What is an intercostal nerve block?
An intercostal nerve block is an injection of local anesthetic, with or without steroids, just under the rib where the intercostal nerve lies. An intercostal nerve block is typically ordered by your doctor for pain in the your rib area that develops following surgery in that area, a rib fracture, herpes zoster (shingles) or an intercostal nerve entrapment or inflammatory condition.
An intercostal nerve block may have diagnostic or therapeutic value. One of three things will happen:
The pain does not go away, which means that the pain is probably not coming from the nerve(s) at the level(s) of the injection. This result has diagnostic value.
The pain goes away and stays away for a few hours but comes back and does not get better again. This is also of diagnostic value, as the pain is probably coming from the nerve(s) at the level of the injection(s), but the steroid, if used, was not of benefit.
The pain goes away after the block and may come back later that day, but then it improves again over the next few days. This means that the block was of therapeutic value-the steroid had a long-lasting effect on the pain.
If you get good, lasting benefit from the injection, the block may be repeated. We also may be able to perform radiofrequency destruction of the nerves, which can last for a prolonged period of time (months to years).