Intercostal nerve block is a procedure used to treat pain in the chest and upper abdomen area. The intercostal nerve is found between ribs throughout the thoracic region. Injecting anesthetics, steroids or other medications, inhibits the transmission of pain signals and reduces inflammation of these nerves. This procedure may also be used to diagnose pain and identify the route of the pain signal. Conditions treated with the intercostal nerve block include:

  • Neuropathic pain in the chest associated with herpes zoster or shingles.
  • Postoperative pain of chest or upper abdominal surgery
  • Chronic pain after mastectomy
  • Rib fracture pain
  • Pain related to the formation of scar tissue after surgery
  • Somatic pain secondary to metastatic cancer to the ribs

The intercostal nerve communicates pain messages from the muscles, bones and skin to the brain, and a block can be effective in relieving pain without the side effects of opioid pain medications. The nerve is easy for the physician to access and the procedure low risk. A single block may result in permanent pain relief.