The intercostal nerves run along the lower border of the ribs. These nerves control the intercostal muscles, which assist in breathing, and provide sensation to the skin in the chest, back and abdomen. These nerves can be involved with pain from many causes such as: intercostal neuralgia (abnormal nerve pain), zoster or shingles, costochondritis (inflammation of the ligaments or muscles in the chest wall) or rib fractures.
The purpose of the procedure is to anesthetize these intercostal nerves and provide pain relief, which may be temporary or permanent.
Prior to the procedure a pain physician will perform a history, physical examination and evaluate the patient’s pain problem. This injection is performed along the affected rib. X-Ray guidance is sometimes used to assist in placement. The procedure usually takes up to thirty (30) minutes and can be associated with mild to moderate discomfort. Sedation, however, is rarely required. All patients are monitored appropriately throughout the procedure to ensure your safety.
The response to the intercostal injection varies from patient to patient. These injections are often performed as a series, however, that determination is made after the patient, pain physician, and the referring physicians confer.
Possible complications are listed on the Consent for Procedure Forms. You may experience a significant decrease in pain and this change may be long lasting. However, it is also possible that the pain may return with less intensity or the same intensity as prior to the injection. Results vary from patient to patient.