Stellate Ganglion Block
FAQs on Stellate Ganglion Blocks
Chronic pain is the 5th leading cause for hospitalization. A Stellate Ganglion Block is a minimally invasive procedure where a local anesthetic is injected into the neck to numb the sympathetic nerve tissue to relieve chronic pain associated with various chronic pain conditions.
What conditions are treatable with a Stellate Ganglion Block?
A Stellate Ganglion Block is used to treat several chronic pain conditions affecting the face, neck and arms. The injections help relieve discoloration, swelling, pain and excessive sweating, associated with these chronic conditions. The injections also improve mobility of the upper extremities. These conditions include:
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
- Sympathetic Maintained Pain
- Herpes Zoster (shingles), if it is affecting the arms, head, or face
- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
- Raynaud's Syndrome
What are expectations when a patient receives a Stellate Ganglion Block?
When a patient receives Stellate Ganglion Block injections they have a reasonable expectation to be relieved of the chronic pain and other symptoms associated with their conditions that they must endure daily. Several small studies have been performed looking at stellate ganglion blocks. These studies routinely show excellent benefit for weeks to months, with repeat procedures showing good results as well.
How is the Stellate Ganglion Block injection performed?
The Stellate Ganglion Block injection is usually performed with the patient in a sitting but slightly reclined position. They will have vitals monitored by means of an EKG, blood pressure cuff and on oxygen sensor, and the area to be injected will be cleansed with anti-septic solution. The patient may be given an intravenous sedative and may or may not fall asleep during the injection process.
For the actual injection the patient will turn their head to face away from the side of the neck to be injected. The doctor will numb the area to be injected before performing the Stellate Ganglion Block injection to minimize discomfort. Using a fluoroscope to ensure proper placement of the needle the doctor will then perform the injection. After the injection the patient will be monitored for side effects, the entire process including post-injection monitoring takes about an hour.
How long do the effects of the Stellate Ganglion Block injections last?
Different people respond differently to the medications used, and due to varying degrees of the severity of the conditions they may be suffering from the duration of the effects for any one patient cannot be anticipated. Most patients will require multiple treatments before they benefit from the full effects of the injections.
Depending on the patients response to the medications used they may only need two or three injections, other patients may require several more before full benefit is gained (Efficacy of stellate ganglion block in the treatment of anxiety symptoms from combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder: a case series 2012).
The local anesthetic used may provide instant relief but will wear off in a few hours after the procedure, after which there may be pain and irritation in the injection site, this will usually be gone the next day. The relief from the Stellate Ganglion Block injection itself may only last a day or two the first time or two but with each treatment the duration will typically increase until there may be months of relief experienced.
What risk or side effects are associated with the Stellate Ganglion Block injection?
Risks and side effects are minimal; the patient may experience temporary swelling, irritation, or increased discomfort at the injection site. Minimal bleeding or bruising may occur at the injection site and rarely patients develop headaches and sinus drip on the side of the injection. Very rarely infection may develop at the injection site. The most extreme and rare side effects are damage to blood vessels and nerves in the injection area.
How successful are Stellate Ganglion Block injections for the relief of pain?
Most recipients of Stellate Ganglion Block injections find relief from their chronic pain and other symptoms; however, an individual’s level of relief cannot be anticipated. If you gain relief with the first injection it is highly likely that multiple injections will provide lasting relief.
What is the bottom line for Stellate Ganglion Block injections?
Most people experience relief from their pain and other symptoms although the success of any one patient cannot be anticipated. Talk to your Chicago pain management doctor at Premier Pain & Spine to determine if you may be a candidate for Stellate Ganglion Block injections.