Nerve Root Block

What is a nerve root block and how is it performed?

A nerve block is performed to determine if a specific spinal nerve root is the source of pain, and to reduce inflammation around the nerve root—thus decreasing or relieving the pain.

Using a CT scan, the neuroradiologist locates a specific spinal nerve root. A needle is introduced through the skin into the area adjacent to the nerve root. Medication is then injected into the area, bathing the nerve root. The medication includes an anesthetic and steroid.

Before the Procedure:

Once scheduled for a nerve root block, you will be contacted by one of the spine nurses. You will be asked to provide information regarding your current problem, past medical history, and medications. She will provide you with detailed instructions on how to prepare for the upcoming procedure. You will be asked to hold any blood thinning medications such as Coumadin, Plavix, Aspirin, and any NSAIDS. Any insurance questions can be answered by your referring physician.

The Day of the Procedure:

Prior to arrival, we ask that you eat a light breakfast. Please hold any pain medications that morning but bring them with you—you can take them after the procedure. You must bring your most recent MRI with you. We do not dispense or provide prescriptions for medications. You will need someone to drive you home. Patients without a driver will be rescheduled for another day.

Following registration, the spine nurse will escort you to the spine assessment room, where you will be asked to change into a hospital gown. Vitals signs will be taken, a pain assessment note evaluating your pain symptoms will be written, and questions regarding the procedure will be reviewed. You will then be taken to the procedure room.

Once the procedure is completed you will be escorted back to the spine assessment room where you may get dressed. Discharge instructions will be provided by the nurse.

Following the injection, you may have temporary numbness or weakness of your extremities lasting up to 6 hours. Sometimes it may be difficult to walk due to a lack of sensation in your foot. As this subsides, some patients report increased discomfort. This can be related to irritation from the steroid and will resolve. You should begin to notice pain relief after 3-7 days. We cannot predict or guarantee how much pain relief you will receive. The expected success rate depends on your diagnosis.

How soon can I return to my normal activities after a nerve root block?

Upon discharge, you will be asked to rest for 24 hours and refrain from driving or operating machinery for 24 hours. We can provide a total of 3 injections within a 6 month time period. Injections must be spaced a minimum of 2 weeks apart and you must contact your doctor in between injections to receive a new prescription for each.

Is a nerve root block covered by insurance?

You should direct any insurance questions to your referring physician and/or insurance provider.