FAQ’s on Stellate Ganglion Block

What is a Stellate Ganglion Block?

A stellate ganglion block is the injection of a numbing agent into the stellate ganglion, a cluster of nerve tissue located inside the neck. This tissue, a fundamental part of the sympathetic nervous system, provides sensation to the arms and to parts of the face. Patients who are having symptomatic pain in the face or arms as a result of a compressed or pinched nerve may be able to obtain relief by blocking the stellate ganglion.

The nerve block uses an injection of a numbing agent combined with a steroidal component. The numbing agent serves to directly numb the tissue of the stellate ganglion while the steroidal component functions to extent the duration of relief provided to patients.

What will a Stellate Ganglion Block treat?

A nerve block injection functions by injecting a numbing agent into the nerve cluster. Once numbed, the nerve tissue blocks transmission of pain signals to the brain, providing symptomatic relief to patients. Nearly any condition patients can have in the arms or face can be affected by numbing the stellate ganglion.

Specific conditions this injection can be effective for include pain, discoloration, sweating, and swelling of the face and arms. Patients with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or Sympathetic Maintained Pain can also potentially obtain relief through a stellate ganglion block providing their symptoms are present in the arms, face, or head.

How is a Stellate Ganglion Block performed?

The procedure involves an injection into deep tissue, which can cause discomfort in some patients even with local anesthetic. Thus, a large number of patients will be placed under intravenous sedation in preparation for their stellate ganglion block. The procedure is commonly performed with the patients partially sitting up, with their chin raised and turned away from the portion of the neck to be injected. The site of injection will be cleaned and numbed.

Once the patient’s skin has been numbed, an injection needle will be guided into the stellate ganglion through the use of fluoroscopic imaging, which is a series of X-rays taken rapidly to create a real-time image of where the needle is currently located. After the needle has been correctly placed into the ganglion, the numbing agent and steroid will be administered.

How well do Stellate Ganglion Blocks work?

Stellate ganglion injections can be used as either a diagnostic or a therapeutic tool. For patients receiving a therapeutic injection, the effects of the numbing agent should be immediate for patients after the local anesthetic has worn off. The effects will last for a variable amount of time for each patient. To achieve a longer-lasting effect, patients will be given a series of injections, with each injection providing a longer duration of relief than previous ones.

In cases where the injection does not provide the intended amount of relief, the injection has still been useful as a diagnostic tool by confirming that the stellate ganglion is not the root source of pain for a patient.

What are the risks involved in a Stellate Ganglion Block?

As this is an injection, there is a tiny risk of infection, bleeding, or soreness at the injection site. There is also the risk of patients having an allergic reaction to either of the components in the injection, but this is typically alleviated by monitoring patients following the procedure. The biggest risk is that the block will not be an effective means of pain relief for patients.

What is the bottom line of Stellate Ganglion Blocks?

The procedure is a simple, safe, reliable one that should take patients no more than half an hour in order to successfully obtain symptomatic relief with disorders of the face and limbs.