FAQ: INTERCOSTAL NERVE BLOCK
What is an intercostal nerve block?
An intercostal nerve block is an injection of a steroid or other medication around the intercostal nerves that are located under each rib.
What is the purpose of an intercostal nerve block?
The steroid injected reduces the inflammation and/or swelling of tissue around the intercostal nerves, in between the ribs or in the chest wall. This may in turn reduce pain, and other symptoms caused by inflammation or irritation of the intercostal nerve and surrounding structures. Herpes zoster or shingles pain in the chest is commonly treated with intercostal blocks. Pain around a chest scar after a chest surgery may also respond well to intercostal blocks.
How long does the intercostal nerve block take?
The actual injection takes only a few minutes.
What is actually injected?
The injection consists of a local anesthetic and a steroid medication.
Will the intercostal nerve block hurt?
The procedure involves inserting a needle through skin and deeper tissues. So, there is some pain involved. However, the skin and deeper tissues are numbed with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle during the performance of the block.
Will I be "put out" for the intercostal nerve block?
No. This procedure is done with a small thin needle, usually without any sedation. There is local anesthetic within the injection.
How is the intercostal nerve block performed?
It is usually done with the patient lying down on one side of the chest. The side to be injected is facing up. The skin of the chest is cleaned with antiseptic solution and then the injection is carried out.
What should I expect after the Intercostal nerve block?
Immediately after the injection, you may feel that your pain may be gone or quite less. This is due to the local anesthetic injected. This will last only for a few hours. Your pain may return and you may have a sore spot for a day or two. This is due to the mechanical process of needle insertion as well as initial irritation from the steroid itself. You should start noticing a more lasting pain relief starting the third day or so.
What should I do after the intercostal nerve block?
You will rest for a while in the office. Most patients can drive themselves home. We advise the patient to take it easy for several hours after the procedure. You may want to apply ice to the injected area. You can perform any activity you can tolerate.
Can I go to work to work the next day?
Unless there are complications, you should be able to return to work the next day. The most common thing you may feel is a sore spot at the injection site.
How long does the effect of the medication last?
The immediate effect is usually from the local anesthetic injected. This wears off in a few hours. The steroid starts working in about 3 to 5 days and its effect can last for several days to a few months.