Male patient indicates to doctor pain in the side of his torso

A neurolytic block is a type of nerve block injection that uses alcohol to intentionally damage nerves and achieve pain relief. This type of injection is used specifically to achieve long-term pain relief of areas in the torso. Unlike nerve blocks, neurolytic blocks are not used to treat pain in the arms, legs, hands, or feet. Neurolytic block injections differ from nerve block injections in that they aim to destroy the nerve, instead of numbing it for temporary pain relief.

Why Neurolytic Blocks Are Performed

Neurolytic blocks are performed to relieve pain in patients diagnosed with advanced stages of various types of cancer, including:

  • Colon cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer

What to Expect During a Neurolytic Block Procedure

A neurolytic block procedure can take up to one hour to complete. It is administered in a similar way as a nerve block injection, using x-ray images in real-time to guide the pain specialist.

Prior to the procedure, the doctor cleans the area where the medication will be injected using an antiseptic solution, and then applies a topical anesthetic to numb the area. Patients are asked to lie face down on an x-ray table so that the pain specialist can access the area of the spine where the injection will be delivered. The injection is then administered to the appropriate nerves in the spine.

Risks Associated with Neurolytic Blocks

Risks associated with neurolytic blocks are uncommon, but may include:

  • Bleeding at the site of injection
  • Bruising at the site of injection
  • Allergic reaction to the anesthetic

Benefits of Neurolytic Blocks

Neurolytic blocks allow individuals diagnosed with end-stage cancer to enjoy a higher quality of life. This procedure may be preferred to strong painkillers and narcotics, which can oftentimes cause over-sedation and disorientation.

How to Prepare for a Neurolytic Block

Typically, no preparation is necessary for a neurolytic block procedure. Some doctors may recommend that patients discontinue use of certain medications, like blood thinners, for a few days before the procedure to reduce the risk of bleeding.

Post Neurolytic Block Treatment

Some patients may experience soreness in the area for a few days after the procedure. Neurolytic block injections are considered a long-term treatment. However, nerves naturally try to regenerate and repair themselves after being damaged. Sometimes pain can return from several months or up to several years later.

Pain Management Locations

To find a pain management specialist,
call 844-333-DOCS (3627)

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving Street, NW
Washington, DC 20010 

MedStar Health at Lafayette Centre
1133 21st St. NW
Washington, DC 20036

MedStar Health at Brandywine
13950 Brandywine Road
Suite 225
Brandywine, MD 20613