Lumbar Sympathetic Block for Sympathetically Maintained Pain: Changes in Cutaneous Temperatures and Pain Perception

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Lumbar sympathetic block (LSB) is used in the management of sympathetically maintained pain states. We characterized cutaneous temperature changes over the lower extremities after LSB. Additionally, we examined the effects of iohexol, a radio-opaque contrast medium, on temperature changes and pain relief. After institutional review board approval and written, informed consent, 28 LSBs were studied in 17 patients. Iohexol or normal saline was injected in a randomized, double-blinded fashion before bupivacaine. Lower extremity cutaneous temperatures were measured. Pain, allodynia, interference with daily function, and perceived pain relief were reported in a subset of 15 LSBs for 1 wk after the block. The distal lower extremity ipsilateral to the LSB had the greatest magnitude (8.7° ± 0.8°C) and rate (1.1° ± 0.2°C/min) of temperature change. The great toe temperature was within 3°C of core temperature within 35 min after LSB. There were no differences in temperature change between the groups. The iohexol group had greater relief of pain until the morning of the first postblock day (P = 0.002) and longer perceived relief of pain (P = 0.01). The maximum temperature of the great toe correlated with allodynia relief (P = 0.0007). Thus clinicians should expect ipsilateral toe temperatures to increase to within ∼3°C of core temperature. Iohexol does not alter the efficacy of LSB and may improve relief of symptoms. The magnitude of temperature change may predict relief of allodynia.ImplicationsCutaneous toe temperatures approaching core temperature provide a useful monitor of lumbar sympathetic block and may predict relief of sympathetically maintained pain. Iohexol will not compromise temperature changes or pain relief.

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