FAQ’s on Stellate ganglion Blocks

Patients who are experiencing pain in their arms, torso, neck, or face may be able to achieve an effective degree of relief by a therapeutic block.  A stellate ganglion block is a local anesthetic injected in the sympathetic neurons around the neck. These are nerves that originate from the inferior cervical roots and the first thoracic. The ganglion is located at the level of the seventh cervical vertebrae. Anatomically, they are found in the neck on either side of the trachea. These sympathetic nerves are known to supply sensation to the upper limbs and also the face.

What can a stellate ganglion block treat?

Stellate ganglion blocks are primarily used to treat conditions of the upper extremities and facial pain. This kind of treatment is used to control pain, swelling and even profuse sweating on the arms from a circulatory disorder. This injection may be used to enhance mobility on these upper extremities. Injuries to the arms can be managed by this mode of treatment to reduce pain sensitivity. Research has shown that stellate ganglion blocks are useful in treating conditions such as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Herpes Zoster of the arm and face, Complex Regional Pain syndrome as well as Sympathetic Maintained Pain. It is also important to note that this method of pain control is only effective when dealing with acute pain symptoms and early stages of these conditions.

Who is the best candidate for a stellate ganglion block?

All patients with advanced conditions may not benefit from this kind of pain control. For instance, patients with poorly controlled diabetes mellitus or heart diseases may not respond to this sympathetic block.

How is the stellate ganglion block procedure performed?

The procedure is performed with the patient in a semi-sitting position. The chin is raised and turned to the opposite side to expose the optimal site for the injection. Vital signs such as blood pressure and oxygen levels are monitored during this procedure. It is also important to monitor temperature changes and the electrical activity of the heart.

How long does before the treatment works?

The stellate ganglion block works after a very short time. It generally just takes a few minutes to successfully feel the effects. This happens when it is done correctly by experts in this field. It usually involves injection of local anesthetic. In order to prolong the effects of this treatment, a combination of steroids and epinephrine should be included.

Are there any risks of the stellate ganglion block?

There may be a small chance side effects associated with this treatment. During the injection process, initial pain may be felt by the patient as the needle goes through the skin and subcutaneous tissues. In some cases, intravenous sedatives may be used to make the procedure more bearable. The procedure can be very safe if the right technique is employed by correct placement of the block. Some risks that may be incurred include injection into blood vessels and infections.

How long does the treatment last?

The anesthetic effect does not stay forever; it wears off after some hours. The duration may depend on the dosage of drugs used. If there are no complications, the patient may get back to work the following day. After receiving the injection, you are likely to feel some warmth. Some patients notice small lumps on their necks that dissipate within a few days. Some patients have also complained of slight headaches that last for a very short duration.

For complete relief of Sympathetic pain, a series of injections may be recommended and the number may vary from patient to patient.