A sphenopalatine ganglion block is extremely effective in reducing patient pain from intractable, chronic cluster headaches.
The primary nerve involved in headaches is the trigeminal nerve. The sphenopalatine ganglion is a group of nerve cells which are located behind the nose, linking to the trigeminal nerve. The sphenopalatine ganglion carries sensation information, including pain. These nerves also play a part in nasal congestion and tearing. The sphenopalatine ganglion is covered by connective tissues and mucous membranes, which allow a block to be performed either via injection or topically.
Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block Procedure
A physician may use a transnasal, lateral, or transoral approach to perform the sphenopalatine ganglion block, although the transnasal approach is the simplest—and the most common. The patient lies on his or her back, while lidocaine is placed in the nostrils, and the patient is asked to inhale, drawing the anesthesia toward the back of the nose. If the procedure is done topically, an applicator dipped in anesthetic will be introduced into the nose until it reaches the correct placement, then left in place for 20-30 minutes.
If the sphenopalatine ganglion block is done via injection, the cheek will be anesthetized and a small needle will be guided through the tissue, using x-ray guidance. Once the needle is in place, the anesthesia will be injected. Whether the procedure is done through an injection or topically, a successful sphenopalatine ganglion block will be marked by a profound relief of pain.
Risks Associated with the Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block
The most common side effect from a sphenopalatine ganglion block is a bitter taste in the mouth, or a slight numbness in the back of the throat. Both of these side effects are from the local anesthetic, and should resolve fairly quickly. Some patients may develop a nose bleed, while others may experience a bit of dizziness after the procedure. Infection, as well as a drug allergy are always a risk when skin and soft tissues are penetrated with a local anesthetic.
Are Sphenopalatine Ganglion Blocks Effective?
Those with acute and chronic facial and head pain have generally received significant relief from sphenopalatine ganglion blocks, particularly those who suffer from chronic cluster headaches. Patients suffering from pain associated with head and neck cancer may also benefit from sphenopalatine ganglion blocks.
If you are considering a sphenopalatine ganglion block for headache pain relief, contact Seattle Pain to discuss your specific areas of pain with our interventional pain management specialists. We will evaluate your pain, developing a customized, comprehensive pain treatment program just for you, and determining whether you are a good candidate for a sphenopalatine ganglion block.
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