This information describes the celiac plexus block procedure.

The celiac (solar) plexus is a group of nerves in the abdomen. It sends pain messages to the area of the brain where pain is detected. These pain messages are sent from the:

  • Pancreas
  • Liver
  • Kidneys
  • Gall bladder
  • Spleen
  • Bowels (intestines)

A celiac plexus block stops these nerves from sending pain messages.

Purpose of a Celiac Plexus Block

A celiac plexus block treats pain in the upper abdomen. It is usually for patients:

  • With side effects from common pain medications
  • Who do not get enough pain relief with common pain medication(s)

Before Your Procedure

  • Tell you doctor if you are taking medications:
  • You may have to stop taking some of these medications before your procedure. If you must stop taking any medications, ask your doctor when you should start taking them again.
  • You will have a blood test a few days before your procedure to check the cells that help your blood clot (platelets).
  • Call your nurse if you have a temperature of 100.5° F (38° C) or higher the day before your procedure.
  • Bring your medication for breakthrough pain.
  • Make transportation arrangements; you must have a responsible adult take you home after your procedure.
  • Arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled time.
  • Your doctor or nurse will review possible complications with you before your procedure. Rare problems include:
    • Injury to major blood vessels,  nerve roots, or your kidneys
    • Partial collapse of a lung
    • Injection of the nerve block drug into a blood vessel
    • Weakness of your legs
    • Bowel or bladder problems
    • Allergic reactions to medications or dye used for the procedure

Do not eat or drink anything, including water, hard candy, and gum, at least 6 hours before your procedure.

During Your Procedure

The procedure takes about 90 minutes. You will be put to sleep by an anesthesiologist. This doctor will monitor you throughout the procedure. An intravenous (IV) line will be put into a vein to give you fluids. You will lie on your stomach on the table with a pillow under your hips. Your back will be cleaned and you will get an injection to numb the area about half way up your back. This is where the needle will be inserted. Your doctor will use x-rays to guide the needle. The medication that is used to block the nerve is usually denatured alcohol. It will be injected into the area of the celiac plexus. The needle will then be removed and a Band-Aid® will be put on the site.

After Your Procedure

 Your nurse will review your instructions with you before you leave the hospital. After your procedure, you may:

  • Feel dizzy for a moment
  • Feel sore for a few days where the needle was placed
  • Have a full and warm feeling in your abdomen
  • Feel queasy and/or you may vomit
  • Feel drowsy or confused. You'll stay in the recovery room until this passes
  • Have watery, loose bowel movements (diarrhea) for 3 to 5 days
  • Have more pain for 24 hours after the procedure. You may have to take extra doses of your medication for breakthrough pain for a day or two. If the pain continues for more than 48 hours, call your doctor.

Resume taking your pain medication right after your procedure.

Results with the celiac plexus block vary. Your doctor or nurse will tell you how to slowly lower your pain medication based on how well the block relieves your pain. The block can last several weeks to several months. When it wears off, your doctor will discuss other options with you.

Important Points

  • It may be a few days or more before you feel the full benefit.
  • Wait 24 hours before you drive or use machines that require you to be very alert.
  • Do not drink alcohol for 24 hours after your procedure.
  • Keep taking your pain medication as prescribed. It may be changed, depending on how the block relieves your pain.
  • Take the Band-Aid® off that night or the morning after the block.
  • You may shower the day after your procedure.
  • Someone from the Pain Service will call you in 2 to 3 business days to see how you're feeling.

Call Your Doctor or Nurse if:

  • Your pain changes within 24 to 48 hours after your procedure
  • There is redness or swelling at the injection site
  • You have a temperature of 100.5° F (38° C) or higher
  • You have any problems
  • You have any questions or concerns

You can reach us Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm  at (212) 639-6851. After 5:00 pm, during the weekend, or on holidays,  call our paging service at  (917) 314-3477.