FAQ’s on Sphenopalatine Blocks
The sphenopalatine ganglion (nerve cluster) is located inside of a bone cavity in the face. The nerves contained within this ganglion serve to provide sensation to the surrounding facial structures and the rest of the head, but do not have a part in the movement of the face or head.
For many patients, this nerve cluster is directly tied to the pain felt by conditions of the face and head. Symptomatic pain relief may be able to be obtained for the patient with a sphenopalatine ganglion block.
What will a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block treat?
Blocking this ganglion provides relief to the patient for any facial condition that is an area governed by these nerves. An injection into this nerve cluster can potentially provide relief to patients who are suffering from chronic or episodic headaches, patients with pain due to shingles, specific cases of RSD, pain from cancer of the head or neck, or TMJ among other conditions.
How is a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block performed?
There are a number of different ways that an injection into the sphenopalatine ganglion can be performed, with the most common method being either the transnasal or the latera approach. For many patients, the easiest method is to administer this block is with the transnasal approach, because it is the easiest for patients to endure.
For the transnasal approach, the patient will be placed on their back with the neck extended. Once in the prone position, an anesthetic gel will be placed into the nostril and the patient will be required to inhale. This draws the gel into the remainder of the nasal cavity, serving to numb it in preparation for the injection. Once the nostril is numbed, the injection applicator device will be inserted carefully, and placed against the nasopharnyx for about 30 minutes.
The lateral approach is an injection through the cheek of the patient. The site of injection will be cleaned and numbed, with the needle passed carefully through the cheek and into the ganglion. Fluoroscopy —a series of X-rays that form a current picture of where the needle is— will be used to ensure an accurate placement of the needle within the face. When the physician is sure the needle is near or in the sphenopalatine ganglion, a numbing agent will be administered.
Regardless of which method is used, the numbing agent serves to block the nerves from transmitting signals of pain to the brain. This can provide relief for almost any condition that has symptomatic pains caused by this nerve cluster.
How well do Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks work?
With a number of studies already performed on the effectiveness of the sphenopalatine block, it has been confirmed that they can be very effective in providing relief for head and facial pains. Patients who receive this block for chronic or episodic headaches are often able to reduce both the pain and frequency of their headaches for an extended duration of time.
What are the risks of a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block?
The risks of this procedure will vary based upon the method used to inject the patient. The transnasal approach is largely just a topical treatment, with the only side effect potentially being a dripping of the medication into the throat. The full injection runs the risk of bleeding, swelling, or pain at the site of injection as well as potentially causing an allergic reaction to the agents used. There is also a small chance of internal bleeding if the needle were to graze internal tissues while being inserted.
What is the bottom line with Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks?
These blocks are simple outpatient procedures that can provide quick relief with very little risk to the patient.
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