Facial pain, including pain that might develop due to tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cluster headaches, can be extremely debilitating. Individuals who suffer from certain types of facial pain might be at risk of developing mental health issues, such as depression. The good news is that a sphenopalatine ganglion block is an effective option to help people who struggle with certain types of facial pain. Furthermore, this procedure can produce long-lasting results with few side effects. There are a few points that you should know regarding a sphenopalatine ganglion block as a procedure for pain management.
What Is a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block?
A sphenopalatine ganglion block is a minimally-invasive procedure that treats both chronic and acute head and facial pain. It leverages the anatomy of the facial bones to deliver long-lasting, effective pain relief.
The sphenopalatine ganglion is a small bundles of nerves that rests just beneath the nose. There are depressions in the skull near the nose called the pterygopalatine fossae. The ganglion of nerves rests near these fossae and transmit nerves for both the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, which control sensory function. This includes pain signals.
The sphenopalatine ganglion carries signals for the sinuses, palate, throat, and numerous other structures in the head and neck region. This ganglion also carries the trigeminal nerve, which transmits signals throughout the facial region. The goal of a sphenopalatine ganglion block is to stop pain signals that come from this area. By halting these signals, it is possible to provide patients with effective pain relief.
What Conditions Can This Procedure Treat?
There are several conditions that can be treated using a sphenopalatine ganglion block. Some of the most common examples include:
- Migraine Headaches: Migraines can lead to a variety of symptoms. These include photophobia, phonophobia, nausea, and vomiting. This pain can last for anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.
- Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches are unique headaches that can lead to tearing, sweating, and even paralysis on one-half of the face. While the acute treatment of cluster headaches often involves supplemental oxygen, a sphenopalatine ganglion block can also be helpful.
- Trigeminal Neuralgia: This is a particularly devastating form of facial pain that can feel like electrical shocks are passing throughout the face. In addition to gabapentin, a sphenopalatine block can also be an effective treatment option.
These are just a few of the numerous conditions that might lead to facial pain that can be treated using this block.
How Is a Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block Performed?
The sphenopalatine block is covered by a layer of connective tissue. A doctor can inject medicine into this region, leading to pain relief. Usually, this procedure takes anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. While sedation is not a requirement, some patients are more comfortable with it. If needed, the doctor will provide it. The general goal is to flood the area of the sphenopalatine ganglion block with anesthetic, halting the signals. There are several approaches to the sphenopalatine ganglion. These include:
- Transnasal: Going through the nose, this is the most direct approach. The doctor will make sure there aren’t any visible obstructions. Then, the doctor inserts the applicator into the nose until it reaches the back of the throat, providing the injection or application.
- Transoral: Instead of going through the nose, the doctor goes in through the mouth. This approach works well if there are blocks in the nose due to polyps or a deviated septum.
- Lateral: In this approach, the doctor goes in through the cheek. Usually, this route requires imaging guidance (such as a live x-ray). This is a targeted way to get the block to a specific space instead of flooding the general area with an anesthetic.
Understand the Benefits and Risks
There are a few benefits of a sphenopalatine ganglion block. These include:
- The procedure is very short
- It does not require any sort of surgical incision
- It provides immediate pain relief that can last for a long time
While the side effects are rare, there are a few risks that people should note. These include:
- Some people describe a bitter taste in the mouth after the procedure
- The back of the throat might be numb due to the anesthetic
- It is possible that some people might have an allergic reaction to the anesthetic
We watch all of our patients closely to ensure we address these side effects if they arise.
Contact MidSouth Pain Today!
At MidSouth Pain, we take great pride in our ability to provide effective pain relief to our patients. Contact us today!