The celiac plexus is a complex network of nerves that supplies organs in the abdomen. When these nerves are damaged, they can cause serious abdominal discomfort. Fortunately, there is an interventional pain therapy that can block the transmission of pain signals being sent to the brain from damaged celiac plexus nerves. Celiac plexus neurolysis is a minimally invasive injection procedure that mitigates severe abdominal pain from cancer or chronic pancreatitis. Patients who have not experienced relief from pain medications or other conservative measures may experience long-term pain relief from neurolysis. While complications from celiac plexus neurolysis are rare, risks for this procedure may include injury to major blood vessels, nerve roots, kidneys, or lungs.
During the procedure, the patient is positioned face down on the operating table while an Orthopedic and Wellness physician sanitizes and numbs the injection location. After the anesthetic takes effect, the physician uses an x-ray imagining device to insert the needle through the back and into the celiac plexus nerves. A contrast dye may be injected into the damaged nerves to ensure needle placement accuracy. Once the affected celiac plexus nerves have been identified, the physician will inject an anesthetic and medication mixture to disrupt the nerves. This injection will help stop the transmission of pain signals from the abdomen to the brain. After the medication has been injected, the needle will be removed and the skin will be bandaged. Some patients may experience pain relief immediately after the procedure.
Some patients are given a sedative before the injection to help minimize pain during the procedure. If this occurs, patients will be sent to a separate room to recover and have their vitals checked. Patients can return home shortly after the procedure, but they may need a friend or relative to drive them. Although rare, complications from celiac plexus neurolysis can happen, some of which include bleeding, diarrhea, infection, low blood pressure, and failure to relieve pain. Any signs of a fever, infection, or bleeding should be reported to an Orthopedic and Wellness physician right away. Patients may need to have repeated injections if they still feel pain, or if their pain returns.