Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Understanding Sympathetic Nerve Block 

The injection is done in a hospital or surgery center. You’ll be asked to fill out some forms, including a consent form. You may also be examined.

Getting ready for the procedure

  • At least a week before the procedure, tell your healthcare provider what medicines you take, including over-the-counter pain medicines and blood thinners. Ask whether you should stop taking any of them before treatment.

  • Tell your healthcare provider if you are pregnant or allergic to any medicines.

  • Stop eating or drinking 8 hours before you check in for your procedure.

  • If asked, bring X-rays, MRIs, or other tests with you on the day of the procedure.

During the procedure

You will lie on an exam table on your belly. Medicine may be given through an IV line to help you relax. Stay as still as you can. During your procedure:

  • The skin over the injection site is cleaned. A local pain medicine (anesthetic) is injected to numb the skin.

  • X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy) may be used to guide your healthcare provider. A contrast dye will be used to help get a better image and confirm the optimal location.

  • A local anesthetic is injected near the ganglion to numb the nerves. If the sympathetic nerves are causing your problem, the temperature in your hands or feet may rise quickly. The procedure may relieve your symptoms temporarily. It is important to take advantage of this time period to do the stretches and exercises prescribed by your healthcare provider.

  • You will not be completely asleep during the procedure.

After the procedure

You will stay in recovery for about an hour. Once you can walk, you can go home. Have an adult friend or relative drive you. A neck injection may cause the eyelid on that side of your face to droop a little. Your voice may also be hoarse. These things will go away in a few hours when the anesthetic wears off. Within a day or two, your hand or foot symptoms will most likely return. The injection site may also be swollen and sore for a few days. Ask your healthcare provider when you can return to your job.

Possible risks and complications

  • Spinal headache

  • Infection

  • Bleeding

  • Worsening pain

  • Paralysis

  • Nerve damage

  • Allergic reaction

  • Death

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have the following:

  • Fever over 101.0°F (38.3 °C)

  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

  • Prolonged hoarseness

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 10/1/2018
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library