Nerve blocks for pancreatic cancer pain

A nerve block is a treatment that blocks nerves from sending messages to the brain. It can be used to treat pancreatic cancer pain.

A nerve block is a treatment that blocks nerves from sending messages to the brain. It interrupts the pain signal. You may be able to have a nerve block on the nerves in the coeliac plexus. This is a thick bundle of nerves behind the pancreas. Read more about nerve pain.

You may have a nerve block if:

  • you have nerve pain that isn’t controlled or
  • you have a lot of side effects from opioid painkillers or
  • you need increasing doses of painkillers.

A nerve block may mean you can reduce the amount of opioid painkillers you take. Nerve blocks work well for some people, but they don’t work for everyone. Speak to your doctor or nurse about whether a nerve block might be suitable for you if your pain isn’t well controlled.

What does a nerve block involve?

You will have a local anaesthetic so you won’t feel anything during the procedure, but will be awake. You may also have a medicine to relax you.

The doctor will use needles to inject medicine such as anaesthetic, alcohol or steroids into the coeliac plexus nerves and stop them working. This will block the nerves from sending pain messages from the pancreas to the brain, and stop the pain.

Doctors can do the procedure in different ways. Your doctor may use an endoscopic ultrasound scan (EUS) to guide the needles into the right place. An endoscope is a long, thin tube with an ultrasound probe at the end. The doctor passes the endoscope into your mouth and down your throat. The ultrasound probe will create images of the inside of your body. The doctor will use these images to guide the needles through your upper tummy area.

Sometimes, the doctor may guide the needles through your back.

Are there any side effects from having a nerve block?

You may have runny poo (diarrhoea) or low blood pressure for a few days after having a nerve block. Very occasionally, nerve blocks can cause temporary weakness in the legs. In rare cases, this weakness can be permanent.

Questions about nerve blocks?

Ask your doctor or nurse whether a nerve block might be an option for you.

You can also speak to our specialist nurses on our free Support Line with any questions about nerve blocks.

Speak to our nurses
Specialist nurse, Lisa, talks on the phone to offer support.

Updated April 2022

To be reviewed April 2025