conduct electric current are inserted, using fluoroscopy to find the correct position. Local anesthetic is injected, and then radiofrequency ablation of the nerves is administered to the splanchnic nerves. This procedure affects only a specific area, with no negative consequences to surrounding nerves and tissues. It also results in long-term pain relief.
Many patients are unable to obtain pain relief from oral opioid medications or cannot tolerate the pain killer’s side effects. The splanchnic nerve block is a minimally invasive, low-risk, outpatient procedure capable of relieving chronic pain resulting from cancer and pancreatitis.
After receiving a splanchnic nerve block, many patients with chronic, unmanageable abdominal pain related to cancer or inflammation report profound pain relief. This enables these patients to have an improved quality of life, leading a more physically active and independent lifestyle. A splanchnic nerve block may reduce the patient’s alliance on opioid medications, freeing them from unwanted side effects such as drowsiness, constipation, confusion, etc.