FAQ’s on Occipital Nerve Block in Las Vegas

The occipital nerve block is used to relief the pain of headache and occipital neuralgia for several months. This block involves injecting the top aspect of the neck with an anesthetic, at the back of the head. The occipital nerves are targeted with this procedure.

What are the occipital nerves?

The greater and lesser occipital nerves run along both sides of the back of the head and neck. These nerves transport pain and sensory information to the brain, and do not possess any motor function. If irritated or inflamed, these nerves could cause severe headaches.

What disorders can be treated with the occipital nerve block?

The occipital nerve block is used to relieve many kinds of head pain. This block is used to treat occipital neuralgia, cluster headache, cerviogenic headache, and migraine headache. The occipital nerve block reduces the frequency of pain, as well as the intensity. These blocks are used to treat head and neck pain that is not alleviated with medications and other treatment modalities. The pain that usually responds to this block is a throbbing ache, and burning head pain.

Can the occipital nerve block be used to diagnose headaches?

Occipital nerve blocks are useful for diagnosing the type of headache. If the doctor suspects occipital neuralgia, the pain relief will be immediate following the block. The block also alleviates discomfort of irritated occipital nerves.

How do I prepare for the occipital nerve block procedure?

Be sure to review all medications you are taking with your doctor. If you are on a blood-thinning agent, it must be held for several days before the procedure. After you arrive at the medical center, a nurse will discuss the procedure pros and cons, and ask you to sign an informed consent paper. Once you change into the procedure gown, the nurse places an IV catheter in your arm. Monitoring devices are attached to assess your vital signs.

What can I expect during the procedure?

Once in the procedure room, you are positioned on your stomach on the exam table, and the doctor applies an antiseptic solution to clean the scalp. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin before the procedure needle is inserted near the occipital nerves. Several injections are used to provide a blocking effect. If necessary, the doctor uses a neurolytic agent (phenol) to destroy a portion of the nerve root.

What happens after the procedure?

This is a simple procedure, with little recovery time necessary. However, you should rest for the remainder of the day, and avoid soaking the back of the head in a tub or pool. You may experience nausea, dizziness, and/or weakness after the procedure, but these side effects resolve within a few minutes.

What is an occipital nerve radiofrequency ablation?

To destroy (ablate) a portion of the nerve, the nurse will use pulsed radiofrequency energy and eliminate pain signal transmission. This procedure is offers more than 50% pain reduction for patients with headaches, based on clinical research studies.

Is the occipital nerve block effective?

Based on a recent clinical research report, the occipital nerve block as a 95% success rate for treating cervicogenic headache, and pain reduction lasted for up to six months. Studies show that the procedure is 85% effective for treating cluster headache, with pain relief lasting for 3-6 months.

What complications are associated with the occipital nerve block?

The occipital nerve block procedure has a very low risk profile. However, complications include bleeding, nerve injury, infection, and blood vessel trauma. Soreness of the back of the head is common and can be relieved with ice packs. Since the occipital nerves are behind the spinal canal, there is not much danger in puncturing the spinal cord.

Resources

Naja ZM, El-Rajab M, Al-Tannir MA, Ziade FM, Tawfik OM (2006). Repetitive occipital nerve blockade for cervicogenic headache: expanded case report of 47 adults. Pain Practice, 6(4):278-84 PMID: 17129309

Peres MFP, Stiles MA, Siow HC, Rozen TD, Young WB, & Silberstein SB (2002). Greater occipital nerve blockade for cluster headache. Cephalalgia, 22:520–522.