The suprascapular nerve runs from the spinal cord at the C4, C5 and C6 vertebrae to the shoulder. It transmits sensation and pain signals from the shoulder to the brain.
A suprascapular nerve block temporarily disables pain signals from this region of the body via a local anaesthetic and steroid medication being injected into the nerves.
It is often used to block pain caused for example by trauma, pain after surgery, pain resulting from cancer and chronic regional pain syndrome.
Pain in the shoulder.
You should avoid undergoing any other medical procedures, such as for example dental treatment or a colonoscopy, within 48 hours (before or after) of a suprascapular nerve block. You should also not have anything to eat or drink prior to the procedure.
Please also let us know ahead of the procedure if…
- You are taking any antibiotics.
- You have a pacemaker or defibrillator.
- You have any allergies.
- You are diabetic.
- You are ill (in which case we may need to postpone the procedure).
You should not drive yourself to or from the appointment, or drive in the 24-hour period immediately after the procedure.
The procedure generally takes no longer than 15 minutes (although we recommend allowing around one hour for the appointment).
You are asked to lie face down on a special fluoroscope (real time X-ray) table, with a pillow placed under the shoulders. An IV line is put in place in your arm or hand to administer light sedation.
The injection site is then cleaned and numbed with a local anaesthetic and a thin needle is inserted at the injection site and then guided (use the fluoroscope image) to the correct position.
Before the anaesthetic is injected, a small quantity of contrast dye is introduced to check that the anaesthetic will get to the target area.
Once the procedure is complete, you will need to spend around an hour under observation before being able to go home.
After the procedure you are able to return home. There is no restriction on day-to-day activities, although it is advisable to rest and engage in gentle activity only in the 24-hour period after the procedure.
In some cases, there may be some discomfort and/or bruising to the skin at the injection site. There may also be a feeling of heaviness in the arm, in which case you should wear a sling until this passes.
It is normal for pain to increase slightly after the local anaesthetic has worn off – the steroid medication will start to work around 48 hours after the procedure.
You can expect a suprascapular nerve block to be effective from one to six months after the procedure.
A suprascapular nerve block procedure is a relatively low risk procedure – however all medical treatment comes with some level of risk. Possible complications may include…
- Pain at injection site.
- Collapsed lung.
- Allergic reaction to anaesthetic and / or contrast dye.
- Reaction to steroid medication.
If any numbness has not resolved within 24 hours or if you experience any loss of bowel or bladder control, you should contact us immediately or seek urgent medical attention.