My experience with paravertebral block for a double mastectomy

by Gwen on August 11, 2014

 © 2014 Carl H. Stritter  All rights reserved. © 2014 Carl H. Stritter
All rights reserved.


Folks who have seen my post-mastectomy video have been asking for more information about paravertebral blocks.  Here is my rationale for making this choice and my own personal experience with this type of breast surgery anesthesia.

Paravertebral blocks have recently been shown to reduce the risk of relapse and death when used with a general anesthetic for breast cancer surgery.  Although larger studies will be required before we know for sure, the results of studies done to date have been quite compelling.

The procedure is quite simple.  A needle is placed about one inch to the side of the spine beside the shoulder blade. In my case,  the needle was placed under ultrasound guidance to ensure complete numbness.  The other benefit of ultrasound guidance:  only one needle need be placed to achieve a good block for each side of the chest (as opposed to 3 – 6 injections per side when not using a guided technique).

While I was given the choice of light sedation during the paravertebral block procedure, I elected to have none and felt only mild discomfort and pressure.

Since my chest was nicely numbed, the general anesthetic that was administered for the double mastectomy was a “light” one.  That means I woke up very quickly in the recovery room, having no nausea or wooziness whatsoever.

While the numbness from the block lasts only for about 12 hours or so, the residual pain after the block has worn off is greatly reduced and can sometimes, as in my case, require treatment with only mild pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

For more information on the possible benefits of paravertebral blocks:

Nerve Block May Reduce Breast Cancer Recurrence and Death – Medscape

Paravertebral block improves breast cancer surgery outcomes – Oncology Nurse Advisor

© 2014 – 2015, Gwen. All rights reserved.

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