Interventional modalities to treat cancer-related pain

Hosp Pract (1995). 2014 Dec;42(5):14-23. doi: 10.3810/hp.2014.12.1155.


Cancer-related pain is a significant cause of morbidity in those affected by both primary and metastatic disease. Although oral, transdermal, and parenteral opioid medications are an integral part of the World Health Organization's analgesic ladder, their use may be limited by side effects. Fortunately, there are advanced interventional pain management strategies effective in reducing pain in the cancer patient while mitigating the aforementioned side effects. Celiac plexus blocks and neurolysis have been proven effective in treating cancers of the abdominal viscera (ie, pancreas). Transversus abdominis plane blocks, neurolysis, and catheter placement can be used to treat cancer pain associated with the abdominal wall. Peripheral nerve blocks and catheter placement at the brachial and lumbosacral plexus or peripheral nerves treat cancer pain associated with the upper and lower limbs, whereas paravertebral and intercostal blocks treat cancer pain associated with the chest wall and ribs. Finally, alternate drug delivery methods such as intrathecal drug delivery systems concentrate medication at central opioid receptors without affecting the peripheral receptors implicated in unwanted side effects. This article provides an overview of these interventions, including indications, contraindications, and potential complications of advanced interventional pain management options available for the treatment of intractable cancer-related pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / drug therapy
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Drug Delivery Systems / instrumentation
  • Humans
  • Injections, Spinal
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / etiology*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Management / methods*


  • Analgesics, Opioid