Brachial Plexus Block
Overview & Procedure
A brachial plexus block is a minimally invasive procedure that is used to either diagnose the exact cause or relieve upper extremity pain. Upper extremity pain may be caused by a variety of conditions, including complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and other peripheral neuropathies.
This block may be used diagnostically to determine the exact cause and location of a patient’s pain. If the patient feels pain relief, the physician will know that they have determined the correct cause and location of pain. If not, the pain specialist will work with the patient to determine the next course of action.
If the pain management specialist has already confirmed the cause and source of a patient’s pain, a brachial plexus block can be used to relieve pain and help patients return to higher function and quality of life.
During the procedure, the spine and pain specialist will use a type of live x-ray called a fluoroscope to guide them to the correct location for the injection. The area of the neck that will be injected will be cleaned prior to the procedure. The physician will use the fluoroscope to identify exactly where to administer the injection. Once the location has been identified, the physician will inject the mixture of local anesthetic and long-lasting steroid.
If the true cause of the patients’ pain is the suspected location, the patient will likely experience some level of immediate pain relief due to the local anesthetic. Once that wears off, the longer-lasting steroid will take effect, and pain relief may last from days to months.
There are very few risks of side effects with brachial plexus blocks but may include bleeding, infection, and allergic reaction.
Some discomfort may be experienced at the site of the injection, and ice may be applied to relieve this. Patients are usually able to resume normal activities the following day.