The Sphenopalatine Ganglion is a collection of nerve cells communicating with trigeminal nerve, one of the main nerves contributing to headaches. The Sphenopalatine Ganglion is located behind the nose. It carries information about pain and has a role in autonomic functions, such as tearing and nasal congestion. In theory, local anesthetics are applied to the sphenopalatine ganglion, thus blocking it, resulting in reduction of headache and facial pain.
The SphenoCath device is a soft, flexible, thin catheter which employs a flexible outer sheath with soft edges for comfort and an inner angled flexible catheter to deliver medication without the use of a needle inside the nasal passageway with maximum patient comfort. The use of this device involves placing a very thin plastic tube into the nose to insert numbing medication in and around the Sphenopalatine Ganglion.
How is the procedure done and what should I expect during the procedure?
The procedure can done in the exam room, but in some cases of extreme discomfort anesthesia can be utilized. Prior to the procedure, blood pressure and heart rate may be checked. Then you lie down on your back with your head extended. The Sphenocath® device will be gently placed into one nostril, and the catheter will be advanced. The numbing medication will be pushed through the syringe, and then the catheter will be taken out. The procedure will be repeated in the other nostril and in total takes between 10-20 seconds to complete. You may feel mild pressure, or feel like you have to sneeze, or a brief mild discomfort or irritation like “something is in my nose.” You may also experience a brief or quick burning sensation or have a bad taste in your mouth as some of the numbing medication may be swallowed. Sucking on a piece of candy during the procedure can help. After the procedure is completed you may be asked to lie down for about 15 minutes and your blood pressure may be checked. Tearing and a brief temperature change are likely to occur and may indicate the procedure was successful. You may experience an immediate reduction in headache and/or facial pain, but results can take anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours to occur.
Potential Side Effects
The most common side effects are all temporary, including numbness in the throat, low blood pressure, and nausea. If you do experience throat numbness, this should not last more than a few hours, and is related to swallowing a small amount of the numbing medication. During this time, it is safest if you avoid eating or drinking anything to avoid the risk of choking. Nasal bleeding or infection has been reported in some cases. Rarely, a temporary increase in pain has been reported.
How often can this procedure be done?
Sphenopalatine Ganglion block can be repeated as often as needed to reduce headaches. One study reports reduced frequency and severity of chronic headaches over a six month period, when the procedure was done twice a week for six weeks.