Have You Ever Heard About Intercostal Nerve Block?

An intercostal nerve block is an injection medication that help relieves pain in the chest area. Intercostal nerve block can be used to treat or cure pain caused by herpes zoster infection or a surgical incision. Intercostal nerve block is also helpful at the region of abdominal wall.

Intercostal nerves are located under each rib from the spine in the back to the sternum in the chest. When one of these nerves or the tissue around intercostal nerves gets irritated or inflamed, it can cause pain.

Intercostal nerve block can use for 2 purposes;

  • To get relief from pain
  • To help diagnose the source of pain

Intercostal nerve block procedure:

  • At the start of the procedure, you’ll be given an intravenous medication to relax you.
  • The doctor will then use antiseptic to clean an area of skin near your ribs.
  • A needle is then inserted through the skin, muscle and soft tissues, so there is some slight discomfort involved.
  • Doctor uses x-ray guidance to insert second needle and inject a steroid pain medication in the area where you are experiencing pain.

Intercostal nerve block takes less than 30 minutes to complete.

Some patients experience pain relief immediately after the intercostal nerve block injection, but the pain may return a few hours later as the anesthetic wears off. The steroid which is using for pain relief starts working in about 3 to 5 days and its effect can last for several days to a few months or longer.

Reasons of using steroid medications in nerve block:

Intercostal nerve block is using steroid medicines for following reasons;

  • Steroid helps to decrease inflammation in the specific location where it is most needed.
  • Steroid help the injury heal by reducing inflammation.
  • Steroid may provide permanent relief or a period of a few weeks/months of relief while the injury is healing.

The effects of steroid may take up to 10 days to appear.

Other than steroid, intercostal nerve block is also using other medicines for many different reasons.

  • Lidocaine or bupivacaine are local anesthetics using in intercostal nerve block to numb the area of injection; this numbness usually wears off within two to six hours.
  • Opamidol is an X-ray contrast agent, may be injected into the area to confirm correct placement.


Side effects or risks of intercostal nerve block:

Complications from intercostal nerve block are very low. However you may experience;

  • Bruising or soreness at the injection site
  • Infection, collapsed lung, nerve damage and bleeding can occur but it’s uncommon.
  • Intercostal nerve block is not an ideal treatment for diabetic patients as steroid can elevate blood sugar level for up to two weeks after the injection.


Zaki Anwar MD is an Anesthesiologist and Interventional Pain Management Specialist. He has vast expertise for the diagnosis and treatment of back pain, headaches, migraines, neck pain, sciatica pain and various pain conditions.

For further queries call on 815.412.6166