What is a stellate ganglion block?
A stellate ganglion block is an injection of local anesthetic in the sympathetic nerve tissue of the neck. These nerves are a part of the sympathetic nervous system. The nerves are located on either side of the voice box, in the neck.
What is the purpose of a stellate ganglion block?
A stellate ganglion block blocks the sympathetic nerves that go to the arms, and, to some degree, the sympathetic nerves that go to the face. This may in turn reduce pain, swelling, color and sweating changes in the upper extremity and may improve mobility. It is done as a part of the treatment of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), Sympathetic Maintained Pain, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome and Herpes Zoster (shingles) involving an arm or the head and face.
How long does the stellate ganglion block take?
The actual injection takes only a few minutes.
What is actually injected?
The injection consists of a local anesthetic. Epinephrine or steroid medication may be added to prolong the effects of the stellate ganglion block.
Will the stellate ganglion block hurt?
The stellate ganglion block involves inserting a needle through skin and deeper tissues. So, there is some pain involved. However, we may numb the skin and deeper tissues with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle before inserting the actual block needle. Most of the patients also receive intravenous sedation, which can make the procedure easier to tolerate.
Will I be "put out' for the stellate ganglion block?
Maybe. The stellate ganglion block can be done under local anesthesia only. However, most of the patients also receive enough intravenous sedation that they may fall asleep for a few minutes during the actual injection. Patients breathe on their own throughout the procedure. The amount of sedation given generally depends upon the patient tolerance, but can often be enough that the patient has amnesia for the actual injection.
Can I go to work to work the next day?
Unless there are complications, you should be able to return to work the next day. The most common thing you may feel is soreness in the neck at the injection site.
How long the effect of the medication last?
The local anesthetic wears off in a few hours. However, the blockade of sympathetic nerves may last for many more hours. Usually, the duration of relief gets longer after each injection.
How many stellate ganglion blocks do I need to have?
If you respond to the first injection, you will be recommended for repeat injections. Usually, a series of such injections is needed to treat the problem. Some may need only 2 to 4 and some may need more than 10. The response to such injections varies from patient to patient.
Will the stellate ganglion block help me?
It is sometimes difficult to predict if the injection will indeed help you or not. The patients who present early during their illness tend to respond better than those who have had symptoms for a very long time. Patients in advanced stages of disease may not respond adequately.
For more information, contact Comprehensive Pain Management in Warwick, RI.