Current Issue - May-June 2016 - Vol 19 Issue 4


  1. 2016;19;281-292The Effectiveness of Alcohol Versus Phenol Based Splanchnic Nerve Neurolysis for the Treatment of Intra-Abdominal Cancer Pain
    Retrospective Analysis
    Dhanalakshmi Koyyalagunta, MD, Mitchell P Engle, MD, PhD, Jun Yu, MD, Lei Feng, MS, and Diane M. Novy, PhD.

Pancreatic and other upper abdominal organ malignancies can produce intense visceral pain syndromes that are frequently treated with splanchnic nerve neurolysis (SNN) or celiac plexus neurolysis (CPN). Although commonly performed with either alcohol or phenol, there is scant literature on the comparative effectiveness, duration of benefit, and complication profile comparing the 2 agents. This study presents a retrospective chart review of 93 patients who underwent SNN for cancer-related abdominal pain in order to describe patient characteristics, examine comparative efficacy, duration of benefit, and incidence of complications with alcohol vs. those of phenol. Consistent with previous studies, SNN reduced reported pain scores while not significantly reducing opioid consumption. No difference in pain outcomes was found comparing alcohol versus phenol based neurolytic techniques. Celiac axis tumor infiltration and pre-procedural local radiation therapy did not change the effectiveness of the procedure. Our data demonstrated that 44.57% of patients had = 30% pain reduction while 43.54% did not have pain reduction. Interestingly, the procedure produced significant improvements in anxiety, depression, difficulty thinking clearly, and feeling of well-being. In addition, no difference in complications was seen between the agents either. SNN was an effective and relatively safe procedure for the treatment of pain associated with pancreatic and other upper abdominal organ malignancies in our sample of patients. Choice of neurolytic agent can appropriately be left to the clinical judgment and local availability of the treating physician. The change in ancillary symptoms has a theoretical basis that supports a biopsychosocial model of pain since changes in one target area (pain) impact other related ones (depression and anxiety).

Key words: Celiac plexus, splanchnic nerves, neurolysis, nerve block, alcohol, ethanol, phenol, pain, cancer pain, abdominal pain, visceral pain, symptom assessment