Sphenopalatine ganglion block refers to a procedure in which a local anesthetic is administered to the sphenopalatine ganglion, a group of nerve cells behind the nose, to relieve pain associated with headaches.
The sphenopalatine ganglion is composed of sensory nerves – which carry pain signals – and autonomic nerves – which regulate functions such as nasal congestion and tear formation. The sphenopalatine ganglion connects to the brainstem by the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve associated with headache disorders.
During the procedure, an anesthetic is applied to a cotton swab, then placed into the back of the nose. This effectively delivers the medicine to the sphenopalatine ganglion. The anesthetic can also be delivered by an injection into the cheek; however, this technique requires X-ray guidance to confirm the correct placement of the needle. A more novel technique involves the delivery of anesthetic through a thin plastic tube placed in the nose, which is less invasive than an injection.
The local anesthetic functions by blocking pain signals carried by the nerve cells in the sphenopalatine ganglion. The extent and duration of pain relief varies across patients, with some patients experiencing relief for months.
Patients suffering from headache disorders or facial pain that does not respond well to other treatments may be candidates for a sphenopalatine ganglion block. The injection is effective in treating the following conditions: