A sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) block procedure involves the injection of a numbing agent through the cheek or on one or both nostrils with the use of either a simple applicator or a needle. The anesthetic applied in the ganglion area provides pain relief for multiple facial and head pain conditions. It is a low-risk procedure and is well-tolerated by most patients. It is performed as an outpatient procedure.
What is the Sphenopalatine Ganglion?
The ganglion is defined as a “mass of nerves,” whereas the sphenopalatine ganglion is a collection of nerve cells that reaches out to the paranasal sinuses, lacrimal gland, and palate, as well as throughout the nasal cavity and upper pharynx. The ganglion is located in the pterygopalatine fossa, a bony cavity that is found behind the nasal and deep within the midface. And because of this broad reach that the SPG nerves expand to, the ganglion can cause pain associated with Trigeminal Neuralgia, cluster and acute headaches, RSD, TMI, neck and head cancer, facial pain, herpes zoster, and so much more.
What are the Conditions an SPG Block can Treat?
An SPG block may help with pain relief from a wide range of painful face and head conditions, such as:
- Shingles (herpes zoster pain)
- Cluster and acute headaches
- Neck and head cancer pain
- Vasomotor rhinitis
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
- Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Pain
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
- Atypical facial pain
- Sluder’s Neuralgia
How is an SPG Block Procedure Performed?
An SPG block can be performed in a multitude of ways by pain management doctors. The three most common methods include the latera, transoral, and transnasal approach. The transnasal, or through the nostril, method is the most common and most straightforward approach among the three.
Patients usually lay on their backs for the topical approach of an SPG block. The neck is then extended so that the gel lidocaine can be placed in the nostril. When the patient sniffs, the gel will numb the nasal cavity. Your doctor will dip a 10-cm sterile cotton-tipped applicator in a numbing medicine which will then be inserted for about 20 to 30 minutes up against the nasopharynx.
If your pain doctor opted to use injection for the SPG block procedure, an anesthetic would be applied on your cheek to help numb it. This method is made through the soft tissues with the use of a real-time x-ray machine called fluoroscopy. Numbing medicine will be injected once the needle reaches its target area.
If the patient responded well, the procedure can be repeated every month or so. It’s also possible for the patient to end up getting an SPG radiofrequency ablation.
How Effective is a Sphenopalatine Nerve Block Procedure?
Several different studies have consistently shown the efficacy of SPG blocks for treating chronic and acute head and facial pain. Experts have proven that SPG radiofrequency ablation produces highly satisfactory results for those suffering from cluster headaches. Further studies have shown that injections are quite an effective treatment for neck and head cancer pain and chronic vasomotor rhinitis, respectively. Patients experienced profound pain relief after the procedure, which helped significantly lessen their need for narcotic medication. Aside from these existing studies, more and more research is coming out showcasing the many benefits of SPG.
Are There Any Risks?
SPG nerve blocks have very low risks. Patients may end up with a bitter taste in their mouths for the topical procedure, as a numbing agent needs to be dripped down the oropharynx. Injections, on the other hand, have a slight risk of temporary lightheadedness, nose bleed, or infection.
The expert team at Pain Stop Clinics is committed to providing minimally-invasive procedures like sphenopalatine ganglion blocks to eliminate facial headaches. Contact us today to put a stop to your sinus pain.
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