Dorsal root ganglion block

What is a dorsal root ganglion block?

A dorsal root ganglion block is a spinal injection that contains local anaesthetic and often a small dose of steroid used for back pain due to irritated spinal nerves.

The dorsal root ganglion is a small swelling of nerve cells on the spinal nerve that connects to your spinal cord. It sends impulses from your spinal nerves to your spinal cord. A dorsal root ganglion block works by reducing or blocking pain sensation impulses. This procedure is also known as a paravertebral block, transforaminal epidural or nerve root block injection.

When is a dorsal root ganglion block recommended?

A dorsal root ganglion block is most often used for lower back (lumbar), sciatic leg or arm pain when other simpler measures have not helped to relieve your pain.

It may be used together with other treatments such as physiotherapy for pain relief. Sometimes a dorsal root ganglion block is performed to understand more accurately the location of your pain.

What happens during a dorsal root ganglion block?

A dorsal root ganglion block is a day case procedure that takes about 20 to 30 minutes. It is carried out under x-ray screening to ensure the needle is placed in the correct area. You will need to keep very still during the procedure. The injection site will be cleaned with antiseptic and injected with a small amount of local anaesthetic to numb the skin.

A fine needle is placed into your dorsal root ganglion and x-ray dye is injected to outline the nerve and confirm correct placement. A small amount of local anaesthetic and sometimes steroid is then injected to ease your pain and reduce inflammation.

Benefits of a dorsal root ganglion block

A dorsal root ganglion block can help relieve back pain, and also to pinpoint the area and cause of your back pain. It works directly in the area where the pain signals come from.

Possible complications

As with any procedure there could be complications. These can include:

  • Tenderness and/or bruising at injection site.

  • Numbness or weakness in your legs as the local anaesthetic has spread.

  • Infection or damage to the nerve

  • An allergic reaction to the injection

After dorsal root ganglion block

You will rest in the recovery area for up to an hour before going home. You will need to arrange for someone to drive you home as you will not be able to drive yourself. You may feel some soreness or aching at the injection site but this should settle after a few days. As your pain decreases, you should gently increase your exercise.

How long will the pain relief last?

This varies greatly from person to person. Pain relief can be short-lived or significant and lasting several months. They can be repeated if your pain returns.

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