The celiac plexus, sometimes referred to as the solar plexus, is a bundle of nerves in the abdomen. This group of nerves surrounds the main artery to the abdomen called the aorta. Conditions that affect the pancreas, intestines, spleen, gall bladder, liver, or kidneys may cause pain this abdominal region. Chronic pancreatitis and cancer are just a couple of the disorders that can lead to pain in this area. Relief may be possible through a minimally invasive procedure known as a celiac plexus block.
A celiac plexus block is an injection of pain medication directly to the nerve bundle. The specific medications used often damage the nerve endings in this nerve bundle in order to reduce the pain signals that are sent to the brain, thus providing a level of relief. This procedure is often used when other pain-control methods are ineffective, cause unwanted side effects, or do not provide the desired level of relief.
How It’s Performed
This injection is commonly done as an outpatient procedure and can often be done in about a half an hour, though this can vary widely between patients. You will be given an IV that will help to relax you through the course of the procedure. In most cases, you will lie on your stomach so x-rays can be taken. These x-rays can help to guide the doctor for proper placement of the injections. Your skin will be numbed on certain locations on your back, then a needle will be inserted on each side of your spine. Dye may be used to ensure proper placement. Then the medication will be injected. You may experience a warmth or tingling in your abdomen, and pain may be diminished almost immediately.
What to Expect
Each patient is different, and your nerves will work to repair themselves following a celiac plexus block. Pain relief can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years before the procedure needs to be repeated. For very severe pain, you may need multiple injections over time. Once your pain is under control, you should be able to return to your normal activities as recommended by your physician.
You may have pain or muscle spasms near the injection site. Allergic reaction may occur, though this is rare.
As a minimally invasive procedure, celiac plexus block has been used to control abdominal pain effectively. While side effects and complications are rare, they can occur. Patients should weigh the risks and benefits to determine if this is a good option.