Ultrasound-Guided Suprazygomatic Nerve Blocks to the Pterygopalatine Fossa: A Safe Procedure

Pain Med. 2022 Aug 1;23(8):1366-1375. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnac007.


Objectives: Large-scale procedural safety data on pterygopalatine fossa nerve blocks (PPFBs) performed via a suprazygomatic, ultrasound-guided approach are lacking, leading to hesitancy surrounding this technique. The aim of this study was to characterize the safety of PPFB.

Methods: This retrospective chart review examined the records of adults who received an ultrasound-guided PPFB between January 1, 2016, and August 30, 2020, at the University of Florida. Indications included surgical procedures and nonsurgical pain. Clinical data describing PPFB were extracted from medical records. Descriptive statistics were calculated for all variables, and quantitative variables were analyzed with the paired t test to detect differences between before and after the procedure.

Results: A total of 833 distinct PPFBs were performed on 411 subjects (59% female, mean age 48.5 years). Minor oozing from the injection site was the only reported side effect, in a single subject. Although systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen saturation were significantly different before and after the procedure (132.3 vs 136.4 mm Hg, P < 0.0001; 78.2 vs 80.8, P = 0.0003; and 97.8% vs 96.3%, P < 0.0001; respectively), mean arterial pressure and diastolic blood pressure were not significantly different (96.2 vs 97.1 mm Hg, P = 0.1545, and 78.2 vs 77.4 mm Hg, P = 0.1314, respectively). Similar results were found within subgroups, including subgroups by sex, race, and indication for PPFB.

Discussion: We have not identified clinically significant adverse effects from PPFB performed with an ultrasound-guided suprazygomatic approach in a large cohort in the hospital setting. PPFBs are a safe and well-tolerated pain management strategy; however, prospective multicenter studies are needed.

Keywords: Autonomic Nerve Block; Headache; Patient Safety; Pterygopalatine Fossa; Sphenopalatine Ganglion Block.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Block* / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pterygopalatine Fossa* / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography, Interventional / methods