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Study Provides Information on Peripheral Nerve Blocks

Peripheral nerve blocks (PNBs) provide headache relief for countless headache sufferers, but a recent study suggests that more research is required to determine who would benefit most from the procedure.

At the American Headache Society annual meeting during June in Los Angeles, lead researcher Jessica Ailani, MD, of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., discussed the study, which included 164 patients, with slightly more than half having had at least one PNB. Medscape provided coverage of the presentation (login required), which included several findings:

  • PNBs are effective whether done in a private practice setting or at an academic center.
  • Occipital and trigeminal nerve blocks along with a local anesthetic are commonly used.
  • Patients are typically satisfied with the results, which often last from several days up to 2 weeks.
  • Only a small number of participants reported adverse effects, which included site soreness, nausea and vomiting, and head and neck pain.

Dr. Ailani noted that more than 71% of patients rated their pain as 4 to 8 out of 10 before treatment with a nerve block. After a nerve block, nearly half (47.2%) said the pain had reduced to 1 out of 10. Despite the positive responses, more information would be useful for patients and health care professionals alike.  It is difficult for physicians to determine which types of headache to treat with nerve blocks, which nerve block to use, and which kind and quantity of medication are best, according to the Medscape article.

“This is a very well-tolerated procedure and patients are very satisfied with the procedure,” Medscape quoted Dr. Ailani. “We are going to take these data and try to find out anything that we can associate with improvement. … Does it matter the age and gender of the patient? The type of headache they have? Where we do a nerve block? Whether the site is tender? And whether these factors predict the success of the nerve block.”

She also noted that there are several benefits of PNBs, including providing pain relief that keeps headache sufferers out of the emergency room, helping patients between medical procedures, and in cases of medication overuse headache, giving a boost to new preventive medications.

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