What is an intercostal nerve block?
An intercostal nerve block is an injection of local anesthetic with or without steroid injected just under the rib where the intercostal nerve lies. An intercostal nerve block is typically ordered by your doctor for pain in the area of your ribs that comes after having surgery in that area, a rib fracture, herpes zoster (shingles) or an intercostal nerve entrapment. An intercostal nerve block may be diagnostic and/or therapeutic. One of three things may happen. 1. 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 has diagnostic value. 2. The pain goes away and stays away for a few hours but the original pain comes back and doesn’t get better again. This would mean the block was also of diagnostic value – 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. 3. The pain goes away after the block, the pain may come back later that day, but then the pain gets better 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. It is hoped that each subsequent injection will last longer than the one before.