Background The sacroiliac joints form the connection between your pelvic bones and your backbone. Sometimes these joints can become irritated and this can lead to pain. When this happens, the lateral sacral branch nerves transmit pain signals. Your doctor thinks this may be what is causing your pain. Lateral sacral branch blocks are diagnostic injections. This means the procedures are performed to test whether these joints are causing your back pain. This is done by injecting a small amount of local anaesthetic around the nerves to see if this relieves your pain for a short time (usually a few hours, but can last for up to 2 days). It is important to remember that this is a diagnostic procedure only.
What does the procedure involve? The procedure is performed as a day procedure in an operating theatre. When you arrive the nursing staff will prepare you for theatre. In theatre you will be asked to lie face down on the operating table. The area around the injection site will be cleaned with antiseptic, and drapes will be placed around the operative area. You will be given a light sedating anaesthetic, and the needles used to inject the local anaesthetic will be inserted under x-ray guidance. The injection will be performed once your doctor is sure the needle is in the correct place. If you are, or think you may be pregnant, please contact our office as soon as possible, as x-rays are contraindicated in this circumstance.
What happens after the procedure? After the procedure is performed you will be monitored for a short time before you go home and given something to eat and drink. Dr Cornish will review you prior to discharge, which is usually 1-3 hours after the procedure. You must organise for someone to drive you home after the procedure as you will not be allowed to drive following your sedative anaesthetic. We are interested in whether there is any pain relief, especially during the first 48 hours after the injections. Some patients may get pain relief for a few hours or a few days before the pain returns; others may get no relief. It is helpful if you are able to remember the extent of relief achieved, and this can be assisted by the use of a pain diary. The amount of pain relief you get tells us what treatments might be effective for you in the long term. Approximately a week after the procedure, you will have a follow up appointment with your doctor, at which the outcome of the diagnostic injections will be discussed and a treatment pathway planned in consultation with you. You should attend this appointment at our office.
What are the possible complications? These procedures have a very low risk of complication, but there are some that you should be aware of. Local discomfort: some patients may experience some discomfort in the area of the injection for a few hours or a few days. This is the most common complication for these procedures. Bleeding or infection: these are very rare. Please contact our office immediately if you develop fever or back pain after the procedure. If these symptoms occur outside normal office hours, please go to the nearest emergency department. Numbness in the buttocks/legs: You may experience numbness in the legs or buttocks or both and this will wear off after several hours. It is important to rest and not walk around while you are experiencing numbness.