The intercostal nerves are a bundle of nerves located along each rib and responsible for the sensation primarily to the thoracic and abdominal walls.
What is a Intercostal Nerve Block?
The Intercostal nerve block usually consists of a local analgesic and steroid medication. The injection is designed to reduce inflammation or swelling of the tissues around the nerves located between the ribs and in the chest wall.
It is a common diagnostic and therapeautic treatment to relieve pains in the chest wall caused by Herpes Zoster or the Shingles virus. It can also be used to treat the pain caused by rib fractures and chest wall trauma.
How is the Intercostal Nerve Block performed?
The number of nerves to be blocked is decided based on the distribution of a patient’s pain along the chest wall. The levels are determined and then visualized under fluoroscopy with confirmation of the site using contrast. The advent of ultrasound guidance during this procedure has also enabled providers to perform the block with significant accuracy.
Medication is then deposited to coat the intercostal nerve as it runs along the rib at that level. This procedure is offered with or without sedation (based on patient choice). In some cases you may benefit from a series of two or three injections to feel maximum pain relief.
In the case of postherpetic neuralgia, the best response to this procedure is achieved by seeking treatment early relative to the onset of pain. Usually chronic pain may require more than one injection to find relief.
What should I expect after the procedure?
Directly following the procedure you will be taken to our recovery room to rest for a short time to monitor for any side effects or complications which are rare. Serious side effects are uncommon. Most commonly, you should expect some temporary pain at the injection site. In most cases patients can return to work or their daily activities the day following the procedure.