An intercostal nerve block is an injection of medication underneath the lower edge of each rib that helps relieve pain in the chest area caused by certain types of injuries, e.g., rib fractures, nerve injuries to the chest wall, postoperative pain. This can also be used to help diagnose the source of pain.
Intercostal nerves are located under each rib. When one of these nerves or the tissue around it gets irritated or inflamed, it can cause pain. A steroid medication and local anesthetic injected under the rib can help reduce the inflammation and alleviate the pain.
The actual injection less than 30 minutes, and you can go home the same day. Please allow about an hour for the procedure; this will include talking to your doctor before the procedure, signing the informed consent, positioning in the room, and observation by the recovery room nurse afterwards.
First, you’ll be given an intravenous nerve block medication medication to relax you. Then, you’ll lie on your side, the one not causing pain.
The pain management doctor will use antiseptic to clean an area of skin near your ribs. Then he or she will:
- Insert a thin needle under your rib and inject anesthetic
- Use x-ray guidance to insert a second needle and inject a steroid pain medication
Some patients report pain relief immediately after the injection, but the pain may return a few hours later as the anesthetic wears off. Longer term relief usually begins in two to three days, once the steroid begins to work.
How long the pain relief lasts is different for each patient. For some, the relief lasts several months. If the treatment works for you, you can have periodic injections to stay pain-free