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What is a selective nerve root block?

Selective nerve root block (SNRB) is a procedure that can be performed for diagnostic purposes (to pinpoint the location of a spinal nerve that is causing pain) or for therapeutic purposes (to eliminate pain originating in a damaged or irritated nerve). When nerve roots become inflamed, they can produce back, neck, or leg pain, and anesthetizing the nerve root in question can help to reduce or eliminate the pain.

Nerve Blocks Explained


More about the Process

The SNRB procedure is in some ways similar to an epidural steroid injection in that a steroid/anesthetic compound is injected into the spinal area, but is more difficult to perform. With an epidural, the medication is injected into the epidural space surrounding the spine, while with the SNRB procedure the medication must be placed precisely on one particular nerve root, that has been identified as the potential source of the pain.

This procedure is usually performed in an outpatient setting by experienced interventional radiologists, because placement of the medication on a particular nerve block is critical, and thus must be guided by X-ray or fluoroscopy.

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What To Expect

If your doctors have determined that this treatment may be helpful to diagnose or reduce your pain, you will be treated in the radiology department using imaging equipment to provide precise targeting. The interventional radiologist will numb the area where the needle is inserted and then use real-time imaging to guide it to its precise destination. When they have located the exact nerve root to be treated, they apply the combination of a steroid anti-inflammatory drug plus an local anesthetic. If your pain subsides after the injection, the doctors can assume that they have located the source of the nerve pain.


Results

The procedure takes about 15 minutes to complete, after which you will be monitored by medical staff for 15 to 20 minutes, before being released. You should rest for the remainder of the day, but can usually resume your normal activities the day after the procedure. Naturally, if you are currently taking medications to control your pain, you should discuss with your doctor whether they should be taken the day of the procedure.