A cervical nerve block is a type nerve block treatment targeted towards the neck, shoulder, and upper back region. The phrase cervical refers to the uppermost portion of the spine. It consists of the vertebrae between the shoulders up to the base of the skull. These vertebrae act as shock absorbing cushions for the head, neck, and back. The neck vertebrae are sometimes referred to as zygoaphophyseal or apophyseal joints.
Cartilage in this area can become damaged or wear thin after some time and require treatment. The joint areas between the vertebrae can become enlarged or spurs of the bone might grow on or near the joint. This can cause pain, arthritis, and swelling in the joints. Nerves from the spinal cord branch out through facet joints into the body to control movement and relay sensory signals. If they become damaged the result is pain, dysfunction or both.
Cervical Nerve Block for Pain Relief
When a patient is suffering from pain in the cervical region of the spine, it is important for their doctor to find the cause of pain. By understanding the cause the doctor is able to find the most suitable form of treatment for the patient. In some cases the ideal treatment is a cervical nerve block. A cervical nerve block involves the injection of some kind of local anesthetic for short-term treatment of chronic neck pain. A doctor might also add other medications for added benefit, such as epinephrine (adrenaline),
clonidine, a steroid, or opioids. These added medications can also have other benefits in the treatment.
Cervical Nerve Block Preparation
Before undergoing cervical nerve block treatment, the patient will be asked to avoid using aspirin. If aspirin is being used for treating a heart or other circulatory condition, the patient will need approval from their regular physician. The patient would also need approval from their regular physician to avoid using Plavix. It is also important for patient to avoid any anti-inflammatory medication on the day of the procedure.
Patients will be asked not to eat for 6 hours and not drink for 3 hours before the cervical nerve block procedure. The doctor administering the cervical nerve block should have records of previous CT and MRI scans for information purposes. If they do not, the patient should be sure to bring these along with them before the cervical nerve block procedure. The doctor will also need to be informed of any allergies to x-ray dyes beforehand.
Cervical Nerve Block Procedure
Cervical nerve block treatment is performed with help from an x-ray machine. The purpose of this is to allow the doctor to administer the cervical nerve block with high precision since the cervical area of the spine is a delicate and sensitive area. The patient will be dressed in a hospital gown and asked to lie down on the x-ray table.
Next, the doctor will administer medication to help the patient relax, if necessary. The medication will still allow the patient to remain relaxed and conscious during the cervical nerve block procedure. The physician and their assistants will monitor the patient’s blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart rate. A pillow is placed under the patient’s neck to position the neck for the procedure. Then, the neck area is cleaned and covered with a sterilized drape.
With the help of the x-ray machine, the doctor will guide a needle through the front of the neck to inject contrast dye. X-rays of the patient are taken, and the numbing medications of the cervical nerve block are injected. It is important for the patient to lie very still and avoid talking, swallowing, and coughing during the cervical nerve block procedure. The cervical nerve block procedure will take about 30 to complete. Afterward, it is common for patients to experience after effects from the cervical nerve block.
Some after effects from cervical nerve block:
• Hoarse voice
• Drooping face from anesthesia
• Drooping eyelid from anesthesia
• Dilated pupils
• Watery and red eyes
“Cervical Block / Radiofrequency Ablation.” Cedars-Sinai. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug 2013.
“Cervical Sympathetic Nerve Block (Stellate Ganglion Block).” UW Health. N.p., 28 Dec 2011. Web. 22
Aug 2013. http://www.uwhealth.org/healthfacts/B_EXTRANET_HEALTH_INFORMATION-FlexMemberShow_Public_HFFY_1105110028072.html.