A review of the thoracic splanchnic nerves and celiac ganglia

Marios Loukas, Zachary Klaassen, William Merbs, R. Shane Tubbs, Jerzy Gielecki, Anna Zurada

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Anatomical variation of the thoracic splanchnic nerves is as diverse as any structure in the body. Thoracic splanchnic nerves are derived from medial branches of the lower seven thoracic sympathetic ganglia, with the greater splanchnic nerve comprising the more cranial contributions, the lesser the middle branches, and the least splanchnic nerve usually T11 and/or T12. Much of the early anatomical research of the thoracic splanchnic nerves revolved around elucidating the nerve root level contributing to each of these nerves. The celiac plexus is a major interchange for autonomic fibers, receiving many of the thoracic splanchnic nerve fibers as they course toward the organs of the abdomen. The location of the celiac ganglia are usually described in relation to surrounding structures, and also show variation in size and general morphology. Clinically, the thoracic splanchnic nerves and celiac ganglia play a major role in pain management for upper abdominal disorders, particularly chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. Splanchnicectomy has been a treatment option since Mallet-Guy became a major proponent of the procedure in the 1940s. Splanchnic nerve dissection and thermocoagulation are two common derivatives of splanchnicectomy that are commonly used today. Celiac plexus block is also a treatment option to compliment splanchnicectomy in pain management. Endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS)-guided celiac injection and percutaneous methods of celiac plexus block have been heavily studied and are two important methods used today. For both splanchnicectomies and celiac plexus block, the innovation of ultrasonographic imaging technology has improved efficacy and accuracy of these procedures and continues to make pain management for these diseases more successful.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)512-522
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Anatomy
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Celiac plexus block
  • Greater splanchnic nerve
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Splanchnicectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Histology


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