Intercostal Nerve Block

What is intercostal nerve block?

Intercostal nerve block is a procedure used to treat pain in the chest and upper abdomen areas. The intercostal nerve is found between ribs throughout the thoracic region. Injecting anesthetics, steroids, or other medications inhibits the transmission of pain signals and reduces inflammation of these nerves. This procedure may also be used to diagnose pain and identify the route of the pain signal.

Who is a good candidate for intercostal nerve block?

Patients suffering from difficult to treat neuropathic or metastatic bone cancer pain may find an intercostal nerve block reduces their pain or relieves it completely. A nerve block is a good alternative to opioid pain medications, which carry side effects the patient may not be able to tolerate. If the procedure is successful, the patient is a candidate for repeat injections to treat recurring pain.


Conditions treated with the intercostal nerve block include:

How intercostal nerve block works

An intercostal nerve block may be performed in conjunction with chest and abdominal surgery, or it may be an outpatient procedure done on its own. The injection of the nerve block takes just a few minutes, and after a brief monitoring period, the patient is discharged home.

At the start of the procedure, the patient is placed in a position to allow for easy access to the injection site. The patient is awake for the entire procedure, but local anesthetic is administered to numb the area of the nerve block injection. Fluoroscopy guidance using X-ray helps the doctor determine the correct placement of the needle. Once correct placement is verified, the nerve block injection is administered. During the procedure, one nerve site may be blocked, or the injection may be performed at different sites along the nerve. A successful block is marked by pain relief.

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