Has the analgesic efficacy of neurolytic celiac plexus block been demonstrated in pancreatic cancer pain?

William H. Sharfman, T. Declan Walsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Cancer of the pancreas is rising in incidence and will strike 27,000 Americans this year. There is no curative therapy for most patients, so palliation of symptoms should be the prime concern. Severe pain is very common, and often difficult to treat. Neurolytic celiac plexus block (NCPB) is claimed by some to be the most effective way to treat pancreatic cancer pain (PCP), yet only a minority of patients undergo this procedure. We have reviewed the literature on NCPB to determine if it has been adequately evaluated in the management of PCP. There have been 15 published series since 1964 on NCPB for PCP. A total of 480 patients with cancer of the pancreas were reported; at least a satisfactory response to NCPB was reported in 418 (87%). We found major deficiencies in these reports. None described the pre-NCPB analgesic history. Post-NCPB data were also limited. No information was given concerning post-NCPB analgesic dosages, and only 4 series stated that most patients did not require opiates. Information on whether NCPB was effective until death was lacking or incomplete in 12 series. Many claimed additional benefits of NCPB such as decreased nausea, decreased constipation, and increased appetite, but none provided any data to support these claims. We conclude that the data available on NCPB for PCP are insufficient to judge for efficacy, long-term morbidity, or cost effectiveness, and rigorous evaluation of the technique is required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-271
Number of pages5
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Analgesic efficacy
  • Neurolytic celiac plexus block
  • Pancreatic cancer pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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