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Lumbar Sympathetic Nerve Block - Radio Frequency

We aim to make your visit as informative as possible. However, if you have any further questions regarding the information on this page or your treatment please telephone us on (01604) 545065 Monday to Friday between the hours of 0800 and 1700.

Outside of these hours, please leave a message on the answerphone. One of our staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

This Clinic aims to give you various means to reduce pain and other symptoms and plan your life accordingly. Regular use of other pain relief should be continued, especially the exercise programme.


Lumbar sympathetic nerve block - RF


A lumbar sympathetic nerve block consists of injecting local anaesthetic around the nerves situated on the side of the lumbar spine. Radio frequency (RF) application on the nerves would lead to heat build up to 82 degrees centigrade. The nerves would then cease to carry painful sensations from the affected organs.


The purpose of these blocks and RF would be to check if the block would be suitable for abdominal pain. It is indended to give patients 50% or more pain relief for several months thereafter.


The other benefits would be for you to reduce and may be eventually stop the morphine or pethidine. Please Note: It may take up to 10 days for the RF to start to work.


Before the procedure

  • Please bring a list of all current medication. Specifically let us know if you are on Warfarin, Heparin, Clopidogrel or Aspirin.
  • Continue taking all your usual medication on treatment day unless advised to omit something by the Pain Clinic.
  • If there is any possibility that you may be pregnant please inform the doctor or nurse.
  • You will have this treatment as an outpatient, you will need to stay between two to three hours.
  • Basic checks like blood pressure, pulse, oxygen saturation and simple questions related to medications and allergy will be asked.


The procedure

  • In the treatment room will have a small needle (cannula) placed in the back of your hand. This permits you to have intravenous fluids if necessary.
  • The procedure will be carried out under x-ray for precision injection.
  • Under local anaesthetic, the needles will be placed into position. You may feel a pushing sensation or some discomfort at this stage. You may be encouraged to use Entonox, commonly known as gas and air to reduce the pain of the needle.
  • A water soluble contrast (a solution which shows up under x-ray) is injected to make sure that the needles are in the correct position as seen on x-ray.
  • This procedure may need to be repeated on the other side of your spine. When the needles are seen to be in the correct position local anaesthetic and steroid will be injected. Then the adjacent tissue will be heated to 82 degrees C to abolish nerve conduction.


Following the injection

After the procedure, you will be observed in the recovery room. When you are stable you will be able to go home. Once home you will need to rest. You will need a responsible adult to look after you for the rest of the day.


Possible side effects and risks

  • Your abdomen or leg may be a little numb for a while.
  • Your blood pressure may be low at times, this will be checked regularly.


Although this procedure is performed under x-ray, there may be some rare complications for example:

  • Burning sensation in the groin.
  • Bleeding inside the abdomen.
  • Infection.
  • Needle injury to kidney.
  • Temporary difficulty in sexual intercourse for a male.
  • Periosteal burn (soreness in the back).


After the procedure

  • You may experience some backache from the injection sites.
  • Take your regular painkillers as usual.
  • Try to keep on the move and active around the house but do not do anything too strenuous.
  • As your pain decreases you should try to gradually increase your exercise. Simple activities like a daily walk, using an exercise bike or swimming on your back will help to improve your muscle tone and strengthen your back. The best way is to increase your activity slowly.
  • If you experience any untoward side effects, contact the clinic for advice.
  • Try not to overdo things on a good day so that you end up paying for it with more pain the following day.
  •  When you have adequate pain relief, you need to start reducing the pain medications gradually, aiming to stop them completely.


Follow up

A follow-up appointment may not always be needed. But you have been given a follow-up questionnaire form to be filled and sent to us after 8 weeks, for action thereafter.

If you do not get adequate pain relief after the procedure, a senior nurse may contact you to discuss your options, including a follow-up appointment.


Contact details

Pain Management Clinic is open on all the days of the week from 0800 -1700.

Telephone number: 01604 545065
Fax: 01604 544688.


Other information

Northampton General Hospital operates a smoke-free policy. This means that smoking is not allowed anywhere on the Trust site, this includes all buildings, grounds and car parks. Leaflets, information, advice and support on giving up smoking and on nicotine replacement therapy are available from the local Stop Smoking helpline on 0845 6013116, the free national helpline on 0300 123 1044, email: and pharmacies.


Car parking at Northampton General Hospital is extremely limited and it is essential to arrive early, allowing ample time for parking. You may find it more convenient to be dropped off and collected.


This information can be provided in other languages and formats upon request including Braille, audio cassette and CD. Please contact (01604) 523442 or the Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS) on (01604) 545784, email:


Updated August 2015.


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